Bo Diddley's signature beat is a cornerstone of rock and pop, a simple, five-accent rhythm that's the driving force behind Diddley's own "Who Do You Love," "Mona," "Bo Diddley," and "I'm a Man" — as well as Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," the Who's "Magic Bus," the Strangelove's "I Want Candy" (later covered by Bow Wow Wow), Bruce Springsteen's "She's the One," George Michael's "Faith," Primal Scream's "Movin' on Up," and many, many other songs. Diddley was one of the most influential guitarists of his generation, and his lubricious vocal style has informed blues and rock singers for over a half-century. Long a popular live act, Diddley was also a fixture on the road for six decades.
Born December 30, 1928, in McComb, Mississippi, Ellas McDaniel was adopted by a Mississippi sharecropping family and moved with them to the South Side of Chicago. As a child, he began studying violin under Professor O.W. Frederick at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. In grammar school he acquired his Bo Diddley nickname (a "diddley bow" is a one-stringed African guitar). When he entered Foster Vocational School in his teens, he learned to make violins and guitars, building his first rectangular guitar at age 15. When not in school he would play his guitar on Chicago's Maxwell Street. After several years of performing on street corners, he played at the 708 Club in 1951 and became a regular South Side artist for the next four years.
In July 1955, Leonard Chess signed Diddley to the Checker label. The artist's first single, "Bo Diddley," was an immediate Number One R&B success. Its B-side, "I'm a Man" (1955), also fared well on the R&B chart; later recorded by the Yardbirds, among many others, it became a blues-rock standard. Diddley's biggest pop success came in 1959, when "Say Man" (Number Three R&B) hit the Top 20 late in the year. He had a lesser pop hit in 1962 with the rollicking "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover" (Number 48 pop, Number 21 R&B). He also wrote Mickey & Sylvia's 1956 smash, "Love Is Strange."
Diddley toured steadily through the late-1950s and early-1960s, playing rock package tours and one-nighters at R&B venues. The band that recorded with him in the mid-Fifties included drummers Clifton James and Frank Kirkland, pianist Otis Spann, Bo's half-sister "The Duchess" on guitar and vocals, and Diddley's eternal sidekick, bassist and maracas shaker Jerome Green (who also provided call-and-response repartee on "Say Man," "Hey Bo Diddley," and "Bring It to Jerome," among many others).
Diddley's legacy was enhanced considerably during the mid-Sixties, when many of his songs were covered by British Invasion groups like the Rolling Stones, the Pretty Things (who named themselves after Diddley's "Pretty Thing"), and the Yardbirds. In 1964, the Animals paid tribute to him in an album track entitled "The Story of Bo Diddley." Through the years, his material has been recorded by countless other artists.
Diddley recorded erratically from the early-Sixties on. In the middle part of the decade he recorded traditional blues with Little Walter and Muddy Waters on Super Blues. In the early-Seventies Diddley toured frequently, concentrating on Europe. One such outing was documented in the splendid (though hard to find) 1973 concert-and-backstage film Let the Good Times Roll. Around the same time he also appeared in D.A. Pennebaker's Keep on Rockin'. He even served as a deputy sheriff in Valencia County, New Mexico, in the mid-Seventies, giving truth to the title of his classic 1960 LP, Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger.
In 1976 RCA released 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll, a tribute to Diddley that featured more than 20 artists. Diddley also opened several dates for the Clash's 1979 U.S. tour. He made cameo appearances in George Thorogood's video "Bad to the Bone" (1982) and played a pawnbroker in the Dan Aykroyd-Eddie Murphy movie Trading Places. In 1998 he appeared in Blues Brothers 2000. He tried recording over electro-funk grooves on 1992's This Should Not Be; critics agreed with the album's title.
Bo Diddley's stature as a founding father of rock & roll is indisputable despite his relative lack of commercial success and he gained a healthy boost with 1990's Chess Box, a double-CD outlining his greatest works. (Shorter best-ofs also abound.) He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1996 he released his first major-label album in two decades, A Man Amongst Men, with guest artists including Ron Wood, Keith Richards, and the Shirelles. The album was nominated for a 1997 Grammy in the Best Contemporary Blues Album category. The following year, he received the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement Award. He also was the recipient of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award; the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters' Pioneer in Entertainment Award; and a BMI Icon Award. Diddley is enshrined in the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and the North Florida Music Association's Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone named Diddley the 20th Greatest Artist of All Time.
He organized a fundraiser for the town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, in January 2006, to help pay for damage done by Hurricane Katrina.
Diddley attributed his long career to abstinence from alcohol and drugs, though later in life he suffered from diabetes. He died of heart failure in his home in Archer, Florida, on June 2, 2008.
Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Mark Kemp contributed to this article.
As Joe Bonamassa grows his reputation as one of the world’s greatest guitar players, he is also evolving into a charismatic blues-rock star and singer-songwriter of stylistic depth and emotional resonance. His ability to connect with live concert audiences is transformational, and his new album, Black Rock, brings that energy to his recorded music more powerfully than ever before. The tenth solo album and eighth studio release of his career – as well as his fifth consecutive with producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes, etc.) – the disc adds an enlivening dose of ‘world’ vibes to Bonamassa’s virtuoso mix of ‘60s-era British blues-rock (à la Beck and Clapton) and roots-influenced Delta sounds.
The album was recorded at Black Rock Studios in Santorini, Greece. “With this album, we wanted to explore a ‘world’ feeling, and this was the inspiration behind going to record in Greece and using some of the best Greek musicians to add a little flavor to a couple of the tracks. But it’s by no means a ‘world’ album. We wanted Joe’s usual youthful and energetic tones to play alongside the worldly vibes of the Greek bouzouki and clarino,” said Shirley. Bonamassa adds, “It was the kind of record Kevin and I wanted to make. We needed to rock again a bit like on my first album. It’s youthful, like going back to your childhood.” Throughout, Bonamassa is again backed by the stellar players Carmine Rojas (bass), Anton Fig, Bogie Bowles (both on drums) and Rick Melick (keyboards).
2009 was a big year for Bonamassa. He was awarded the Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award at the U.K.’s prestigious Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards and Classic Rock magazine has said, “They’re calling him the future of blues, but they’re wrong – Joe Bonamassa is the present; so fresh and of his time that he almost defines it.” He was also named Best Blues Guitarist in Guitar Player Magazine’s 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards for the third consecutive year. Guitar Player writer Matt Blackett has said, “He’s an old soul, and that comes through in his bends, vibrato, singing voice, and note choices, which – which each passing year – get more restrained and refined.”
In May ’09, he played to a sold out crowd at London’s Royal Albert Hall, arguably the most prestigious concert venue in the world. During the show, Bonamassa’s hero, Eric Clapton, joined him on stage for a joint-performance of Clapton’s hit “Further On Up The Road.” London’s The Independent said about the show, “The man has arrived, and there’s no turning back.” Shortly after, Bonamassa released a 2-DVD live set – Joe Bonamassa – Live From The Royal Albert Hall – which captures the night in full. Guitar Edge gave it five stars and also said, “It is the wallop of his emotional expression, fueled by the rocking energy he derives from that trans-Atlantic connection and driven by his devastating technical ability, that elevates him about his peers and makes him a certifiable blues guitar hero and the face of his blues generation.”
Last year also coincided with Bonamassa’s twentieth year as a professional musician, an extraordinary timeline for a young artist just into his ’30s. A child prodigy, Bonamassa was finessing Stevie Ray Vaughan licks when he was seven and by the time he was ten, had caught B.B. King’s ear. After first hearing him play, King said, “This kid’s potential is unbelievable. He hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface. He’s one of a kind.” By age 12, Bonamassa was opening shows for the blues icon and went on to tour with venerable acts including Buddy Guy, Foreigner, Robert Cray, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker and Gregg Allman.
Bonamassa reunites with King for a duet on Black Rock. The song they perform together is a rendition of the Willie Nelson-penned song, “Night Life,” which appeared on King’s 1967 album Blues Is King. Shirley says about the experience, “This is a rollicking Stonesy-vibe version of the Willie Nelson song on which B.B. duets with Joe, both vocally and on his famous Lucille guitar. What a joy and an honor to work with the legend who is possibly the pivot point and unifying musician between blues and rock.”
Other tracks appearing on Black Rock include Jeff Beck’s “Spanish Boots,” a lively version of Leonard Cohen’s poetic “Bird On A Wire,” Otis Rush’s “Three Times A Fool,” as well as Bobby Parker’s “Steal Your Heart Away,” a song recommended by Robert Plant, who said Led Zeppelin rehearsed it in their earliest days. Also, Blind Boy Fuller’s “Baby, You Gotta Change Your Mind,” John Hiatt’s “I Know A Place,” and James Clark’s “Look Over Yonder’s Wall,” as well as the Bonamassa-penned originals “When The Fire Hits The Sea,” “Wandering Earth,”
“Athens To Athens,” and “Blue and Evil.”
Bonamassa’s recording career began in the early ’90s with Bloodline, a hard-charging rock-blues group also featuring Robby Krieger’s son Waylon and Miles Davis’ son Erin. His 2000 solo debut, A New Day Yesterday, was produced by the legendary Tom Dowd; Bonamassa’s rendering of the title track, originally a Jethro Tull hit, was called, “a jaw-dropping performance” by allmusic.com.
His last studio album, The Ballad Of John Henry – with no shortage of its own jaw-dropping moments – debuted at #1 on the Billboard blues chart and stayed there for six months. The album marks a more confessional approach to songcraft than he’s previously employed. “Making the first half of the album,” Bonamassa says, “I was in the happiest place I’d ever been in my life. The second half found me in completely the opposite state. I’ve come to the conclusion that experience makes for better art. I had more to say, and it’s the first time I’ve personally opened up the book on my life.”
Previous studio sets include 2007’s Sloe Gin, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s blues chart and received a 2008 nod for Album Of The Year from the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour Awards. Sloe Gin careens between heavy electric blues-rockers and acoustic, folk-etched cuts in a flow that Bonamassa says was partly inspired by Rod Stewart’s classic 1969 solo debut LP. Modern Guitars Magazine wrote, “If calling Sloe Gin a Bonamassa sampler isn’t graphic enough, think of the album as a musical buffet in which unrelated entrees share a single trait: they taste good.” The Boston Phoenix called it, “an elegant and brawny guitar-hero album.”
In 2008, he released the 2-CD set Live From Nowhere In Particular, which Guitar Player said, “finds Joe playing with soul, intensity and savage tones.” It features 13 songs recorded live in concert on the artist’s 2007 North American tour – at shows like the one at New York’s Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center reviewed for www.hamptons.com by Lon S. Cohen: “In a thousand years, when archeologists dig out Joe Bonamassa’s guitar from the strata of the earth, it will still be smoking…He holds the guitar like a shotgun but what comes out of it is poetry, color, and a story is told in notes.” A review of a show at Alexandria, VA’s Birchmere drew similar sentiments from writer Paul Roy on blogcritics.org: “I have flirted with the opinion that Bonamassa may be the overall best guitarist on the planet these days, and after seeing him perform live again…I am now totally comfortable with that opinion. He is simply mesmerizing to watch.”
Bonamassa circles the globe playing an average of 200 shows a year, and his mind-blowing guitar wizardry and electrifying stage presence are selling out progressively larger venues all the time. The OC Register’s Robert Kinsler has written, “Whether in a club or outdoors at a festival, something magnetic happens when Bonamassa steps to the front of the stage, leans his head back and simply lets loose.”
Ongoing journeyman touring is a given, and looking beyond Black Rock, Bonamassa will continue his recording collaboration with producer Kevin Shirley, who says, “It’s great working with Joe and seeing him enjoy the discovery of all these places he can go. He’s an artist who can play anything, there are so many facets to him.” Bonamassa adds, “Kevin comes up with fantastic ideas outside the box. He appreciates the blues, but pushes me, the only person besides Tom Dowd who’s done that.”
On top of touring, recording and overseeing the independent label J&R Adventures with his entrepreneurial partner and manager Roy Weisman, Bonamassa is a spokesperson for the Blues Foundation’s respected Blues In The Schools program, volunteering his time during tours to speak with groups of high school students about the heritage of blues music – the first pure American music form. Recently, he was chosen by Channel One, the largest in-school news network, to host an ongoing segment called “Know Your Roots with Joe Bonamassa” in which he traces the musical roots of Channel One’s weekly “Hear It Now” featured artist.
And, 2010 has already started with a bang – Guitar World dubbed Bonamassa “The Blues Rock Titan” and his song, “Lonesome Road Blues,” is a part of Guitar Hero V’s New Blues Masters Track Pack. Keeping with his blues roots but fluently moving between rock n’ roll and international sounds, 2010 is not only a new decade but a new era for Bonamassa.
B.B. King is the most famous of the modern bluesmen. Playing his trademark Gibson guitar, which he refers to affectionately as Lucille, King's lyrical leads and left-hand vibrato have influenced numerous rock guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield, and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. A fifteen-time Grammy winner, King has received virtually every music award, including the Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 1987.
Born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925, in Itta Bena, Mississippi, he picked cotton as a youth. In the Forties he played on the streets of Indianola before moving on to perform professionally in Memphis around 1949. As a young musician, he studied recordings by both blues and jazz guitarists, including T-Bone Walker, Charlie Christian, and Django Reinhardt.
In the early Fifties King was a disc jockey on the Memphis black station WDIA, where he was dubbed the "Beale Street Blues Boy." Eventually, Blues Boy was shortened to B.B., and the nickname stuck. The radio show and performances in Memphis with friends Johnny Ace and Bobby "Blue" Bland built King's strong local reputation. One of his first recordings, "Three O'Clock Blues" (Number One R&B), for the RPM label, was a national success in 1951. During the Fifties, King was a consistent record seller and concert attraction.
King's 1965 Live at the Regal is considered one of the definitive blues albums. The mid-Sixties blues revival introduced him to white audiences, and by 1966 he was appearing regularly on rock concert circuits and receiving airplay on progressive rock radio. He continued to have hits on the soul chart ("Paying the Cost to Be the Boss," Number Ten R&B, 1968) and always maintained a solid black following. Live and Well was a notable album, featuring "Why I Sing the Blues" (Number 13 R&B, 1969) and King's only pop Top Twenty single, "The Thrill Is Gone" (Number 15 pop, Number Three R&B, 1970).
In the Seventies King also recorded albums with longtime friend and onetime chauffeur Bobby Bland: the gold Together for the First Time...Live (1974) and Together Again...Live (1976). Stevie Wonder produced King's "To Know You Is to Love You." In 1982 King recorded a live album with the Crusaders.
King's tours have taken him to Russia (1979), South America (1980), and to dozens of prisons. In 1981 There Must Be a Better World Somewhere won a Grammy Award; he won another in 1990 for Live at San Quentin. He was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1990 he received the Songwriters Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award. In May 1991, he opened B.B. King's Blues Club in Memphis. (A second one opened in New York City in 2000.)
In 1989 he sang and played with U2 on "When Love Comes to Town," from their Rattle and Hum. The four-disc box set released that same year, King of the Blues, begins with King's career-starting single "Miss Martha King," originally released on Bullet in 1949. For Blues Summit, in 1993, King was joined by such fellow bluesmen as John Lee Hooker, Lowell Fulson, and Robert Cray.
King once said he aspired to be an "ambassador of the blues," and by the Nineties he seemed to have attained just that iconic status. In 1995 he received the Kennedy Center Honors. The next year saw the publication of his award-winning autobiography, Blues' All Around Me (coauthored with David Ritz).
In 2000 the double-platinum Riding With the King (with Eric Clapton) topped Billboard's Top Blues Albums chart. King continued to record, perform and win honors during the first decade of the 2000s. President George W. Bush awarded King the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. Two years later, he released one of the most critically acclaimed studio albums of his career, the back-to-the-basics One Kind Favor, produced by T Bone Burnett and featuring King doing stripped-down version of blues classics such as Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean."
Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Mark Kemp contributed to this article.
“The reason man created stringed instruments. David touched them with a lover’s fingers and they moaned that true love right back at him. Wood and wire and flesh spoke.”
– Jerry Jeff Walker on David Bromberg
He’s played with everyone, he’s toured everywhere, he can lead a raucous big band or hold an audience silent with a solo acoustic blues. Here’s the story of David Bromberg, or at least some of it . . .
Born in Philadelphia in 1945 and raised in Tarrytown, NY, “as a kid I listened to rock ’n’ roll and whatever else was on the radio,” says Bromberg. “I discovered Pete Seeger and The Weavers and, through them, Reverend Gary Davis. I then discovered Big Bill Broonzy, who led me to Muddy Waters and the Chicago blues. This was more or less the same time I discovered Flatt and Scruggs, which led to Bill Monroe and Doc Watson.”
Bromberg began studying guitar-playing when he was 13 and eventually enrolled in Columbia University as a musicology major. The call of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the mid-’60s drew David to the downtown clubs and coffeehouses, where he could watch and learn from the best performers, including primary sources such as his inspiration and teacher, the Reverend Gary Davis.
Bromberg’s sensitive and versatile approach to guitar-playing earned him jobs playing the Village “basket houses” for tips, the occasional paying gig, and lots of employment as a backing musician for Tom Paxton, Jerry Jeff Walker and Rosalie Sorrels, among others. He became a first-call, “hired gun” guitarist for recording sessions, ultimately playing on hundreds of records by artists including Bob Dylan (New Morning, Self Portrait, Dylan), Link Wray, The Eagles, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, and Carly Simon.
An unexpected and wildly successful solo spot at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival in Great Britain led to a solo deal with Columbia Records, for whom David recorded four albums. His eponymous 1971 debut not only included the mock-anguished “Suffer to Sing the Blues,” a Bromberg original that became an FM radio staple, but also “The Holdup,” a songwriting collaboration with former Beatle George Harrison, whom he met at his manager’s Thanksgiving dinner festivities. Harrison also played slide guitar on the track. Through Bromberg’s manager, Al Aronowitz, David also met the Grateful Dead and wound up with four of their members, including Jerry Garcia, playing on his next two albums.
Bromberg’s range of material, based in the folk and blues idioms, continually expanded with each new album to encompass bluegrass, ragtime, country and ethnic music, and his touring band grew apace. By the mid-’70s, the David Bromberg Big Band included horn-players, a violinist, and several multi-instrumentalists, including David himself. Among the best-known Bromberg Band graduates: mandolinist Andy Statman, later a major figure in the Klezmer music movement in America, and fiddler Jay Ungar (who wrote the memorable “Ashokan Farewell” for Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, “The Civil War”).
Despite jubilant, loose-limbed concerts and a string of acclaimed albums on the Fantasy label, Bromberg found himself exhausted by the logistics of the music business. “I decided to change the direction of my life,” he explains. So David dissolved his band in 1980, and he and his artist/musician wife, Nancy Josephson, moved from Northern California to Chicago, where David attended the Kenneth Warren School of Violin Making. Though he still toured periodically, the recordings slowed to a trickle and then stopped.
After “too many Chicago winters,” in 2002 David and Nancy were lured to Wilmington, Del., where they became part of the city’s artist-in-residence program and where David could establish David Bromberg Fine Violins, a retail store and repair shop for high quality instruments. Frequent participation in the city’s weekly jam sessions helped rekindle Bromberg’s desire to make music again, as did the encouragement of fellow musicians Chris Hillman (The Byrds, Desert Rose Band, Flying Burrito Brothers) and bluegrass wizard Herb Pedersen, and David’s manager, Steve Bailey. The jams also led to the formation of Angel Band, fronted by Nancy and two other female vocalists, with David serving as an accompanist.
With the release of Try Me One More Time, his 2007 solo return to the studio, David continued his musical revitalization, playing shows on his own, backed by (and supporting) Angel Band, his own David Bromberg Quartet, and reunions of the David Bromberg Big Band, the configuration depending on the circumstance. As 2010 draws to a close, David is completing an ambitious new album entittled Use Me, which features David collaborating with friends like John Hiatt, Levon Helm, Los Lobos, Tim O’Brien, Vince Gill, Widespread Panic, Dr. John, Keb’ Mo’ and others. 2011 promises to be another eventful year in the history of David Bromberg.
Biographythern California. He picked up his first guitar when he was only six years old. He was introduced to jazz in junior high school after hearing The Gerald Wilson Big Band album, Moment of Truth, with guitarist Joe Pass. Larry then became interested in Barney Kessel, Wes Montgornery and the legendary blues guitarist B.B. King. Saxophonist John Coltrane was also a major influence on Carlton, beginning with Coltrane’s 1962 classic Ballads.
In 1968 he recorded his first LP, With A Little Help From My Friends (Uni). The enthusiastic industry response garnered him a place among jingle singers The Going Thing, recording on camera and radio commercials for Ford. Mid-season in his second year, he segued to Musical Director for Mrs. Alphabet, an Emmy-nominated children’s show on the same network. It was here that Carlton showcased his acting skills, performing as the show’s co-star, "Larry Guitar."
Calls began to increase significantly as Carlton gained distinction for the unmistakable and often imitated "sweet" sound he delivered with his Gibson ES-335. He also broke new ground with his new trademark volume pedal technique, eloquently displayed in his featured performance on Crusader One with legendary jazz/rock group The Crusaders in 1971. Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark album, the first record she made with a rhythm section, displays his distinctive Technique – a style Mitchell referred to as "fly fishing."
During his tenure with The Crusaders (through 1976), Carlton performed on 13 of their albums, often contributing material. In 1973, Carlton released his second solo project, SinginglPlaying, on Blue Thumb Records aptly titled, as he not only played guitar, but also performed vocals on eight tracks. Carlton’s demand as a session player was now at its zenith, he was constantly featured with stars from every imaginable genre, ranging from Sammy Davis, Jr., and Herb Alpert to Quincy Jones, Paul Anka, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia and Dolly Parton. At the same time, he was still performing more than 50 dates a year with The Crusaders.
Before he transitioned completely to a solo career, Carlton became one of the most in-demand studio musicians of the past three decades. Carlton’s catalog of work includes film soundtracks, television themes and work on more than 100 gold albums.
Ultimately, Carlton began scaling back his session work substantially, while continuing to perform and record with the Crusaders. He shifted his emphasis to the challenges of arranging and producing, and built his own studio-Room 335-in his home. During this period he arranged and produced projects for Barbra Streisand, Joan Baez and Larry Gatlin, as well as producing and co-writing the theme for the hit sitcom Who’s The Boss and co-writing (with Michel Columbier) and arranging the acclaimed movie soundtrack for Against All Odds.
As his association with the Crusaders began to draw to a close, Carlton signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1977. Between ’78 and ’84, Larry recorded six solo albums for Warner Bros. Records: Mr. 335: Live In Japan, Friends; Eight Times Up; Sleep Walk; Strikes Twice; Larry Carlton. The latter self-titled album was released hot on the heels of his debut session with rock supergroup Steely Dan. Rolling Stone magazine lists Carlton’s tasty ascent on Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne as one of the three best guitar licks in rock music.
With more than 3000 studio sessions under his belt by the early 1980s, Carlton had picked up four Grammy nominations. In addition to winning a Grammy (`81) for the theme to "Hill Street Blues" (a collaboration with Mike Post), he also was voted NARAS’s "Most Valuable Player" for three consecutive years. NARAS then named him "Player Emeritus" and retired him from eligibility.
In 1985 he was approached by the newly formed MCA Master Series to consider doing an acoustic jazz album. His first release for the new label was Alone, But Never Alone, a consensus No. 1 album on the Radio & Records and Billboard Jazz charts. The twelve months of 1987 brought some of the biggest highlights in Carlton’s solo career. In addition to winning the Grammy for "Minute by Minute," Carlton received a Grammy nomination for "Best Jazz Fusion Performance" for his live album Last Nite. Coming off of the success of two acoustic albums and one live album, Carlton was on a hot streak and entered the studio to work on his next project, On Solid Ground. The all-electric project was nominated for a Grammy in 1989. The release of On Solid Ground came almost one year after Carlton was brutally shot in a random act of violence outside his Los Angeles studio.
In 1990, MCA acquired GRP Records and placed their jazz artists under the GRP moniker. Immediately, GRP issued a greatest hits package of Carlton’s work on MCA, called Collection. In 1991, Carton entered the studio to record a blues-based album with John Ferraro, keyboard man Matt Rollings, bassist Michael Rhodes and harmonica player Terry McMillan. Interrupted by label and consumer demands for another jazz offering, Carlton temporarily shelved what would become Renegade Gentlemen and recorded and released Kid Gloves in ’92. A pop-oriented Jazz collection of lilting acoustic ballads and biting electric workouts, the album marked the first time Carlton had included both acoustic and electric tracks on a single solo project.
In between touring, Carlton resumed work on the bluesy Renegade Gentlemen. Taking the original six tracks to Nashville (his first time to record in that city), and joining up once again with Michael Rhodes and Terry McMillan, plus drummer Chris Layton (from Stevie Vaughan’s band Double Trouble) and keyboard wizard Chuck Leavell, he recorded four tracks, plus did additional production and mixing on the blues rocker in time for a ’93 release.
Carlton toured extensively that year and the next with jazz superband Stanley Clark And Friends (Stanley Clark, Larry Carlton, Billy Cobham, Deron Johnson and Najee). The quintet released Stanley Clark and Friends Live A t The Greek in ’94.
Larry & Lee, Carlton’s 1995 collaboration with guitar great Lee Ritenour, garnered him his eighth Grammy nomination. This was followed by The Gift in ’96 and Larry Carlton Collection Volume 2 in ’97. That same year, his virtuosity and reputation secured him a place in the crumtopping award-winning Warner Bros. Records’ group Fourplay, when member Lee Ritenour left to head his own label. Carlton doubled the fun by signing to Wamer Jazz as a solo artist at the same time. Since then he has released two albums with Fourplay: 4 in ’98 and a refreshingly different Christmas album, Snowbound, in October ’99. 1999 also brought Larry Carlton his very own spot on Hollywood’s prestigious Rockwalk. On June 3, he was inducted along with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Jimmie Vaughn.
The year 2000 starts with Carlton putting his singularly superb fingerprints on the new millennium with his star-studded solo release on Wamer Bros. Records, Fingerprints. Utterly unique, Larry Carlton has set a standard for artistry that spans three decades (and two centuries) and he is undoubtedly destined to leave his mark on jazz, blues, pop and rock for the foreseeable future…
Another great bio written by Richard Skelly, All-Music Guide:
Larry was born on 2nd of march in 1948 in Torance/California! He moved from LA to Franklin/Tennessee a few years ago and enjoys living in the countryside.
Like so many other Los Angeles studio musicians, guitarist and composer Larry Carlton was faced with a choice a number of years back: whether to go solo and develop a name for himself under his own name or to continue the less risky, more lucrative existence as a session guitarist, making good money and recording with prominent musicians. Fortunately for fans of this eclectic guitarist, he chose the former, and has recorded under his own name for Warner Bros., MCA Records and GRP Records since 1978.
Carlton’s studio credits from the 1970s and early ’80s include musicians and groups like Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, Sammy Davis Jr., Herb Alpert, Quincy Jones, Bobby Bland, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and literally dozens of others. Among his more notable projects as a session guitarist were Joni Mitchell’s critically acclaimed Court and Spark album and Donald Fagen’s Nightfly album. For much of the 1970s, Carlton was active as a session guitarist, recording on up to 500 albums a year. Although he recorded a number of LPs under his own name as early as 1968′s With a Little Help from My Friends (Uni), and 1973′s Singing/Playing, he didn’t land a major-label contract until 1978, when he signed with Warner Bros.
Carlton began taking guitar lessons when he was six. His first professional gig was at a supper club in 1962. After hearing Joe Pass on the radio, he was inspired to play jazz and blues. Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessel became important influences soon after he discovered the jazz guitar stylings of Pass. B.B. King and other blues guitarists had an impact on Carlton’s style as well. He honed his guitar-playing skills in the clubs and studios of greater Los Angeles. He attended a local junior college and Long Beach State College for a year until the Vietnam War ended. Carlton toured with the Fifth Dimension in 1968 and began doing studio sessions in 1970. His early session work included studio dates with pop musicians like Vicki Carr, Andy Williams and the Partridge Family. In 1971, he was asked to join the Crusaders shortly after they’d decided to drop the word "Jazz” from their name, and he remained with the group until 1976. In between tours with the Crusaders, he also did studio session work for hundreds of recordings in every genre. But it was while he with the Crusaders that he developed the highly rhythmic, often bluesy style he has now. His credits include performing on more than 100 gold albums. His theme music credits for TV and films include Against All Odds, Who’s the Boss, and the theme for Hill Street Blues. The latter won a Grammy award in 1981 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
Carlton delivered his self-titled debut for Warner Bros. in 1978, shortly after he was recognized for his ground-breaking guitar playing on Steely Dan’s Royal Scam album. (Carlton contributed the memorable guitar solo on "Kid Charlemagne.”) He released four more albums for Warner Bros., Strikes Twice (1980), Sleepwalk (1981), Eight Times Up (1982), and the Grammy-nominated Friends (1983), before being dropped from the label.
He continued studio session work and touring in between, emerging again in 1986 on MCA Records with an all-acoustic album, Discovery, which contained an instrumental remake of Michael McDonald’s hit, "Minute by Minute." The single won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1987. Carlton’s live album, Last Nite, released in 1987, got him a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance.
While working on his next album for MCA, On Solid Ground, Carlton was the victim of random gun violence, and was shot in the throat by gun-wielding juveniles outside Room 335, his private studio near Burbank, California. The bullet shattered his vocal cord and caused significant nerve trauma, but through intensive therapy and a positive frame of mind, Carlton completed work on On Solid Ground in 1989. Carlton formed Helping Innnocent People (HIP), a non-profit group to aid victims of random gun violence.
Carlton’s most recent albums include two releases in 1996 for GRP Records, Gift and With a Little Help from My Friends. His other recordings include 1990′s Collection and 1992′s Kid Gloves for the same label, Playing/Singing (1995, Edsel), and Renegade Gentleman, a 1993 release for GRP.
Despite the tragedy that was foisted on him in the late ’80s after he was shot by gun-wielding infidels, dragging him through a long and dark period of hospitalization and rehabilitation, Carlton’s output over the years has been steady through the 1980s and 1990s. Carlton seems to have slowed down his touring schedule a bit, but certainly not his recording schedule. Always happy to meet with the press, Carlton has a sweet, peaceful personality, and one can hear it in his unique, rhythmic, warm guitar chords and ringing guitar tones. — Richard Skell
In the Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominos, as well as through his prolific solo work, guitarist Eric Clapton has continually re-defined his own version of the blues. From the start, he caught audiences' attention with his fiery, adventurous and precise playing. In late Sixties London, his worshippers advocated the slogan, "Clapton is God," a phrase that originated with a now-famous piece of graffiti spray-painted on a London Underground. Over the next four decades, Clapton did little to dampen that reputation and was named number four in Rolling Stone's 2003 list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time."
Born in Ripley, Surrey, England, on March 30, 1945, and raised by his grandparents after his mother abandoned him at an early age, Clapton grew up a self-confessed "nasty kid." He studied stained-glass design at Kingston Art School and started playing the guitar at 15. Two years later he began joining groups. He stayed with his first band, the early British R&B outfit the Roosters (which included Tom McGuinness, later of Manfred Mann and McGuinness Flint), from January to August 1963 and frequently jammed in London clubs with, among others, future members of the Rolling Stones. Clapton put in a seven-gig stint with a Top 40 band, Casey Jones and the Engineers, in September 1963. He joined the Yardbirds later that year and stayed with them until March 1965, when they began to leave behind power blues for psychedelic pop.
Upon leaving the Yardbirds, Clapton did construction work until John Mayall asked him to join his Bluesbreakers in spring 1965. With Mayall, he contributed to several LPs while developing the blues runs that would draw his cult of worshipers. Also with Mayall he participated in a studio band called Powerhouse (which included Jack Bruce and Steve Winwood); they contributed three cuts to a 1966 Elektra anthology, What's Shakin'. Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in July 1966 and cut a few tracks with Jimmy Page, and then with bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker he formed Cream. There, Clapton perfected his virtuoso style, and Cream's concerts featured lengthy solo excursions, which Clapton often performed with his back to the crowd. During his tenure with Cream, Clapton contributed lead fills to the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and appeared on Frank Zappa's We're Only in It for the Money.
When Cream broke up in November 1968, Clapton formed the short-lived supergroup Blind Faith with Baker, Winwood, and Rick Grech. During their only U.S. tour, Clapton embraced Christianity, which he has given up and reaffirmed periodically ever since. As a corrective to Blind Faith's fan worship, Clapton began jamming with tour openers Delaney and Bonnie, later joining their band as an unbilled (though hardly unnoticed) sideman. Clapton's activities also included a brief fling with John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band, playing on Live Peace in Toronto, 1969.)
Clapton moved to New York later that year and continued to work with Delaney and Bonnie through early 1970. With several members of the Bramletts' band, and friends like Leon Russell and Stephen Stills, whose solo albums Clapton played on, he recorded his first solo album, Eric Clapton, which yielded a U.S. Number 18 hit with the J.J. Cale song "After Midnight." The album marked Clapton's emergence as a lead vocalist, a role he continued to fill after forming Derek and the Dominos with bassist Carl Radle, drummer Jim Gordon, and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, all former Delaney and Bonnie sidemen. The Dominos' only studio album, the two-LP Layla (Number 16, 1970), was a guitar tour de force sparked by the contributions of guest artist Duane Allman. The title track, an instant FM album-oriented rock standard (and a Top 10 hit two years later), was a tale of unrequited love inspired by Pattie Boyd Harrison (wife of ex-Beatle George), whom Clapton eventually married in 1979; they divorced in 1989. Clapton toured on and off with the Dominos through late 1971, but the group collapsed due to personal conflicts, most of which, Clapton later claimed, were drug-or alcohol-induced. Over the following two decades, Derek and the Dominos would prove to be one of the most star-crossed groups in rock: Allman died in a motorcycle crash in October 1971; Radle died of alcohol poisoning in 1981; Gordon was convicted of murdering his mother and imprisoned in 1984.
Clapton sat in on albums by Dr. John and Harrison, who enticed Clapton to play at the benefit Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971. Depressed and burdened by a heroin habit, Clapton retreated to the isolation of his Surrey, England, home for most of 1971 and 1972. With the aid of Pete Townshend, he began his comeback with a concert at London's Rainbow Theatre in January 1973. Supported by Townshend, Winwood, Ron Wood, Jim Capaldi, and others, Clapton released tapes from the ragged concert on album in September 1973. By the time his Number One album 461 Ocean Boulevard came out in 1974, he had kicked heroin for good.
In the 1970s Clapton became a dependable hit-maker with the easygoing commercial style he introduced on 461 — a relaxed pop shuffle that, like J.J. Cale's sound, hinted at gospel, honky-tonk, and reggae while retaining a blues feeling but not necessarily the blues structure. Playing fewer and shorter guitar solos, he emphasized his vocals — often paired with harmonies by Yvonne Elliman or Marcy Levy — over his guitar virtuosity. He had hits with a cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" (Number One, 1974) and originals "Lay Down Sally" (Number Three, 1978) and "Promises" (Number Nine, 1979). His albums regularly sold in gold quantities; Slowhand and Backless were certified platinum.
He continued his mainstream success in the early Eighties, releasing another Top Ten hit, "I Can't Stand It," from Another Ticket (Number Seven, 1981), and forming his own label, Duck Records. During this period, Clapton made frequent appearances at major benefit concerts. As the decade progressed, his singles veered closer to balladry than blues, and he produced a string of hits, including "I've Got a Rock 'n' Roll Heart" (Number 18, 1983) and "Forever Man" (Number 26, 1985). In 1985 he separated from his wife, Pattie, and went into rehabilitation to overcome the alcoholism that had replaced his heroin addiction over a decade earlier. The next year Italian actress Lori Del Santo gave birth to Clapton's son, Conor.
Clapton continued to tour and record; 24 Nights captured his 1990–1991 concert series at London's Royal Albert Hall, which since 1987 has become an annual event. Guests on the album include Jimmie Vaughan, Phil Collins, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, and Robert Cray. He had spent the better part of the past two years on the road, and in August 1990 his agent and two members of his road crew died in the same helicopter crash that claimed Stevie Ray Vaughan. On March 20, 1991, his four-and-a-half-year-old son Conor died after falling 50 stories from a window in his mother's Manhattan apartment. A maintenance worker had left it open by mistake. Clapton was staying at a hotel mere blocks from the apartment when the tragedy occurred. The following year he made public service announcements warning parents to protect their children by installing gates over windows and staircases.
After a period of seclusion, Clapton began to work again, writing music for Rush, a film about drug addiction. In March 1992, almost a year after Conor's death, Clapton taped a segment for MTV's Unplugged series, the soundtrack of which peaked at Number Two in 1992 and included a reworking of "Layla" (Number 12, 1993) and "Tears in Heaven" (Number Two, 1993), the latter written for his son. That year he was nominated for nine Grammy Awards and won six, including Album of the Year for Unplugged and Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, for "Tears in Heaven." In early 1993 Clapton and his former cohorts in Cream, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, reunited to perform three songs at the group's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Clapton was inducted as a solo artist in 2000. In 1994 Clapton released an album of pure electric blues, From the Cradle, which topped the charts. The double-platinum album became the best-selling traditional blues recording in history.
Two years later Clapton returned with another career milestone. The single "Change the World," produced by R&B mastermind Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds for the soundtrack to the John Travolta film Phenomenon, became Clapton's highest-debuting single, hitting Number Nine in its first week (it peaked at Number Five pop, Number 54 R&B, and Number One Adult Contemporary). The guitarist also dabbled in electronica, recording with keyboardist Simon Climie as the duo T.D.F.; its 1997 release Retail Therapy was little more than a curiosity. The next year Climie also collaborated on Pilgrim, Clapton's first studio album of mostly original material since 1989. With a focus on slick, R&B-flavored pop, the album got mixed reviews from critics but charted well (Number Four) and produced a hit in the ballad "My Father's Eyes" (Number 26 pop, Number Two Adult Contemporary). Another track, "She's Gone," reached Number 19. The subsequent tour was sponsored by luxury car manufacturer Lexus, which employed Clapton for a 30-second commercial performing "Layla" as pop-up script called attention to similarities — such as "effortless shifting" — between Clapton and the car.
On June 24, 1999, Clapton auctioned off 100 of his guitars at Christie's with the proceeds going to support the Crossroads Centre on Antigua, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility that he founded in 1998 to help the people of the island where he had been comforted after the loss of his son. In 2000 Clapton joined forces with one of his heroes, blues guitar legend B.B. King, to record Riding With the King, which featured several vintage King numbers. Reptile (Number Five, 2001) returned Clapton to the rock sound of his early solo career. He married Melia McEnery, a Los Angeles woman over 30 years his junior, in 2002; the couple have three daughters. In November 2002, Clapton put together and acted as MC for a Royal Albert Hall tribute to the recently deceased George Harrison, one of Clapton's closest friends.
With 2004 came Me and Mr. Johnson, an album-length tribute to the blues master Robert Johnson, Clapton's all-time musical idol. The following May, Cream reunited for a series of shows in London (Royal Albert Hall) and New York (Madison Square Garden). That August, he released a new solo disc, Back Home (Number 13, 2005). In November 2006 he collaborated with longtime musical friend J.J. Cale for The Road to Escondido (Number 23, 2006). In 2009, Clapton joined the Allman Brothers onstage at the Beacon Theatre to help celebrate the band's 40th anniversary, performing several jams including "Layla," the song that he and the late Duane Allman helped make a rock classic with Derek and the Dominos.
In 2007 the guitarist published his autobiography, Clapton. That year, a Canadian journalist tracked down the family of the father Clapton never knew — about whom he sang in "My Father's Eyes." Edward Walter Fryer had been a Canadian soldier who left the UK — and Clapton's mother, Patricia Molly Clapton — after the war. It turned out that Fryer was a pianist and saxophonist who had married several times, fathered many children, and never knew before his death in 1985 that his son was one of the most famous guitarists in the world.
Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Mark Kemp contributed to this article.
Albert Collins, "The Master of the Telecaster," "The Iceman," and "The Razor Blade" was robbed of his best years as a blues performer by a bout with liver cancer that ended with his premature death on November 24, 1993. He was just 61 years old. The highly influential, totally original Collins, like the late John Campbell, was on the cusp of a much wider worldwide following via his deal with Virgin Records' Pointblank subsidiary. However, unlike Campbell, Collins had performed for many more years, in obscurity, before finally finding a following in the mid-'80s.
Collins was born October 1, 1932, in Leona, TX. His family moved to Houston when he was seven. Growing up in the city's Third Ward area with the likes of Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Johnny "Clyde" Copeland, Collins started out taking keyboard lessons. His idol when he was a teen was Hammond B-3 organist Jimmy McGriff. But by the time he was 18 years old, he switched to guitar, and hung out and heard his heroes, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Lightnin' Hopkins (his cousin) in Houston-area nightclubs. Collins began performing in these same clubs, going after his own style, characterized by his use of minor tunings and a capo, by the mid-'50s. It was also at this point that he began his "guitar walks" through the audience, which made him wildly popular with the younger white audiences he played for years later in the 1980s. He led a ten-piece band, the Rhythm Rockers, and cut his first single in 1958 for the Houston-based Kangaroo label, "The Freeze." The single was followed by a slew of other instrumental singles with catchy titles, including "Sno-Cone," "Icy Blue" and "Don't Lose Your Cool." All of these singles brought Collins a regional following. After recording "De-Frost" b/w "Albert's Alley" for Hall-Way Records of Beaumont, TX, he hit it big in 1962 with "Frosty," a million-selling single. Teenagers Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter, both raised in Beaumont, were in the studio when he recorded the song. According to Collins, Joplin correctly predicted that the single would become a hit. The tune quickly became part of his ongoing repertoire, and was still part of his live shows more than 30 years later, in the mid-'80s. Collins' percussive, ringing guitar style became his trademark, as he would use his right hand to pluck the strings. Blues-rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix cited Collins as an influence in any number of interviews he gave.
Through the rest of the 1960s, Collins continued to work day jobs while pursuing his music with short regional tours and on weekends. He recorded for other small Texas labels, including Great Scott, Brylen and TFC. In 1968, Bob "The Bear" Hite from the blues-rock group Canned Heat took an interest in the guitarist's music, traveling to Houston to hear him live. Hite took Collins to California, where he was immediately signed to Imperial Records. By later 1968 and 1969, the '60s blues revival was still going on, and Collins got wider exposure opening for groups like the Allman Brothers at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. Collins based his operations for many years in Los Angeles before moving to Las Vegas in the late '80s.
He recorded three albums for the Imperial label before jumping to Tumbleweed Records. There, several singles were produced by Joe Walsh, since the label was owned by the Eagles' producer Bill Szymczyk. The label folded in 1973. Despite the fact that he didn't record much through the 1970s and into the early '80s, he had gotten sufficient airplay around the U.S. with his singles to be able to continue touring, and so he did, piloting his own bus from gig to gig until at least 1988, when he and his backing band were finally able to use a driver. Collins' big break came about in 1977, when he was signed to the Chicago-based Alligator Records, and he released his brilliant debut for the label in 1978, Ice Pickin'. Collins recorded six more albums for the label, culminating in 1986's Cold Snap, on which organist Jimmy McGriff performs. It was at Alligator Records that Collins began to realize that he could sing adequately, and working with his wife Gwen, he co-wrote many of his classic songs, including items like "Mastercharge," and "Conversation With Collins."
His other albums for Alligator include Live in Japan, Don't Lose Your Cool, Frozen Alive! and Frostbite. An album he recorded with fellow guitarists Robert Cray and Johnny "Clyde" Copeland for Alligator in 1985, Showdown! brought a Grammy award for all three musicians. His Cold Snap, released in 1986, was nominated for a Grammy award.
In 1989, Collins signed with the Pointblank subsidiary of major label Virgin Records, and his debut, Iceman, was released in 1991. The label released the compilation Collins Mix in 1993. Other compact-disc reissues of his early recordings were produced by other record companies who saw Collins' newfound popularity on the festival and theater circuit, and they include Complete Imperial Recordings on EMI Records (1991) and Truckin' With Albert Collins (1992) on MCA Records. Collins' sessionography is also quite extensive. The albums he performs on include David Bowie's Labyrinth, John Zorn's Spillane, Jack Bruce's A Question of Time, John Mayall's Wake Up Call, B.B. King's Blues Summit, Robert Cray's Shame and a Sin, and Branford Marsalis' Super Models in Deep Conversation.
Although he'd spent far too much time in the 1970s without recording, Collins could sense that the blues were coming back stronger in the mid-'80s, with interest in Stevie Ray Vaughan at an all-time high. Collins enjoyed some media celebrity in the last few years of his life, via concert appearances at Carnegie Hall, on Late Night with David Letterman, in the Touchstone film, Adventures in Babysitting, and in a classy Seagram's Wine Cooler commercial with Bruce Willis. The blues revival that Collins, Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds helped bring about in the mid-'80s has continued into the mid-'90s. But sadly, Collins has not been able to take part in the ongoing evolution of the music. ~ Richard Skelly, All Music Guide
Hailed by Rolling Stone as the greatest guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix was also one of the biggest cultural figures of the Sixties, a psychedelic voodoo child who spewed clouds of distortion and pot smoke.
A left-hander who took a right-handed Fender Stratocaster and played it upside down, Hendrix pioneered the use of the instrument as an electronic sound source. Players before Hendrix had experimented with feedback and distortion, but he turned those effects and others into a controlled, fluid vocabulary every bit as personal as the blues with which he began.
But while he unleashed noise with uncanny mastery — see: the hard-rock riffs of "Purple Haze," "Foxy Lady," and "Crosstown Traffic" — Hendrix also created tender ballads like "The Wind Cries Mary," the oft-covered "Little Wing," and "Angel," as well as haunting blues recordings such as "Red House" and "Voodoo Chile." Although Hendrix did not consider himself a good singer, his vocals were nearly as evocative as his guitar playing.
Hendrix's studio craft and virtuosity with both conventional and unconventional guitar sounds have been widely imitated. His songs have inspired several tribute albums, and have been recorded by a jazz group (1989's Hendrix Project), the Kronos String Quartet, and avant-garde flutist Robert Dick. Hendrix's musical vision had a profound effect on everybody from Miles Davis to Sly Stone and George Clinton to Prince and OutKast. Hendrix's theatrical performing style — full of unmistakably sexual undulations and showman tricks like playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his back — has never quite been equaled.
Beyond his virtuosic guitar playing, gifted songwriting, ahead-of-his-time attention to studio production, and electric stage presence, Hendrix was also an icon that transcended music; nobody else from his era wore an afro better. In the decades since Hendrix's death, pop stars from Rick James and Prince to Lenny Kravitz and Erykah Badu have evoked his look and style.
Born November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington, Hendrix taught himself to play guitar as a teenager, listening to records by blues guitarists Muddy Waters and B.B. King and rockers such as Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran. He played in high school bands before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1959. Discharged in 1961, Hendrix began working under the pseudonym Jimmy James as a pickup guitarist. By 1964, when he moved to New York, he had played behind Sam Cooke, B.B. King, Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Ike and Tina Turner, and Wilson Pickett. In New York he played the club circuit with King Curtis, the Isley Brothers, John Paul Hammond, and Curtis Knight.
In 1965 Hendrix formed his own band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, to play Greenwich Village coffeehouses. Chas Chandler of the Animals took him to London in the autumn of 1966 and arranged for the creation of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with Englishmen Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums.
The Experience's first single, "Hey Joe," reached Number Six on the U.K. chart in early 1967, followed shortly by "Purple Haze" and its double-platinum debut album, Are You Experienced? (Number Five, 1967). Hendrix fast became the rage of London's pop society. Although word of the Hendrix phenomenon spread to the U.S., he was not seen in America (and no records were released) until June 1967, when, at Paul McCartney's insistence, the Experience appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival. The performance, which Hendrix climaxed by burning his guitar, was filmed by D.A. Pennebaker for the documentary Monterey Pop.
Hendrix's next albums — Axis: Bold as Love (Number Three, 1968), Electric Ladyland (Number One, 1968) — were major hits and he quickly became a superstar. Stories such as one reporting that the Experience was dropped from the bill of a Monkees tour at the insistence of the Daughters of the American Revolution became part of the Hendrix myth, but he considered himself a musician more than a star. Soon after the start of his second American tour, early in 1968, he renounced the extravagances of his stage act and simply performed his music. A hostile reception led him to conclude that his best music came out in the informal settings of studios and clubs, and he began construction of Electric Lady, his own studio in New York.
Hendrix was eager to experiment with musical ideas, and he jammed with jazz fusionists John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, and members of Traffic, among others. Miles Davis admired his instinctiveness (and, in fact, planned to record with him), and Bob Dylan — whose "Like a Rolling Stone," "All Along the Watchtower," and "Drifter's Escape" Hendrix performed and recorded — later returned the tribute by performing "Watchtower" in the Hendrix mode.
As 1968 came to a close, disagreements arose between manager Chas Chandler and co-manager Michael Jeffrey; Jeffrey, who opposed Hendrix's avant-garde leanings, got the upper hand. Hendrix was also under pressure from Black Power advocates to form an all-black group and play to black audiences. These problems exacerbated already existing tensions within the Experience, and in early 1969 Redding left the group to form Fat Mattress. Hendrix replaced him with an army buddy, Billy Cox. Mitchell stayed on briefly, but by August the Experience was defunct. In summer 1969 the double-platinum Smash Hits (Number Six) was released.
In August 1969, Hendrix appeared at the Woodstock Festival with a large, informal ensemble called the Electric Sky Church, and later that year he put together the all-black Band of Gypsys — with Cox and drummer Buddy Miles (Electric Flag), with whom he had played behind Wilson Pickett. The Band of Gypsys' debut concert at New York's Fillmore East on New Year's Eve 1969 provided the recordings for the group's only album during its existence, Band of Gypsys (Number Five, 1970). (A second album of vintage tracks was released in 1986.) Hendrix walked offstage in the middle of their Madison Square Garden gig; when he performed again some months later it was with Mitchell and Cox, the group that recorded The Cry of Love (Number Three, 1971), Hendrix's last self-authorized album. With them he played at the Isle of Wight Festival, his last concert, in August 1970, a recording of which would see release in 2002. A month later he was dead. The cause of death was given in a coroner's report as inhalation of vomit following barbiturate intoxication. Suicide was not ruled out, but evidence pointed to an accident.
In the years since his death, the Hendrix legend has amplified through various media. Randi Hansen (who appeared in the video for Devo's 1984 cover of "Are You Experienced?") became the best known of a bunch of full-time Hendrix impersonators, even re-forming the Band of Gypsys with bassist Tony Saunders and Buddy Miles, who, briefly in the late Eighties, was replaced by Mitch Mitchell.
Well over a dozen books have been written about Hendrix, including tomes by both Redding and Mitchell; David Henderson's 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky is generally considered to be the most authoritative bio, while Charles R. Cross's Room Full of Mirrors delves deepest into Hendrix's early years in Seattle.
Virtually every note Hendrix ever allowed to be recorded has been marketed on more than 100 albums, some of which mine his years as a pickup guitarist; various bootlegs and legitimate live concerts and jam sessions; and even taped interviews and conversations. A controversial series produced by Alan Douglas, who recorded more than 1,000 hours of Hendrix alone at the Electric Lady studio in the last year of his life, garnered attention through the mid-Nineties. With the consent of the Hendrix estate, Douglas edited the tapes, erased some tracks, and dubbed in others, with mixed results. Radio One collected energetic live-in-the-studio performances by Hendrix and the Experience recorded for British radio in 1967; the later BBC Sessions mined the same material more thoroughly.
In 1990 the first of several Hendrix tribute albums, If Six Was Nine, was released. Former Free/Bad Company/Firm vocalist Paul Rodgers released another tribute (The Hendrix Set, 1993) and appeared on the all-star Stone Free, which featured Hendrix covers from musicians ranging from Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy to the Cure, Ice-T, and classical violinist Nigel Kennedy.
In 1991 Hendrix's ex-girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, along with Mitch Mitchell and his wife Dee, began prodding Scotland Yard to reopen an investigation into their friend's death. England's attorney general finally agreed to the request in 1993; in early 1994 Scotland Yard announced it had found no evidence to bother pursuing the case any further. In 1993 an audio-visual exhibit of Hendrix's work called "Jimi Hendrix: On the Road Again" toured college campuses and art galleries in the U.S., to enthusiastic — and predominately young — audiences.
In 1994 a 24-year-old Swede named James Henrik Daniel Sundquist claimed to have been conceived by the guitarist and Eva Sundquist during a 1969 Stockholm sojourn. Sundquist legally challenged Hendrix's father, James "Al" Hendrix, as the sole heir to the Jimi Hendrix estate, which was estimated to be worth at least $30 million. A year earlier, Al Hendrix, who in the mid-Seventies had signed away the rights to portions of his son's work to various international conglomerates, had claimed that he'd been misled. With the financial aid of Paul Allen, the billionaire Hendrix fan who'd cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates, the elder Hendrix filed a federal lawsuit against those conglomerates and against the holding companies and lawyers connected to the estate.
In 1995 he regained complete control of his son's estate, which included Jimi Hendrix's finished and unreleased recordings, as well as his musical compositions. This evolved into a series of CD reissues that were remastered from the original tapes. Having re-released CDs of the guitarist's entire catalogue, the Hendrix estate, under the Experience Hendrix imprint of MCA, also issued the album on which Hendrix was working at the time of his death, First Rays of the New Rising Sun (Number 49, 1997). South Saturn Delta (Number 51, 1997) delved further into the archives. Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix (Number 133, 1998) followed, as did the double-CD BBC Sessions (Number 50, 1998), the Band of Gypsys-era Live at the Fillmore East (Number 65, 1999), Live at Woodstock (Number 90, 1999), and, in 2000, the four-CD/eight-LP Jimi Hendrix Experience box set. (Several other live discs were made available through an online imprint, Dagger Records.)
Meanwhile Paul Allen amassed his cash to fund a modest Jimi Hendrix museum, which eventually blossomed into the $100 million Experience Music Project. Eight years in the making, the high-tech, interactive rock & roll museum — complete with a Jimi Hendrix Gallery — opened at the Seattle Center in 2000.
When Al Hendrix died of congestive heart failure in 2002, discrepancies over his will pitted Hendrix's heirs against each other; in 2005, a judge assigned an independent trustee to oversee finances at Experience Hendrix. Live albums and box sets containing previously released songs, alternate versions and outtakes have continued to surface from Experience Hendrix and Dagger including 2002's Blue Wild Angel: Live at the Isle of Wight (Number 113); 2003's Live at Berkeley; 2005's Live at the Isle of Fehmarn, recorded in Germany; 2009's Live at Woburn, another U.K. Date; as well as a 10-disc collection of singles containing two to four songs apiece.
In early 2010, Experience Hendrix announced the upcoming release of Valley of Neptune, a 12-song collection of unreleased material, primarily drawn from early 1969 sessions. According to an Rolling Stone interview with Jimi's stepsister Janie Hendrix, who now runs his estate, more releases are planned: "In the past decade, we've discovered so much unheard audio and video that we'll be able to put out two discs a year for at least the next decade."
Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Mark Kemp contributed to this story.
Blues musician John Lee Hooker helped define the post-World War II electric blues with his one-chord boogie compositions and his rhythmic electric guitar work. His deep voice was inimitable. Historically, he was one of the great links between the blues and rock & roll.
Hooker was one of 11 children. He sang at church in Clarksdale, Mississippi. His first musical instrument was an inner tube stretched across a barn door. In his adolescence he was taught rudimentary guitar technique by his stepfather, William Moore, who often performed at local fish fries, dances, and other social occasions in the late '20s; another early influence was Blind Lemon Jefferson. In 1931 Hooker went to Memphis, where he worked as an usher at the Daisy Theater on Beale Street. He moved to Cincinnati in 1933 and sang with gospel groups like the Big Six, the Delta Big Four, and the Fairfield Four.
His career eventually took root in Detroit in the late '30s. He began recording in the late '40s. Hooker was exclusively a singles artist for his first few very prolific years. His first release, "Boogie Chillen," issued on the Modern label, was an instant million-seller and a jukebox hit. "I'm in the Mood" sold a million copies in 1951; the blues-record market was soon saturated with Hooker material on myriad labels, often released under such pseudonyms as Birmingham Sam, John Lee Booker, Boogie Man, John Lee Cooker, Delta John, Johnny Lee, Texas Slim, and Johnny Williams. His only pop chart entry was with "Boom Boom" (Number 60, 1962), later recorded by the Animals. In 1959 he cut his first album for Riverside Records and made his debut performance at the Newport Folk Festival. He toured Europe extensively in the early '60s. In the mid-'60s he toured and recorded frequently with Britain's Groundhogs.
By 1970, Hooker was living in Oakland, California. He teamed up with Canned Heat for Hooker 'n' Heat (Liberty), which made inroads on the American charts (Number 73) and abroad. Charlie Musselwhite and Van Morrison joined Hooker in 1972 for Never Get Out of These Blues Alive, the release of which roughly coincided with Fantasy's double-LP Boogie Chillen, a compilation of early material and previously unreleased tapes from 1962. Hooker continued to tour and record in the '70s and '80s, often opening for rock acts like Canned Heat and Foghat. In 1980 he appeared in The Blues Brothers film.
The late '80s brought a renewal of interest in Hooker. British and American rockers, including the Spencer Davis Group, the J. Geils Band, Canned Heat, and George Thorogood, had covered his songs. He sang the title role on Pete Townshend's 1989 album The Iron Man, which was based on a children's book. The same year he joined the Rolling Stones for their concerts in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Healer (Number 62, 1989), which featured guest appearances by Carlos Santana, Robert Cray, Los Lobos, George Thorogood, Canned Heat, and others, was his biggest commercial success. The album spent 38 weeks on the chart. Hooker earned his first Grammy Award for "I'm in the Mood," the album's duet with Bonnie Raitt. In October 1990 New York's Madison Square Garden hosted an all-star concert celebrating Hooker's music. Raitt, Joe Cocker, Huey Lewis, Ry Cooder, Gregg Allman, Willie Dixon, and others joined the bluesman for the occasion. That year he also joined Miles Davis on the Grammy-nominated movie soundtrack The Hot Spot. (Davis reportedly called Hooker "the funkiest man alive, buried up to his neck in mud.")
In 1991 Hooker was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; he was nominated for another Grammy for 1991's Mr. Lucky, which featured tracks recorded with the Robert Cray Band, Keith Richards, Ry Cooder, Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Johnny Winter, Carlos Santana, and others. His 1992 release Boom Boom featured guest guitar work by ex–Fabulous Thunderbird Jimmie Vaughan and blues great Albert Collins.
In early 1995 Hooker announced that he would lighten his touring schedule. Van Morrison, who played on 1995's Chill Out, produced 1997's Don't Look Back, which features appearances by both Morrison and Los Lobos. The Best of Friends rounds up Hooker's numerous superstar collaborations. The first biography about the bluesman, Boogie Man, was published in Europe in 1999, and in America the following year. In 2000 Hooker won a Grammy for lifetime achievement. He died in his sleep at the age of 83.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
Delta bluesman Howlin' Wolf was one of the most influential and imposing musicians of the post-World War II era, and his later electric Chicago blues — featuring his deep, lupine voice — helped shape the sound of rock & roll. Numerous blues-based rock artists, from the Rolling Stones to Eric Clapton, sang his praises and helped sustain his career throughout the 1960s and beyond.
Chester Arthur Burnett, named after the 21st president, was born on June 10, 1910, in White Station, Mississippi, a small railroad stop in the state's hill country between Aberdeen and West Point. At 13, he ran away to live with his father on a cotton plantation in the Delta town of Ruleville. His father bought him a guitar when he was 18, and Burnett began studying the blues with the rural masters, including his half sister's husband, harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), and guitarist and vocalist Charley Patton, Burnett's biggest single influence.
Burnett's grandfather had nicknamed him "Wolf" for his rough behavior as a small child, and after apprenticing with Patton around Ruleville in the late Twenties he began playing on street corners in the Thirties under various names including Howlin' Wolf. He formed his first band, the House Rockers, in Memphis in 1948 with pianist Bill Johnson, lead guitarist Willie Johnson, and drummer Willie Steele. (Later personnel included harmonica players James Cotton and Little Junior Parker, Ike Turner on piano, and guitarist Willie Johnson.)
In 1951 Ike Turner, who also was a freelance talent scout, had Wolf record for Sam Phillips' Memphis-based Sun Records. Those masters were then leased to Chicago-based Chess Records, and in 1957 one of them, "Moanin' at Midnight," became his first R&B hit. In 1952 Wolf moved to Chicago, where his music was well received. Some consider the recordings he made for Chess during the Fifties and Sixties his best. Among them were the 1957 R&B hit "Sitting on Top of the World," "Spoonful," "Smokestack Lightnin'," "Little Red Rooster," "I Ain't Superstitious," "Back Door Man," "Killing Floor," and "How Many More Years." His songs, many of them written by Willie Dixon, have been covered by American and English rock acts including the Stones (with whom Wolf appeared on the Shindig! TV show in 1965), the Grateful Dead, the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, the Doors, Cream, the Electric Flag, Little Feat, and Led Zeppelin.
Wolf, who stood an imposing six-foot-three and weighed nearly 300 pounds, frequently appeared at blues and rock festivals in the late Sixties and early Seventies. His 1971 album, The London Sessions, featured backup support from Clapton, Ringo Starr, Steve Winwood, and Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman of the Stones. That same year Wolf received an honorary doctorate from Columbia College in Chicago. He lived the last years of his life in Chicago's crumbling South Side ghetto. He suffered several heart attacks in the early Seventies and received kidney dialysis treatment, but he continued to play occasionally; one of his last concerts was in November 1975 at the Chicago Amphitheatre with B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and Little Milton. He entered a hospital in December of that year and died at age 65 on January 10, 1976, of complications from kidney disease.
On his final album in 1973 – 35 years before the election of President Barack Obama – Howlin' Wolf had predicted that a black man would one day occupy the White House; in "Coon on the Moon," he sang, "You know, they called us 'coons,' said we didn't have no sense. / You gonna wake up one morning, and a coon's gonna be the President." In 1991 Wolf was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Mark Kemp contributed to this article.
Though a street singer whose repertoire was not limited to the blues, Robert Johnson is among the first and most influential Delta bluesmen, despite his having recording only 29 songs before dying at the age of 27. He is credited with writing blues standards like "Dust My Broom" (which Elmore James made into a postwar electric-blues anthem), "Sweet Home Chicago," "Ramblin' on My Mind," "Crossroads" (covered by Cream), "Love in Vain" and "Stop Breaking Down" (covered by the Rolling Stones), and "Terraplane Blues" (covered by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band on Mirror Man). Equally important, Johnson's persona and his songs introduced a musical and lyrical vocabulary that are the basis of the modern blues and blues-based rock.
Little was known of Johnson's life until Peter Guralnick set out to discover what truth he could about the bluesman; his Searching for Robert Johnson (1988) stands as the closest thing to a definitive biography. Johnson was born to Mrs. Julia Dodds, the product of her extramarital relationship with Noah Johnson. As a young boy he lived with his mother and baby sister in a number of homes, including that of a Charles Spencer, who kept two mistresses, one of whom was Johnson's mother, and their children. Johnson's mother left him in Spencer's care until, at age seven or so, Johnson was deemed too disobedient and was returned to his mother and his new stepfather, Willie "Dusty" Willis. He lived with them in Robinsonville, 40 miles south of Memphis, until young manhood.
He began playing the Jew's harp, then the harmonica. Sometime in his teens he began using the surname of Johnson. Poor eyesight and lack of interest in education led him to quit school. Sometime in the late '20s, he picked up the guitar. He was influenced by pioneering Delta bluesmen like Charley Patton and Willie Brown, as well as any number of journeyman musicians he met.
In 1929, at age 17, he married Virginia Travis; she and their first baby died during childbirth in April 1930. Shortly thereafter Johnson met Son House, who would become an important influence on the young bluesman. It was then that Johnson decided to leave behind the sharecropping life he seemed destined for and take to the road. He returned to his birthplace and there met his mentor, Ike Zinneman, an obscure bluesman. Also in Hazelhurst, he married Calletta Craft, a woman who reportedly worshiped him and allowed him the freedom of spending days and nights in Zinneman's company. The darker, more occult aspects of the Johnson legend first appear here; reputedly, Zinneman learned the blues playing his guitar while sitting atop tombstones. Johnson began writing down his songs, and when not picking cotton, he performed locally in juke joints or on the courthouse steps. Sometime in the early '30s, he left his birthplace for the Mississippi Delta. His wife suffered a breakdown and returned to her home; she died a few years later.
After a brief return to Robinsonville, he settled in Helena, Arkansas, where he met and played with Robert Nighthawk, Elmore James, Honeyboy Edwards, Howlin' Wolf, Calvin Frazier, Memphis Slim, Johnny Shines, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Hacksaw Harney —a virtual who's who of early rural blues. It was at this time that he took up with Estella Coleman and unofficially adopted her son Robert Lockwood Jr., who was to become a respected bluesman himself, using the name Robert Jr. Lockwood. Johnson toured up and down the Mississippi, as far north as New York and Canada. It also was during this time that his stature grew, and he became protective and jealous of his playing style. His repertoire included blues standards, his own compositions, and even such popular tunes of the day as "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds."
Johnson was always attractive to women; as his prowess grew, he was the object of jealousy, from fellow musicians and jilted boyfriends and husbands. He often claimed that he learned to play guitar from the Devil himself, and many of his recordings evince a haunting, otherworldly inspiration. Over the years, he became erratic, often moody, but always ambitious. For years he had wanted to record, and on November 23, 1936, he finally did. The first song he recorded was "Terraplane Blues." It became a best-selling hit for Vocalion, a Columbia Records specialty label. During his lifetime, over the course of three recording sessions that November, Johnson created what is arguably the most influential single artist's catalogue in rock and blues history: "Kindhearted Woman Blues," "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom," "Sweet Home Chicago," "Rambling on My Mind," "When You've Got a Friend," "Come On in My Kitchen," "Phonograph Blues," "Blues," "They're Red Hot," "Dead Shrimp Blues" (never issued), "Cross Road Blues," "Walking Blues," "Last Fair Deal Gone Down," "Preaching Blues (Up Jumped the Devil)," "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day," "Stones in My Passway," "I'm a Steady Rollin' Man," "From Four Till Late," "Hellhound on My Trail," "Little Queen of Spades," "Malted Milk," "Drunken Hearted Man," "Me and the Devil Blues," "Stop Breakin' Down," "Traveling Riverside Blues," "Honeymoon Blues," "Love in Vain," and "Milkcow's Calf Blues."
In August 1938 Johnson played the last show of his life. While playing at a roadhouse, he attempted to rekindle a relationship with the owner's wife. Sonny Boy Williamson, who was with him, cautioned him not to drink from an open whiskey bottle he was offered. Johnson refused to heed the warning, and three days later died of strychnine poisoning and pneumonia. He was buried in an unmarked grave.
Despite his comparatively small number of recordings, Johnson has a paramount place in blues history and, though he played acoustically, was a strong influence on such electric bluesmen as Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Johnny Shines, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Robert Nighthawk, and others. There were rumors that Johnson had played electric guitar. Just after his death, producer/manager John Hammond, organizing his first landmark Spirituals to Swing concert, wanted Johnson to perform; unable to locate the late Delta bluesman, Hammond settled for Big Bill Broonzy.
To the surprise of the record industry, the double-CD box set Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings sold over half a million copies and was certified platinum. Over half a century after Johnson's death, the CD package received a Grammy for Best Historical Recording.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
Albert King's mammoth physical presence —he weighed more than 250 pounds and stood 6-foot-4 —was reflected in his harsh, imposing vocals and biting, influential blues style.
He bought his first guitar for $1.25 sometime around 1931 (he later played a left-handed Gibson Flying V), and his first inspiration was T-Bone Walker. For a long while he had to work nonmusic jobs to survive (including bulldozer operator and mechanic), but in the late '40s King settled in Osceola, Arkansas, and worked local gigs with the In the Groove Boys. He then migrated north, where he played drums for Jimmy Reed and also sang and played guitar on his own singles, including "Lonesome in My Bedroom" and "Bad Luck Blues" for the Parrot label in 1953.
King then moved to St. Louis and formed another band, but he didn't record again until 1959, when he signed to the local Bobbin label. He worked for several small companies in the early '60s, including King Records, which released his 1961 hit "Don't Throw Your Love on Me Too Strong" (#14 R&B). But King's real break came in 1966, when he signed to Stax. Using the label's famed Memphis sidemen, he cut some of his best-known works, including "Laundromat Blues" (1966) and his album Born Under a Bad Sign, made with Booker T. and the MG's in 1967. King began to break through to white audiences: He appeared at the first Fillmore East show on March 8, 1968, with Tim Buckley and Big Brother and the Holding Company, and also played at the hall's closing on June 27, 1971. (A live album, Live Wire/Blues Power, had been recorded at Fillmore West.)
In November 1969 King played with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, forming what was termed "an 87-piece blues band." Over the years his songs have been covered by Free, John Mayall, the Electric Flag, and others. He toured more than ever in the '70s, though he left Stax in 1974. King signed to Utopia in 1976 and to Tomato in 1978, charting some minor R&B singles. In 1990 he made a guest appearance on guitarist Gary Moore's Still Got the Blues, and he continued to perform until his death from a heart attack at age 69. At King's funeral, Joe Walsh —just one of many six-string disciples —paid tribute with a slide-guitar rendition of "Amazing Grace."
Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
Acknowledged as one of the finest musicians that the British Isles has ever produced, and with a career that dated back to the 1960s, there were few musical genres that Gary Moore had not turned his adroit musical hand to. Gracing the line-ups of several notable rock bands, Thin Lizzy, Colosseum II and (The Original) Skid Row, in his time, he also established himself as a world-class guitarist, with few equals. Gary was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 4th 1952. Like many others, he was turned on to rock and roll first through hearing Elvis Presley, and then via The Beatles. Seeing the likes of Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in his hometown in the mid-60s opened up to him the rich world of The Blues. Hearing the art of the blues guitar performed by such lauded exponents as Peter Green fired Moore's nascent talent, and it wasn't long before he was being hailed as a teen musical prodigy. Indeed, it was Green himself who helped foster Moore's career, a debt that was repaid handsomely when Gary cut his warm and heartfelt tribute to his mentor, the 'Blues For Greeny' album, released in 1995.
Gary's first band of note, the power trio Skid Row, secured a record deal with the CBS label in 1970. By this time, Gary had moved to Dublin, and befriended a certain Philip Lynott, who filled the vocal role with Skid Row until shortly before the CBS deal was signed. Gary cut three albums with the band, and toured the USA supporting The Allman Brothers Band, and Mountain amongst others, before he left Skid Row to embark on a solo career. This proved short-lived, as Gary was soon to reunite with Phil Lynott as replacement for Eric Bell in the Thin Lizzy line-up. Although he was in the band for a relatively brief tenure, he would re-join their ranks following the departure of Brian Robertson in 1977, and again, finally as a full band member, for the 'Black Rose' album and tour in 1978.
In 1979, Gary's solo career began in earnest with the evocative hit single, 'Parisienne Walkways', which pitched Gary's tasteful, blues-soaked lead guitar with a moody Phil Lynott guest vocal. The single reached the UK Top Ten in April of that year, and the subsequent album, 'Back On The Streets' was similarly well received. The late 1970s and early 80s were characterised by Gary's restless search for the best musical settings for his talents; a reunion with Phil Lynott produced the powerful 'Out In The Fields' hit single (1985). He explored his Celtic roots on the album 'Wild Frontier' (1987), but it was with the 1990 album, 'Still Got The Blues', that Gary arrived at a rich musical vein within which his creativity could flow freely. This and its successor, 'After Hours' saw cameo appearances from the likes of such Blues guitar greats as Albert King, BB King, and Albert Collins, and it is a testament to Gary's own remarkable talents that he more than held his own amongst such august company.
In 1994, Gary worked alongside Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce in the band BBM, cutting one accomplished album, before resuming his solo career.
The, Back To The Blues' (2001) album saw him revisit The Blues with renewed vigour and determination, after the more experimental 'Dark Days In Paradise' (1997) and 'A Different Beat' (1999) albums. A ten-track collection that mixed excellent Moore originals, with gritty and intense covers of standards. But, in the tradition of keeping his fans and critics guessing, 2002 saw Gary Moore crashing back onto the music scene with what had to be his heaviest collection of songs since the late 1980's, once again forcing people to reassess any opinions and preconceptions they might have had of him. That time round though, Moore had decided to share the limelight, joining forces with ex-Skunk Anansie bassist Cass Lewis and Primal Scream drummer Darrin Mooney to form 'Scars', a true power trio in every respect. The 'Scars' album was completed in early 2002 and that line-up, then went on to record the 'Live at the Monsters of Rock' (2003) live CD and DVD, which featured the band's set as performed on two separate nights on the UK Tour in May 2003. That live set encompassed a diverse range of material, from across Gary's playing career.
2004 saw possibly the rawest album yet, with 'Power of the Blues'. The 10-track set, recorded mostly live in the studio, ranged from the hard rock/blues of the title track, via the upbeat swing of "Can't find my baby", to the haunting "Torn Inside".
Taking time out in August 2005, for a brief reunion with former Thin Lizzy band members, for a one off concert in Dublin, to mark the occasion of Phil Lynott’s birth. The evening was filmed for the 2006 DVD release, 'Gary Moore and Friends, One Night in Dublin, A Tribute to Phil Lynott'.
With his 2007 studio album ‘Close As You Get’, Gary continued in a direction not too dissimilar from ‘Old, New, Ballads, Blues’, released in 2006. Mixing original tunes with some interesting Blues covers that Gary had rediscovered, whilst researching for his award winning radio series, “Blues Power”, on Planet Rock (UK based digital/internet “radio” station). September 2008 saw the release of what would turn out to be Gary’s last studio album, “Bad for you Baby”. Again, a powerful collection of tracks, of original material and selected blues covers. After being on the road for most of 2008 and into 2010 with the “Blues” line up of the touring band. Gary returned from a tour of Russia and the Far East, and decided to reunite with his old sparring partner from the rock line up’s of the 1980’s, Neil Carter. The plan was to put together a “Rock” line up and dust off a selection of tracks from the mid to late 1980’s. Adding Jon Noyce, (ex Jethro Tull/Sessions) on bass, some one who was also part of the, “One Night in Dublin” Tribute DVD in 2005, and Darrin Mooney (Primal Scream/Sessions) on drums, who was no stranger to the touring and recording line during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. This line up, hit the road in May of 2010, performing a live set based around a selection of tracks from the “Rock Years” of the 1980's. This proved to be a real treat for fans, old & new, as many would have not heard Gary play these songs live, either for a very long time, or in many cases, at all. In addition to the older tunes, a number of new “Celtic Rock” style tracks were included in the show, which went down very well with the live audiences. Tracks, which Gary was planning to record and embellish, on his next studio project. A project that was ready to start when Gary returned from a short holiday break.
Unfortunately, that was not to be, as Gary passed away in his sleep in the early hours of February 6th, 2011, in Estepona, Spain. After being such a “force of nature” in the guitar-playing firmament, for many years, as part of a professional career that began when he was only 16. He leaves behind a huge hole for many, not just his close family and friends, but guitar fans around the world.
Of all the many tributes paid since Gary’s passing, maybe this one, from Gary’s friend and musical collaborator, Don Airey, might sum up the best of most people’s thoughts of Gary: “At the 1984 Donington Festival during the long solo in “Empty Rooms” the previously restive crowd went so quiet, you could hear a pin drop - everyone back and behind stage stopped whatever they were doing and just stood to listen open-mouthed. His artistry touched thousands of people over the years, not least those of us lucky enough to have shared a stage or a recording studio with him. Sleep tight old mate, you’ll be sorely missed.”
Born in Manchester UK in 1977, Matt was immersed in the blues from a young age thanks to his Dad’s record collection. A professional guitarist from age 18 Schofield left it relatively late to start his own recording career, choosing first to learn his trade as a sideman, initially with bandleader and harp player Lee Sankey. He then spent four years with British Blues Diva and David Bowie prodigy Dana Gillespie, touring the UK, Europe and as far a field as India.
Seven years into life as a pro, he formed his own band - a trio - with Hammond organist, Jonny Henderson and drummer, Evan Jenkins (now with BBC Jazz Award winner, Neil Cowley). The trio was unconventional in having no bass player, bass duties being handled on the Hammond organ, a format favoured over the years by American bluesmen such as Albert King and Jimmie Vaughan.
The result was The Trio, Live, an eight-track taster of things to come. For what was a low budget, off-the-cuff and all-covers recording it elicited high praise along with airplay on both sides of the Atlantic and a BBC Radio 2 live session.
With his two subsequent releases (05’s Siftin' Thru Ashes and 07’s Ear To The Ground) Schofield consolidated his sound, delivering a powerful mix of Blues and New Orleans funk unlike anything else on the block. It was hard to pigeon-hole a band that could mine a deep blues trench one minute, effortlessly pull off a Meters anthem the next and then just as successfully revitalise the sixties Box Tops song, The Letter.
Fast forward to May, 2009 and Schofield’s third studio recording Heads, Tails & Aces. This time Schofield has a bass player and an album with a greater focus on blues. Gone are the interspersed instrumental funk tracks that characterised previous albums and led some commentators to label Schofield as much jazz, as blues. In their place is an entirely song-based album, with nine of the eleven tracks written or co-written by Schofield.
The breadth of material on this album is impressive, spanning everything from the smouldering Malaco-like soul groove of War We Wage, to the eccentric back-beat driven Betting Man and the Jazz-tinged Nothing Left, the latter lulling the listener into relaxed mood before climaxing in a tension-drenched extended outro.
Schofield's seamless playing has always embodied the great stylistic moments of American blues guitar, but the two cover versions on this latest album - interpretations of Freddie King's Woman Across The River and Elmore James' Stranger Blues - make any comparisons irrelevant. Underpinned by Jonny Henderson's constantly empathetic keyboards, Schofield stamps his own style on proceedings, slamming into solos that burn with an intensity rarely heard these days and even more rarely in combination with such a technically fluid and melodic approach.
Matt has produced three highly acclaimed albums for Ian Siegal, 2005’s Meat & Potatoes, 2007’s Swagger and his November 2009 release, Broadside, which is MOJO magazine’s Blues Album of 09.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd and his group exploded on the scene in the mid-'90s and garnered huge amounts of radio airplay on commercial radio, which historically has not been a solid home for blues and blues-rock music, with the exception of Stevie Ray Vaughan in the mid-'80s. Shepherd was born June 12, 1977, in Shreveport, LA. The Shreveport native began playing at age seven, figuring out Muddy Waters licks from his father's record collection (he has never taken a formal lesson). At age 13, he was invited on-stage by New Orleans bluesman Brian Lee and held his own for several hours; thus proving himself, he decided on music as a career. He formed his own band, which featured lead vocalist Corey Sterling, gaining early exposure through club dates and, later, radio conventions. Shepherd's father/manager used his own contacts and pizzazz in the record business to help land his son a major-label record deal with Irving Azoff's Giant Records. Ledbetter Heights, his first album, was released two years later in 1995. Ledbetter Heights was an immediate hit, selling over 500,000 by early 1996. Most blues records never achieve that level of commercial success, much less ones released by artists who are still in their teens. Although Shepherd -- who has been influenced by (and has sometimes played with) guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, Slash, Robert Cray, and Duane Allman -- is definitely a performer who thrives in front of an audience, Ledbetter Heights is impressive for its range of styles: acoustic blues, rockin' blues, Texas blues, Louisiana blues. The only style that he doesn't tackle is Chicago blues, owing to Shepherd's home base smack dab in the middle of the Texas triangle. 1998's Trouble Is... earned a Grammy nomination; Live On followed a year later. In 2004 The Place You're In was released on Reprise Records, the first album that featured Shepherd doing the majority of the lead vocals (singer Noah Hunt handled the lead vocals on the previous two albums). Shepherd's next project saw him traveling in the American South with a documentary film crew and a portable recording studio as he backed up several veteran blues players on their home turf. The resulting album and film, 10 Days Out (Blues from the Backroads), appeared in 2007.
Stevie Ray Vaughan was an important figure in Texas blues music. Guitarist and front man, he led a blues resurgence in the 1980s, bringing rock fans into the fold with a powerful, driving style. His four studio albums were critical and commercial successes, including Let's Dance and Texas Flood. He battled drug and alcohol problems for years. After a show in 1990, he died in a helicopter crash.
Musician. Born October 3, 1954, in Dallas, Texas, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan was at the forefront of a blues resurgence in the 1980s, bringing rock fans into the fold with a powerful, driving style of play that earned him comparisons with some of his heroes such as Jimi Hendrix, Otis Rush, and Muddy Waters. His four main studio albums were critical and commercial successes, rising high on the music charts and paving the way to sold-out stadium shows across the country.
Inspired by his older brother Jimmie's guitar playing, Stevie picked up his first guitar at the age of 10, a plastic Sears toy that he loved to strum. With an exceptional ear, (Stevie never learned to read sheet music) Stevie taught himself to play the blues by the time he'd reached high school, testing his stage skills at a Dallas club any chance he could.
Well into his junior year, Vaughan had already played with several garage bands. But lacking any kind of academic drive, Stevie struggled to stay in school. Following a brief enrollment at an alternative arts program sponsored by Southern Methodist University, Stevie dropped out of school, moved to Austin, and concentrated on making a living as a musician. To make ends meet, Vaughan collected soda and beer bottles for money and couch-surfed at various friends' houses. The rest of the time he was playing music, jumping in-and-out of various bands that had semi-regular gigs in the Austin area.
In 1975, Vaughan and a few others formed Triple Threat. After some reshuffling, the group was renamed Double Trouble, inspired by an Otis Rush song. With Vaughan on lead vocals, the group developed a strong fan base throughout Texas. Eventually their popularity spread outside the Lone Star State. In 1982, the group caught the attention of Mick Jagger, who invited them to play at a private party in New York City. That same year, Double Trouble performed at the Montreux Blues & Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
While there, Vaughan's musical abilities caught the attention of David Bowie, who asked the musician to play on his upcoming album, Let's Dance. With some commercial viability behind them, Vaughan and his bandmates were signed to a record deal with Epic, where they were put in the capable hands of legendary musician and producer, John Hammond, Sr.
The resulting record, Texas Flood, did not disappoint, reaching No. 38 on the charts and catching the notice of rock stations across the country. For his part, Stevie was voted Best New Talent and Best Electric Blues Guitarist in a 1983 reader's poll by Guitar Player Magazine. Double Trouble set off on a successful tour, and then recorded a second album, Couldn't Stand the Weather, which climbed to No. 31 on the charts and went gold in 1985.
More records (the live album, Live Alive and then another studio collection, Soul to Soul) and more success followed.
There were Grammy nominations and, in 1984, the unprecedented recognition of Vaughan by the National Blues Foundation Awards, which named him Entertainer of the Year and Blues Instrumentalist of the Year. He became the first white musician ever to receive both honors.
But Vaughan's personal life was spiraling downward. His relationship with his wife, Lenora Darlene Bailey, whom he'd married in 1979, fell apart. He battled drug and alcohol problems. Finally, following a collapse while on tour in Europe in 1986, the guitarist checked himself into rehab.
For the next year, Vaughan largely stayed away from the high-powered music scene that had dominated his life over the last half decade. But in 1988, he and Double Trouble started performing again and making plans for another album. In June 1989, the group released their fourth studio album, Step. The recording featured Vaughan's driving guitar style, as well as several songs such as "Wall of Denial" and "Tight Rope," which touched on the struggles he'd gone through in his personal life. The release reached No. 33 on the charts, and garnered the group a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Recording.
Vaughan was as much a fan of blues history as he was a part of it. He owned Hendrix's "wah-wah," as well as a small army of classic Stratocaster electric guitars that had colorful names like Red, Yellow, and National Steel. His favorite—and the one he used more than any other—was a 59 Strat he called "Number One."
In the spring of 1990, Vaughan and his brother stepped into the studio to begin work on an album that was scheduled to be released that autumn. The record, Family Style, made its debut that October, but Stevie never lived to see it.
Death and Legacy
On August 26, 1990, Vaughan and Double Trouble played a big show in East Troy, Wisconsin, that featured Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughan. Just after midnight, Stevie hopped on a helicopter bound for Chicago. Contending with dense fog, the helicopter crashed into a mountain minutes after take-off, killing everyone on board. Vaughan was buried at Laurel Land Memorial Park in South Dallas. More than 1,500 people attended the musician's memorial service.
In the years since, Stevie Ray Vaughan's legend has only grown. Just a little more than a year after his death, Vaughan was recognized by Texas governor Ann Richards, who proclaimed October 3, 1991, "Stevie Ray Vaughan Day."
In addition, fans have been treated to a number of tribute specials and posthumous albums, including an early live Double Trouble record and a special box set of rare recordings, live shows, and never-before-heard outtakes. In a demonstration of the power of Vaughan's music, sales of these newer records have more than matched the records that came out during Stevie Ray Vaughan's lifetime.
Muddy Waters was the man who moved the blues north from the Delta and made it electric. The leading exponent of Chicago blues in the 1950s, Waters came up with guitar licks and a repertoire of classic songs that have fueled innumerable rock acts, from the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton to the Allman Brothers Band and Led Zeppelin.
Born McKinley Morganfield on April 4, 1913, in Issaquena County, Mississippi, he was the son of a farmer. Following his mother's death in 1918, he was raised by his grandmother. He picked up his nickname because he fished and played regularly in a muddy creek. He learned to play harmonica, and as a teen led a band that frequently played Mississippi Delta clubs. His singing was influenced by the style of local bluesman Son House. At 17, Waters began playing guitar by studying Robert Johnson records. In 1940 he traveled to St. Louis and in 1941 joined the Silas Green tent show as a singer and harmonica player. At some time in 1940 or 1941, folk archivists/researchers Alan Lomax and John Work recorded Waters in Mississippi for the Library of Congress.
In 1943 Waters moved to Chicago, where he found employment in a paper mill. The following year, he got an electric guitar and began performing at South Side clubs and rent parties. He cut several songs in 1946 for Columbia's Okeh subsidiary (those songs weren't released until 1981, when they appeared on a Columbia blues reissue Okeh Chicago Blues.) In 1946 bluesman Sunnyland Slim helped Waters get signed to Aristocrat Records, where he cut several unsuccessful singles. He continued playing clubs every night and driving a truck six days a week.
In 1948 the Chess brothers changed Aristocrat to Chess Recprds. Waters' first single on the new label was "Rollin' Stone," a major blues hit. "I Can't Be Satisfied" and "I Feel Like Going Home" from that year secured his position as a major blues performer. Most of Waters' early recordings featured him on electric guitar, Big Crawford or writer/producer Willie Dixon on bass, and occasionally Little Walter on harmonica. By 1951 he was supported by a complete band with Otis Spann on piano, Little Walter on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers on second guitar, and Elgin Evans on drums.
The songs Waters recorded that have become blues classics (and recorded by numerous rock groups) include "Honey Bee" in 1951; "She Moves Me" (Number 10 R&B) in 1952; "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man" (Number Eight R&B), "I Just Wanna Make Love to You" (Number Four R&B), "I'm Ready" (Number Five R&B), and "Got My Mojo Working" in 1954; and "Mannish Boy" (Number Nine R&B) in 1955. During the Fifties, many of Chicago's top bluesmen passed through Waters' band, including Walter Horton, Junior Wells, Jimmy Rogers, James Cotton, and Buddy Guy. In addition, Waters was helpful in the early stages of both Howlin' Wolf's and Chuck Berry's careers.
During his peak years as a record seller, most of Waters' sales were confined primarily to the Mississippi Delta, the New Orleans area, and Chicago. But his reputation and music were internationally known, as the attendance at concerts on his 1958 English tour revealed. The Rolling Stones named themselves after his song "Rollin' Stone."
After the mid-Fifties Waters never had another Top 10 R&B single, but his albums began to reach rock listeners. Into the Sixties, Waters appeared at concerts and festivals nationally, such as the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, where Muddy Waters at Newport was cut. In the late Sixties and early Seventies, he recorded several albums either with rock musicians or in a rock direction, the best of which were The London Sessions and Fathers and Sons, the latter with many of the players he had influenced, including Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield. In 1971 Waters won the first of several Grammys for They Call Me Muddy Waters.
In the early Seventies Waters left Chess and sued Chess's publishing arm for back royalties. He signed with Steve Paul's Blue Sky records in 1976, the year he appeared at the Band's farewell concert captured by filmmaker Martin Scorsese in The Last Waltz.
Using members of his Fifties bands and producer/guitarist Johnny Winter, Waters made three of his best-selling albums, Hard Again, I'm Ready, and King Bee. Winter and Waters frequently performed together in the Seventies and Eighties. He last performed publicly at a June 1982 Eric Clapton show. Waters died of a heart attack on April 30 of the following year. In 1987 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Five years later he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Mark Kemp contributed to this article.
Johnny Winter has been a guitar hero without equal. Signing to Columbia records in 1969 called largest solo artist deal of it’s time, Johnny immediately laid out the blueprint for his fresh take on classic blues a prime combination for the legions of fans just discovering the blues via the likes of Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. Constantly shifting between simple country blues in the vein of Robert Johnson, to all-out electric slide guitar blues-rock, – Johnny has always been one of the most respected singers and guitar players in rock and the clear link between British blues-rock and American Southern rock (a la the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.) Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Johnny was the unofficial torch-bearer for the blues, championing and aiding the careers of his idols like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.
Growing up in a rough-and-tumble town populated by oilfield wildcatters and shipyard workers, he spent long hours listening to a local deejay named J.P. Richardson – The Big Bopper of “Chantilly Lace” fame – and became hooked on 50’s rock & roll. He formed his first band, Johnny and the Jammers, in 1959 at the age of 15, with his 12-year-old brother Edgar on keyboards. Racial tensions in Beaumont were still high in those days. The town had been side to one of the worst race riots in Texas history just nine months before Johnny’s birth. Mobs wandered the streets, businesses burned, martial law went into effect, and more than 2,000 uniformed National Guardsmen and Texas Rangers sealed off the town from the rest of the world until tempers cooled. Despite the brutal legacy, Johnny remembers never hesitating as a kid to venture into black neighborhoods to hear and play music. Looking back, he believes people in the black community knew that he was sincere, that he was genuinely possessed by the blues. “Nothing ever happened tome. I went to black clubs all the time, and nobody ever bothered me. I always felt welcome.” He also became friends with Clarence Garlow, a deejay at the black radio station KJET in Beaumont. Who opened Winter’s eye’s and ears to rural blues and Cajun music. Clarence, who recorded for the swamp boogie specialty label Goldband, KRCO, Frolic, Diamond, Moon-Lite, Hall-Way and other regional labels.
There’s a famous story about a time in 1962 when Johnny and his brother went to see B.B. King at a Beaumont club called the Raven. The only whites in the crowd, they no doubt stood out. But Johnny already had his chops down and wanted to play with the revered B.B.”I was about 17,” Johnny remembers, “and B.B. didn’t want to let me on stage at first. He asked me for a union card, and I had one. Also, I kept sending people over to ask him to let me play. Finally, he decided that there enough people who wanted to hear me that, no matter if I was good or not, it would be worth it to let me on stage. He gave me his guitar and let me play. I got a standing ovation, and he took his guitar back!”
Winter’s big breakthrough came a few years later in 1968 when Rolling Stone writers Larry Sepulvado and John Burks featured him in a piece on the Texas Music scene, which prompted a bidding war among labels that Columbia eventually won. Johnny’s self-titled 1969 disc announced loudly that there was a new guitar-slinger on the new national scene. The disc included audacious covers such blues classics as B.B. King’s “Be Careful with a Fool,” Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Good Morning Little School Girl,” Robert Johnson’s “When You Got a Good Friend” and fellow Texan Lightin’ Hopkins’ “Back Door Friend.” It also featured two prime original Winter songs, “Dallas”and the controversial “I’m Yours and I’m Hers,” that went into heavy rotation on FM underground radio. The album peaked at No.24 on the billboard chart and was promptly followed by Second Winter later that same year.
Looking back, writer Cub Koda described the period as one when “Straight out of Texas with a hot trio, Winter made blues-rock music for the angels.” That trio, by the way, included bassist Tommy Shannon who would go on to be part of SRV’s Double Trouble and drummer Uncle John Turner. Winter stayed with Columbia and it’s boutique Blue Sky label for more than a decade, turning out such well-received platters as “Johnny Winter And” (1970), “Still Alive and Well” (1973) and “John Dawson Winter III” (1974). He also helped to introduce blues giant Muddy Waters to another generation of listeners by producing and playing guitar on the Grammy-winning “Hard Again” (1977), as well as the Grammy-nominated “I’m Ready” (1978), Muddy “Mississippi Waters Live” (1979) and “King Bee” (1981). The collaborations were so successful that Waters took to referring to Johnny as his “adopted son”!
Johnny joined Alligator Records in 1984. His desire to record nothing but authentic blues made for a perfect fit. When Johnny released Guitar Slinger later that year, it was widely hailed as his best (and bluesiest) album ever; it charted in both Billboard and Cashbox as well as earning a Grammy nomination. The next year, Johnny followed up Guitar Slinger with Serious Business. The powerhouse album won Johnny his second Grammy nomination with Alligator Records. Third Degree, his final Alligator release, came out in 1986. The album featured several special guests and an array of blues styles. Original blues cohorts, Tommy Shannon and Uncle John “Red” Turner, as well as Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, all made guest appearances. Johnny also played two solo acoustic cuts on the National Steel guitar (the first time he’d played the National in the studio since 1977).
Johnny was living his artistic dream, recording nothing but pure blues.His Alligator albums earned their way onto rock radio and a video for the song Don’t Take Advantage of Me played on the fledgling MTV network for over six months. But no matter how much commercial success Johnny’s Alligator albums received, they never compromised his commitment to his roots.
Today Johnny Winter is enjoying an unparalleled resurgence performing to sold out shows worldwide even after a long life full of honors and accomplishments such as a triumphant appearance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival with Derek Trucks, Buddy Guy and Clapton that has been immortalized on the Emmy award winning DVD. In a ceremony with Slash presenting in Nashville, Gibson Guitars released the signature Johnny Winter Firebird guitar that has been his beloved trademark for years. A Live through the 70s DVD is a hit along with his Live Bootleg Series CDs that have all entered the Top 10 Billboard Blues charts. Two unique instructional DVDs have been produced by Cherry Lane/Hal Leonard to the gratitude of players around the world. Always one for special appearances he recently performed with the Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan on the 40th anniversary of their debut.
In addition Winter has been headlining such prestigious events as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, Swedish Rock Fest, Warren Haynes X-mas jam and Europe’s Rockpalast viewed by millions just to name a few. Warner Bros. has now released a 40th anniversary DVD of Woodstock: 3 Days of Love and Peace the Director’s cut featuring, for the first time, Johnny playing his smoking classic “Meantown Blues.”
His recent Grammy nominated “I’m A Bluesman” disc on Virgin/EMI, has only added to his Texas-sized reputation. Joining him on this CD are guitarist Paul Nelson, bassist Scott Spray, 2 members of his current scorching road-tested touring band also consisting of drummer Vito Liuzzi. Performing now with a renewed vigor and fire to say that he is “back” would be an understatement. In fact, he never left. He
is just better than ever.
A LOOK BACK
John Dawson Winter III is born in Beaumont, Texas on Febrary 23rd. His brother Edgar is born three years later.
1953 – 1959
Johnny begins playing clarinet at age five; switches to ukelele and then guitar a few years later. Performing with his younger brother Edgar as a duo in an Everly Brothers vein, the Winters win a talent contest and appear on local television shows.
The Winter brothers travel to New York to audition for Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour. Soon thereafter, they receive their first taste of rock ‘n’ roll. The Winter brothers gain regional notoriety with the singles “School Day Blues” and “You Know I Love You” released on Houston-based Dart Records. During this time Johnny begins frequenting all black blues clubs and over the years he sits in with such heroes as Muddy Waters, BB King, and Bobby Bland.
At age 14, Johnny forms his first band, Johnny and the Jammers, with Edgar on piano.
1962 – 1965
Johnny cuts singles as a leader and sideman for regional labels such as Kroc, Frolic, Diamond, Goldband, Jin, and Todd. In 1963, he moves to Chicago to check out the blues scene but winds up playing twist clubs. He returns to Beaumont and records “Eternally,” a pop flavored number with horn arrangements by Edgar. The single is licensed by Atlantic Records and becomes a hit in the Texas/Louisiana region.
1965 – 1967
Johnny gigs relentlessly throughout the deep South, both with his own band (alternately known as The Cyrstaliers and It and Them) and in a band with Edgar (Black Plague).
After two and a half years of barnstorming, Johnny settles in Houston.
Surveying the Texas music scene, Rolling Stone magazine dubs Johnny Winter the hottest item outside Janis Joplin. The article creates a flood of interest in The Progressive Blues Experiment, an album of straight blues recorded by Winter’s trio with bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer uncle John Turner, released nationally by Imperial.
1968 – 1974
Signed to a much bally-hooed contract with Columbia Records, Johnny’s scorching 1968 debut album Johnny Winter leads a steady stream of hard-hitting blues-rock albums, including Second Winter (1969), Johnny Winter (1970), Still Alive and Well (1973) and Saints and Sinners (1974).
1974 – 1977
Winter joins CBS Records affiliate Blue Sky and releases John Dawson Winter III (1974). Other Blue Sky gems include Captured Live (1976) and his acclaimed 1977 album Nothin But The Blues, which features Winter accompanied by Muddy Waters’ band.
1977 – 1980
Fulfilling a dream, Winter begins working with blues guitarist Muddy Waters. During the ensuing years they collaborate on a series of classic Blue Sky albums. Winter produces and plays on Waters’ Grammy-winning comeback album Hard Again, Grammy-winning I’m Ready (1978), Grammy-winning Muddy Mississippi Waters Live (1979) and King Bee (1980).
1984 – 1986
Guitar Slinger, Winter’s Grammy-nominated 1984 Alligator Records debut, ends a four-year recording hiatus and ushers in a new creative groove. His Alligator label output continues with the Grammy-nominated Serious Business (1985), Third Degree (1986) and producing/performing on Harmonica Sonny Terry’s Think I Got The Blues.
The Winter of ‘88 on the MCA-distributed Voyager label shows Winter experimenting with a more contemporary flavored sound. Johnny is inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.
Winter returns to his blues roots with a vengeance. His Grammy-nominated Let Me In marks a powerful debut on the Pointblank label. This CD boasted guest appearances by Dr. John and Albert Collins. Produced by Dick Shurman, the disc featured the memorable “Illustrated Man,” a song by the Nashville team of Fred James and Mary-Ann Brandon chronicling Johnny?s well-tattooed torso. Other tracks include Winter?s own title tune and his equally stand-out “If You Got a Good Woman,” as well as Dr. John?s “You Lie Too Much” with the good doctor on ivories.
Brandishing a tongue-in-cheek title and wicked no-frills blues, Hey Where’s Your Brother?, Winter’s sophomore Pointblank release earns him another Grammy nomination.
Winter performs on Highway 61 Revisited, a highlight of Bob Dylan’s 30th anniversary tribute released by Columbia Records on CD and video.
Live in New York City ‘97, Winter’s third Pointblank record, offers a scorching collection of concert favorites. The first album of new Winter material in five years. Live in NYC ‘97 was recorded at New York’s Bottom Line in April 1997. The songs were selected by members of Winter’s fan club. The entire album is intended as a gesture of gratitude by Winter to his many fans worldwide.
This Grammy nominated disc titled “I’m A Bluesman” released Virgin Records, adds to Johnny’s Texas-sized reputation. For this release, Johnny again paired with his longtime producer Dick Shurman (Robert Cray, Albert Collins, Roy Buchanan), as well as Tom Hambridge (Susan Tedeschi, George Thorogood). Backing him on this disc is his scorching road-tested touring band of ace harmonica man James Montgomery, guitarist Paul Nelson who co -penned the title track, bassist Scott Spray and drummer Wayne June, Guest appearances feature such friends as keyboardist Reese Wynans (from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s celebrated backing group Double Trouble) among others.
2005 – Today
Johnny and Edgar Winter inducted into the Southeast Texas “Walk of Fame” at Ford Park in their home town of Beaumont, Texas for their contributions to music and career accomplishments.
W.C. Handy Blues Awards. Johnny Nominated for W.C. Handy award for “Second Winter Legacy Edition”.
The Texas guitar tradition runs deep. A gutsy school of blues playing, marked by thick tones, aggressive attack and tons of technique, all delivered in a flamboyant, swaggering style that is endemic to the Lone Star State. From T-Bone Walker and Clarence Gatemouth Brown on through Albert Collins and Freddie King, Billy Gibbons and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, the tradition of the Texas guitar slinger has lived on. The one name that ranks at the top of that exclusive list is Johnny Winter, an international ambassador for rocking Texas blues and still going strong!