Blues Hall of Fame - 016 - Rufus Thomas

September 22, 2017

We continue the series with the “world’s oldest teenager,” Rufus Thomas.

Rufus Thomas contained multitudes, as they say. His talents and the personality behind those talents knew no bounds.

Rufus’ professional career began at the age of six taking small roles in theatrical productions on Beale Street. As a teeneager he starred on the vaudeville and minstrel show circuits that criss-crossed the south. He was a singer, a dancer, a comedian, a radio DJ… and what’s truly incredible is that he excelled at all of those things.

From Beale Street to Sun Records to superstardom at Stax. Vaudeville, blues, rock n roll, soul. Even funk! Rufus did it all.

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Blues Hall of Fame - 015 - Sam Phillips

September 7, 2017

We continue our series with one of the most electrifying individuals in the history of popular music, maverick producer Sam Phillips.

Sam was an audio engineer, a talent scout, a producer, a studio owner, and a record label owner. He approached all of these endeavors with unbridled enthusiasm, an unparalleled sense of showmanship, and keen understanding of the levers of human psychology.

His "laboratory" (aka Memphis Recording Service) delivered groundbreaking efforts from B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, Rufus Thomas, Junior Parker, James Cotton, and countless others. 

In fact, Sam Phillips' legacy was established long before Elvis walked through his front door.

This is his story.

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Blues Hall of Fame - 014 - John Lee Hooker

August 23, 2017

Is there a bluesman more iconic than John Lee Hooker?

His face, his eyes, his austere silhouette on stage, that deep southern drawl, that one-chord boogie... everything about the man was distinct and original.

Where did it all come from? Like many bluesmen of his generation, he grew up in the country and didn’t have much use for school. He much preferred skipping class and practicing guitar. Yet John Lee wrote some of the most original and most influential blues songs of all time: Boogie Chillun, Boom Boom, One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer. And he crafted a completely unique sound along the way that continues to influence musicians to this day.

This is his story.

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Blues Hall of Fame - 013 - Roy Brown

August 9, 2017

Roy Brown may be best known for writing the iconic, genre-warping song "Good Rockin’ Tonight."

Brown had a hit with it, then it was re-recorded by his hero Wynonie Harris, who also had a hit with it. Just a few years after that, further cementing the songs rightful place in music history, Elvis Presley recorded the song for Sun Records.

But there was more to Brown than Good Rockin'. You know that powerful, quivering, pleading, shouting manner in which most of today’s great singers sing? We take it for granted these days but it wasn’t always like that.

That style of singing comes from the African American church. And when Roy Brown first brought that feel and phrasing to blues music, it was a social and cultural taboo.

That’s right,  all that good rockin and all that soulful shouting that took over popular music can be traced back to the blues of Roy Brown.

This is his story

 

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Blues Hall of Fame - 012 - Muddy Waters

July 28, 2017

We continue the series with the man who brought electricity to the blues, and the blues to the big city, Muddy Waters.

Born McKinley Morganfield in 1913 in Issaquenna, MS, he grew up on the Stovall Plantation just outside of Clarksdale. There, young Muddy fell under the influence and tutelage of the travelling bluesmen that came to perform there. Bluesmen like the great Son House and the king of the delta blues himself, Robert Johnson.

Muddy moved to Chicago in 1943, taking with him his acoustic guitar and repertoire of delta blues songs and riffs. Feeling ignored by the crowds in the busy Chicago clubs, he traded in his acoustic for an electric guitar and the rest was history.

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Blues Hall of Fame - 011 - Louis Jordan

July 12, 2017

No one had more fun than Louis Jordan. You can hear it in his music. As “King of the Jukebox”, his high energy, hip-shaking “jump blues” enjoyed the kind of crossover success people once considered unimaginable. In his heyday, Jordan had at least 4 hits that sold over a million copies.

Just a poor kid from the cotton fields of Brinkley, Arkansas, Jordan developed a highly efficient approach to music. He stripped the 15-piece jazz orchestra down to five essential instruments, and kept those five instruments busy. He laced swing with boogie-woogie, brought in the electric guitar (and later the electric organ), and at the end of the day, what do you think he ended up with?

That’s right…. Louis Jordan gave us rock n roll.

This is his story.

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Blues Hall of Fame - 010 - Skip James

June 21, 2017

It's hard to believe that Skip James almost drifted into obscurity.

Like most enshrined in the Blues Hall of Fame, he was an absolute original. A genuine musical innovator. 

These days Skip James is considered by many to be the greatest of the delta blues singers. His songwriting, vocal stylings, and otherworldy ability on the guitar and piano influenced everyone, including a young Robert Johnson.

But back in the 1930's, when he was cutting records for Paramount, he didn't look like he had much of a future ahead of him. The Great Depression wiped out his record label, so James gave it all up and went dormant for decades.

But re-discovered by music lovers in the 60's folk revival, James 2nd act proved more powerful than his first.

This is his story.

 

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Blues Hall of Fame - 009 - Little Richard

June 9, 2017

Little Richard has been awarded every honor an artist could want. He may be enshrined in every hall of fame across the globe. And he may actually have invented rock n' roll, but blues was where his amazing journey began.

One of the greatest, most original, and most influential artists that has ever lived, Little Richard has been special from day one, and in this episode you'll hear all about it. There can only be one Little Richard, and formative events of his life were just as unique.

 

This is his story.

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Blues Hall of Fame - 008 - Memphis Minnie

May 24, 2017

There aren't too many stories in the blues lexicon like Memphis Minnie's

At age 13 she ran away from home to fend for herself on Memphis' Beale Street. Fortunately for, she had prodigious musical talents far beyond her years and quickly adjusted to life as a street performer. Memphis Minnie was soon called upon to spread the blues far and wide as a performer in the Ringling Bros. "Greatest Show on Earth."

She returned home in 1920 to a booming Beale Street and a thriving music industry built around blues music. She naturally became one of its brightest stars. 

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Blues Hall of Fame - 007 - WC Handy

May 11, 2017

This week we learn about the "Father of The Blues," W.C. Handy.

Handy once said that he found his inspiration as a composer in the "sounds of the world around him" - nature, church, and the bustling city. His exquisitely trained ear and phonographic memory allowed him to recall and transcribe everthing he encountered. This ability paid off handsomely when Handy began tranlating the feel, scales, and phrasing of African American folk music into big band arrangements.

In 1909… infamous Memphis politician Boss Crump hired Handy to write a catchy song for his campaign. Sitting at Pee Wee's Saloon on Beale Street, Handy wrote the song "Mr. Crump" later changing the name and publishing the song as "Memphis Blues," ushering in a new era for popular music. It also launched Handy's music publishing empire  - positioning Handy as a crucial player in the formative era of the modern music industry.

This is his story.

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