Blues Hall of Fame - 021 - Son House

December 20, 2017

Born into in rural, baptist Mississippi in 1902, Son House felt called to be a preacher at the young age of 15.

 

But it just wasn't meant to be. As he matured into adulthood, he developed an affinity for alcohol. It proved to be a strange mix of ideals.

The one evening, while drinking and gambling with friends, House tried his hand at singing the blues. The die was cast. The preacher’s booming voice filled the room, the bottleneck guitar answered, and a bluesman was born.

Son House became the touring partner of Willie Brown and Charlie Patton, the father of the Delta Blues. The three played all over the Mississippi Delta and influenced countless musicians, including a young Robert Johnson.

Son House became one of the most important figures of the folk revival in the 60’s. As one of the last living links to Patton and Johnson, he found himself surrounded by admirers and in demand around the world on the festival and coffeehouse circuit. To an entire generation of blues lovers, Son House was the blues.

This is his story.

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Blues Hall of Fame - 020 - Honeyboy Edwards

November 29, 2017

Honeyboy Edwards was Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen.

Born to a poor, but very musical family, his early life consisted of hard labor in the fields. His prodigious talents soon took him away from all that, and his life became a journey through the pages of blues history.

Edwards was Robert Johnson’s close friend and travelling companion. In fact, he was with Johnson the night he was poisoned and died in 1938.

Honeyboy Edwards called many of the first generation of bluesmen both friends and collaborators. He played with Charlie Patton, Tommie Johnson, and Johnny Shines. He later played guitar behind John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Williams, and Muddy Waters.

Edwards believed in the blues and he believed in doing things without all the flash. He was humble, understated, and consistently great at working alongside the superstars of the delta blues for 8, long decades.  

This is his story

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Blues Hall of Fame - 019 - Ray Charles

November 17, 2017

Ray Charles, blind since the age of 7 and orphaned at 14, did blues, jazz, and gospel as well as anyone before or since.

And, by doing them all together at once, he pioneered what we soon came to recognize as Soul.

That’s right. Ray Charles is the father of that whole genre.

Furthermore, he took these forms of Black American music, mingled them just enough with contemporary pop sounds and had massive crossover success. Ray Charles was one of the very first African American artists to be granted full, creative control of his career by a major record label.

Ray Charles had a nickname. Some say it was given to him by Sinatra himself. However he got it, it stuck, and people referred to him as "The Genius."

Pretty appropriate, don’t you think?

This is his story.

 

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Blues Hall of Fame - 018 - Fats Domino

October 25, 2017

Fats Domino was born into a musical, French Creole family in the Lower 9th in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1928. His first language was Creole French.

His talents blossomed early. His musical gifts, along with with his laid back and easygoing demeanor, created a lot of demand - everybody wanted to work with Fats.

He had his first hit by the time he was 21, and he invented New Orleans-style rock n roll with it. That 1949 hit for Imperial Records - "The Fat Man" - sold over a million copies by 1953 and is considered the first rock n roll record to achieve that feat. A succession of hits soon followed: "Aint that a Shame", "Blueberry Hill", and "I’m Walkin’".

By the end of his career, Fats Domino had sold more records than any other 1950’s rocker except for Elvis Presley.

 

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Blues Hall of Fame - 017 - Don Robey

October 4, 2017

Gatemouth Brown once said of Don Robey, “He pulled off something in America that no one else ever pulled off. We had the only world-renowned black recording company.

That “recording company” included the legendary Peacock and Duke record labels, boasting stars like Johnny Ace, Bobby Blue Bland, Little Richard, and Big Mama Thornton. It also included chains of retail record stores, pressing plants, print shops, a booking agency, and a circuit of nightclubs. It was a giant musical eco-system all under Don Robey's ruthless thumb.

Don Robey launched the careers of countless stars and shaped the business side of rhythm and blues music for generations.

This is his story.

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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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