Was there ever another blues musician so proficient at so many styles and on so many different instruments? Gatemouth Brown was certainly one-of-a-kind. The genre defying artist' career spanned 60 years, beginning the moment he filled in for an ailing T-Bone Walker in a Houston, TX nightclub, improvising a night's worth of material to the crowd's delight. Gatemouth won a Grammy in his lifetime, was nominated for five more, and took home eight Blues Music Awards. This is his story.
This episode we learn about the electrified marvel that was Thibeaux Walker, or "T-Bone," as he came to be known around the world. Walker was the original guitar hero of the blues, inspiring BB King, Chuck Berry, and Jimi Hendrix to pick up the guitar. He invented the modern guitar solo. As a pioneer of jump blues, and the man that introduced electricity to that genre, he innovated a sound that gave rise to the development of rock & roll.
Led by the enigmatic Will Shade, the Memphis Jug band was an ever-evolving collective sporting different, talent-packed lineups for every gig and every recording session. The group was on hand for the very first commercial recording session in Memphis, TN, and went on to record over 100 sides for Victor, Champion, and Okeh Records in their heyday.
Guitars, fiddles, kazoos, washtub bass, and ceramic jugs laid the foundation of their unique sound, but what drew the crowds and sold the records were their well-crafted songs full of witty hooks and choreographed call-and-response sections.
The Memphis Jug Band would often record under different aliases. Sometimes album cuts were credited to individulal members of the band - Will Shade, Hattie Hart, and Memphis Minnie. The band recorded gospel songs under an entirely different moniker - The Memphis Sanctified Singers.
The Memphis Jug Band popularized the jug band format, which evolved into the blues combo that is the basis for most popular music today.
We continue the series with the world’s first international blues superstar, Alberta Hunter.
Alberta Hunter was a singular talent. Born and raised in Memphis, TN, she began her professional singing career at age 11. By her late twenties, she’d fronted orchestras led by King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, and written "Down Hearted Blues", a massive hit for Bessie Smith.
In the height of Jim Crow, and years before women in America had secured the right to vote, Alberta Hunter became the world’s first blues superstar by taking her talents to Paris and London, where she was received and revered as nothing less than musical royalty.
We begin this series with the first artist to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, Robert Johnson - King of the Delta Blues.
Johnson was hailed as a genius by those that knew him. His style and technique were so ahead of his time that almost a century later, his recordings still astonish listeners. His list of devotees include rock n roll royalty: Keith Richards, Eric Claption, and Bob Dylan, to name just a few.