“I so hope it’s true (that blues is coming back into fashion), Paul. I can’t imagine growing up without the Blues.”
nora j mckiddie (@mckiddie_j) October 20, 2013.
blues coming back into fashion? Call me an optimist, but I think it definitely
is, especially in America. There, a host of great blues guitarists like Dan
Auerbach, Joe Bonamassa, Gary Clarke Jnr. and Jack White have been searing the
ether for a while now.
Serbia, there’s that great female blues guitarist, Ana Popovic, now based in
Memphis, Tennessee. Check Ana out here:
Ana was inspired by her father’s collection of blues
records as was top British guitarist, Davey Knowles.
had its fair share of blues talent, headed by that perennial schoolboy Angus
Young, with guys like Geoff Achison following in his wake. Since Geoff is
probably the lesser known of those highlighted, here’s a quick link to enable you to see him in action.
taken quite a while for blues to start coming back in vogue. The last great
blues boom, as most of you know, was almost 50 years ago, way back in the 60s,
when white British bands like the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin and the
original Fleetwood Mac were in their prime. Somewhat overshadowed, but still
well known in those days, were white American blues outfits like the Paul
Butterfield Blues Band who were performing as early as 1963.
of my particular favourites was the boogie band Canned Heat, formed in Los
Angeles in 1965. I later found out they took their name from a 1928 song called
Heat Blues’, a song about drinking alcoholic cooking fuel written by a teenage
itinerant alcoholic called Tommy Johnson. The 18-year-old Johnson, from
Chrystal Springs, Mississippi, was accompanied on second guitar by another
teenager, also from Mississippi. This was Charlie McCoy, 19, also known (when
playing slide guitar) as the Tampa Kid and, when he was older, as Papa Charlie
McCoy. Another Canned Heat classic, ‘On The Road Again’, was inspired by
another Tommy Johnson song: ‘Big Road Blues’.
discovered many Eric Clapton licks were similar to Albert King’s, I was in
seventh heaven when I landed a job with
America’s biggest record company in the early 70s. Many artists who are now legends
were actually on our label, like Janis Joplin, and I was lucky enough to meet
blues guitarists like Jeff Beck, Johnny Winter and Al Kooper, not that they’d
|The great Texan blues guitarist, Johnny Winter.|
me. Another American blues guitarist, John Hammond, was also on the
label, although he was somewhat overshadowed at the time by his father, the
legendary record producer and talent discoverer, also called John Hammond. It’s
not an over statement to describe John Hammond Snr. as one of the most
influential figures in 20th century popular music, yet he hardly
rates a mention in the music media today.
was John Hammond who introduced the white bandleader Benny Goodman to the black
bandleader, Fletcher Henderson, the maths and chemistry
graduate who once worked for blues pioneer, W. C. Handy, and, later, Black Swan
Records. In 1934, Goodman secured a spot on radio but only had a few songs. So
he bought 36 musical arrangements from Fletcher Henderson to expand his
repertoire. Goodman also appointed Henderson as his musical arranger and
pianist. It’s said John Hammond persuaded Goodman and Henderson to “swing” the
current jazz hits of the day so they could play in an unconfined manner, like
New Orleans blues and jazz players. It’s also said
|John Hammond (1910 – 1987).|
Hammond suggested Goodman
include other black musicians like Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton in his
orchestra. In this way, Benny Goodman was instrumental in introducing popular black
music to the white masses and setting in motion the big band swing era.
influenced Benny Goodman, he discovered Billy Holiday, Count Basie, Aretha
Franklin and Bob Dylan amongst others; and signed such unknowns as Pete Seeger,
Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen to Columbia.
|Famous son of a famous father. John Hammond Jnr.|
Indeed, I was listening to
Springsteen’s Greeting From Ashbury Park way back in early 1973 and recently
gave a copy in mint condition to my eldest son, together with the rest of my
released five double-album Bessie Smith re-issues for which John Hammond
received a Grammy Trustees’ Award. Clive Davis, another music industry legend,
was running the show at the time.
Let’s hope we are entering a new era that’s just as golden.
How Blues Evolved in the UK is on the following link:
In the USA, please follow this link: