Sunday, September 18, 2016

Today In Blues History September 18

Today in Blues History

September 18

There are three deaths that happened on this date in different years. The first was Blind Willie Johnson who died in Beaumont, TX in 1945. Johnson was a very influential gospel blues singer and guitarist. The lyrics of his songs were usually religious, and his music drew from both the sacred and the blues traditions, characterized by his slide guitar accompaniment and tenor voice, often with a lower-register "growl", or false bass voice. One of his most noted songs, Dark Was the Night is one of the music tracks on the Voyager Golden Record, copies of which were placed on both the unmanned Voyager Project space probes in 1977. It is the penultimate track, preceding the Cavatina from Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 130: the blind musician and the deaf, side by side. The astronomer Timothy Ferris, who worked with Carl Sagan in selecting the tracks, said, “Johnson's song concerns a situation he faced many times, nightfall with no place to sleep. Since humans appeared on Earth, the shroud of night has yet to fall without touching a man or woman in the same plight.”

On this date in 1970 Jimi Hendrix died in Kensington, London. Born Johnny Allen Hendrix, he later changed his name to James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix and was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as "arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music." After leaving the army, Hendrix made a living performing at a circuit of venues throughout the South who were affiliated with the Theater Owners' Booking Association (TOBA), widely known as the Chitlin' Circuit. In addition to playing in his own band, Hendrix performed as a backing musician for various soul, R&B, and blues musicians, including Wilson Pickett, Slim Harpo, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson. Hendrix later moved to London and while at the London Polytechnic at Regent Street, where Cream was scheduled to perform, Hendrix met Eric Clapton. Clapton later commented: "He asked if he could play a couple of numbers. I said, 'Of course', but I had a funny feeling about him." Halfway through Cream's set, Hendrix took the stage and performed a frantic version of the Howlin' Wolf song Killing Floor. In 1989, Clapton described the performance: "He played just about every style you could think of, and not in a flashy way. I mean he did a few of his tricks, like playing with his teeth and behind his back, but it wasn't in an upstaging sense at all, and that was it ... He walked off, and my life was never the same again."

In 1983, Roy Milton died in Los Angeles. Milton performed in local clubs and began recording in the 1940s with his first release being Milton's Boogie on his own record label. His big break came in 1945, when his R.M. Blues, on the new Juke Box label, became a hit, reaching number 2 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 20 on the pop chart. Its success helped establish Art Rupe's company, which he shortly afterwards renamed Specialty Records. Milton and his band became a major touring attraction, and he continued to record successfully for Specialty Records through the late 1940s and early 1950s. He recorded a total of 19 Top Ten R&B hits, the biggest being Hop, Skip And Jump (# 3 R&B, 1948), Information Blues (# 2 R&B, 1950), and Best Wishes (# 2 R&B, 1951). He left Specialty in 1955. However, releases on other labels were unsuccessful, and the development of rock and roll had rendered him something of an anachronism by the middle of the decade. Nevertheless he continued to perform, appearing in 1970 as a member of Johnny Otis' band at the Monterey Jazz Festival, and resumed his recording career in the 1970s with albums for Kent Records and for the French label, Black & Blue Records.

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