Friday, September 23, 2016

Today In Blues History September 23

Today in Blues History

September 23

On this date in 1907, boogie woogie pianist Albert Ammons was born in Chicago, IL. In 1924 he met back up with boyhood friend Meade Lux Lewis. Soon the two players began working as a team, performing at club parties. Ammons started his own band at the Club DeLisa in 1934 and remained at the club for the next two years. During that time he played with a five piece unit that included Guy Kelly, Dalbert Bright, Jimmy Hoskins, and Israel Crosby. Ammons also recorded as Albert Ammons's Rhythm Kings for Decca Records in 1936. The Rhythm Kings' version of Swanee River Boogie sold a million copies.

Also on this date in 1930, Ray Charles Robinson who would gain fame as Ray Charles was born in Albany, Georgia.  An American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer, among friends and fellow musicians he preferred being called "Brother Ray." He was often referred to as "The Genius". Charles was blind from the age of seven. He pioneered the genre of soul music during the 1950s by combining blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles into the music he recorded for Atlantic Records. He also contributed to the integration of country and rhythm and blues and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his two Modern Sounds albums. While he was with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company. Charles cited Nat King Cole as a primary influence, but his music was also influenced by country, jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues artists of the day, including Louis Jordan and Charles Brown. In the late forties he became friends with Quincy Jones, to whom he learned the ropes of arranging jazz music. Their friendship would last till the end.

In 1935, Fenton Robinson was born in Greenwood, MS and left home at the age of 18 to move to Memphis, Tennessee where he recorded his first single Tennessee Woman in 1957. He settled in Chicago in 1962. He recorded his signature song, Somebody Loan Me a Dime, in 1967 on the Palos label, the nationwide distribution of which was aborted by a freak snow storm hitting the Windy City. Covered by Boz Scaggs in 1969, the song was misattributed, resulting in legal battles. It has since become a blues standard, being "part of the repertoire of one out of every two blues artists", according to 1997's Encyclopedia of Blues. Robinson re-recorded the song for the critically acclaimed album Somebody Loan Me a Dime in 1974, the first of three he would produce under the Alligator Records label. Robinson was nominated for a Grammy Award for the second, 1977's I Hear Some Blues Downstairs.

Born in Ozark, Arkansas in 1939, Roy Buchanan was a pioneer of the Telecaster sound who worked as both a sideman and solo artist, with two gold albums early in his career, and two later solo albums that made it on to the Billboard chart. Despite never having achieved stardom, he is still considered a highly influential guitar player. Guitar Player praised him as having one of the "50 Greatest Tones of all Time." He appeared on the PBS music program Austin City Limits in 1977 during Season 2.

Passings on this day include Calvin Frazier who died in 1972 in Detroit, MI. Despite leaving a fragmented recording history, both as a singer and guitarist, Frazier was an associate of Robert Johnson, and recorded alongside Johnny Shines, Sampson Pittman, T.J. Fowler, Alberta Adams, Jimmy Milner, Baby Boy Warren, Boogie Woogie Red, and latterly Washboard Willie. His early work was recorded by the Library of Congress (now preserved by the National Recording Registry) prior to the outbreak of World War II, although his more commercial period took place between 1949 and 1956.

Houston Stackhouse died in 1980 in Helena, Arkansas. This Delta blues guitarist and singer is best known for his association with Robert Nighthawk. He was not especially noted as a guitarist or singer, but Nighthawk showed gratitude to Stackhouse, his guitar teacher, by backing him on a number of recordings in the late 1960s. Apart from a tour to Europe, Stackhouse confined his performing to the area around the Mississippi Delta.

1995 saw the passing of Booker T. Laury in Memphis. Over his lengthy career, Laury worked with various musicians including Memphis Slim and Mose Vinson. He appeared in two films, but did not record his debut album until he was almost eighty years of age. In the 1989 Dennis Quaid film, Great Balls of Fire!, the plot had a young Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart look into a juke joint to see Laury playing Big Legged Woman. This attention led to Laury having the opportunity to record later in his life. Laury appeared in the 1992 documentary film, Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads. In the film, Laury played Memphis Blues in his own living room. In 1994, Bullseye Blues Records issued Nothin' But the Blues, an album of Laury's voice and piano, performing ten of his own compositions.

In 2006, Piedmont blues practitioner Etta Baker died in Fairfax, VA. She was born Etta Lucille Reid in Caldwell County, North Carolina, of African-American, Native American, and European-American heritage. She began playing the guitar at the age of three. She was taught by her father, Boone Reid, a longtime player of the Piedmont blues on several instruments. He was her only musical instructor. She played both the 6-string and the 12-string acoustic guitar and the five-string banjo. Baker played the Piedmont blues for nearly ninety years.

In 2007, Gary Primich died in Austin, TX. While working at the University of Texas, he started playing along with other musicians in local clubs. In 1987, he met Jimmy Carl Black, and they formed the Mannish Boys. Their debut album, A L'il Dab'll Do Ya was issued on the Amazing Records label, and although Black then left the band, Primich stayed with the Mannish Boys for another album, Satellite Rock. In 1991 Primich released his eponymous solo debut album, and My Pleasure followed the next year. Amazing Records then folded, and Primich was contracted to the Flying Fish Records label releasing Travelin' Mood in 1994 and Mr. Freeze in 1995. Mr. Freeze was named as one of the twenty best blues albums of the 1990s by the Chicago newspaper, New City.

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