Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Foreword

Tony Russell

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pp. ix-xii

In April 1963 the first issue of Blues Unlimited emerged like a small green shoot in a near desert. Over the next half century, the blues periodical library would grow to thousands of issues of scores of titles from a dozen or more countries, but at the time, BU stood alone on the blues enthusiast’s bookshelf, the first magazine to be devoted exclusively to the...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

Through all the various stages Mark Camarigg worked tirelessly to ensure this book came to fruition. The project was started a few years before Mark came on board, but due to the pressure of work, progress had slowed to a crawl. To borrow a well-worn cliché, without his hard work and enthusiasm this book may never have been completed.
Thanks to Diana Napier, who gave her blessing to the project and provided access...

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Introduction

Bill Greensmith

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pp. xv-xxviii

Bexhill-on-Sea is a sleepy seaside town in East Sussex on the south coast of England, seemingly populated by old ladies and retired servicemen. I first visited Bexhill as a young boy, with my parents; we intended to spend a week’s vacation there. No sunshine and beach for us—it rained endlessly. Bored, damp, and miserable, we soon returned to London. At some later date I discovered that the comedian Spike...

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Regional Blues

Mike Rowe

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pp. xxix-xxxii

The country blues weren’t born in the Mississippi Delta, even if that state garners the most acclaim from blues enthusiasts today. The blues developed all through the South and in different ways. For instance, the sound of the Delta—impassioned, emotional vocals, highly rhythmic guitar accompaniment with often bottleneck a major and common ingredient—is so different from the more gentle picked melodies and...

Part I. Chicago

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Freddie King

Mark Camarigg, Mike Leadbitter

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pp. 3-12

Born on September 3, 1934, in Gilmer, Texas, Freddie King’s stature has grown in full measure since his premature death in 1976. Moving to Chicago in the early ’50s, King fell into the burgeoning blues scene and learned guitar in the clubs. King’s first record, “Country Boy,” was a duet with Margaret Whitfield on the small El-Bee label in 1956. He signed with King Records in 1960 and released a succession of...

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Jimmy Walker

Mike Rowe

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pp. 13-21

Jimmy Walker, born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 8, 1910, was a veteran of the Chicago blues scene from the rent-party days of the ’20s through to the postwar ’50s, although it wasn’t until 1964 that Jimmy’s forceful and hard-hitting boogie piano could be heard on record. An album, Rough & Ready Piano, with Erwin Helfer was recorded by Pete Welding for his Testament label (202). Walker recorded again with...

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Louis Myers

Bill Greensmith

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pp. 22-44

A fine vocalist and equally proficient on both guitar and harmonica, Louis Myers was a triple threat. He was held in high esteem by his contemporaries and widely recognized as one of the top accompanists in Chicago. Born in Byhalia, Mississippi, on September 18, 1929, Louis and the rest of the Myers family relocated to Chicago in 1941, a move that was perfectly timed, coinciding as it did with the new emerging...

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James Cotton

Bill Greensmith

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pp. 45-64

James Cotton’s career as one of postwar blues’ preeminent harmonica players can, in retrospect, be viewed as three distinct periods: his early formative years in Mississippi and West Memphis, Arkansas; the twelve-year period he spent in Chicago with the Muddy Waters band; and, finally, upon leaving the Waters band in the mid-1960s, as a successful and highly respected bandleader and recording...

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Red Holloway

Bill Greensmith

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pp. 65-91

The Chicago R&B and jump music scene of the 1940s and ’50s happily coexisted alongside the more celebrated and familiar down-home amplified style of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter. For many years researchers paid this urban genre scant attention, and little information existed on artists such as Jo Jo Adams, Red Saunders, Jump Jackson, Tom Archia, and Lefty Bates. In 1974 Mike...

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Fred Below

Bill Greensmith

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pp. 92-105

Fred Below was the architect of the Chicago backbeat—a seemingly effortless driving beat that incorporated a definite bounce that was all his own, instantly recognizable on the scores of recordings he made during the 1950s and ’60s, a period that is considered the golden age of Chicago blues and R&B. His services were in great demand by both record companies and artists. He was Chess Records’ first...

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The Old Swing-Masters: Moody Jones, Floyd Jones, and Snooky Pryor

Mike Rowe

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pp. 106-150

It would be frustrating to try to pinpoint with any accuracy the birth of the “new” Chicago blues on record. All we know is that the honors properly belong to that group of new Maxwell Street artists who recorded either for Bernard Abrahams or for Chester Scales, a North Side record shop owner. Abrahams’s releases by Little Walter, Othum Brown, Johnny Young, and Johnny Williams appeared on his own...

Part II. Detroit

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Baby Boy Warren

Mike Rowe, Mike Leadbitter

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pp. 153-161

Among the many unsung heroes of Detroit’s blues, Baby Boy Warren would rank very highly. Robert H. Warren’s blues revealed a consummate craftsman whose attention to lyrics made him stand out among his contemporaries and showed that he learned his trade well from his major influence, Little Buddy Doyle, in Memphis. With unjustly only a local popularity and only one record on a label with more than...

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Big Maceo

Mike Rowe

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pp. 162-171

Big Maceo (Major Merriweather) was simply the most important blues pianist of the ’40s and the greatest influence on Chicago’s postwar blues. His legacy can be traced directly through the music of Little Johnny Jones, Henry Gray, and Otis Spann, particularly, but the echoes can be heard through the blues bands of the ’50s. Maceo’s singing was beautiful; his plaintive smoky-brown voice, soft and...

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Walter Mitchell

Bill Greensmith

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pp. 172-184

Two long unsolved mysteries involving Detroit blues artists, the whereabouts of both LC Green and Walter Mitchell, were solved in 1986. Regrettably, LC, who had been residing in Pontiac, Michigan, died in August 1985 before anybody had a chance to interview him. However, Walter Mitchell Jr. was then still very much alive and living in Toledo, Ohio.
Standing little more than five feet in height, Walter Mitchell...

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LC Green

Mike Rowe

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pp. 185-186

Of all the elusive Detroit bluesmen known only by a name on a record label, one of the most fascinating and exciting was LC Green, an almost total biographical blank.1 And even his name was misspelled on seven issued sides. Researchers in Detroit had repeatedly asked about him and tried to locate him, but after twenty years of searching only two concrete facts emerged. That he was from Minter...

Part III. St. Louis

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Jimmy Thomas

Bill Greensmith, Cilla Huggins

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pp. 189-260

In the early 1970s, Mike Leadbitter told me of meeting Jimmy Thomas, a former vocalist with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm, who, improbable as it may seem, was living in West London. Following Mike’s death and my own increasing interest in all things Kings of Rhythm, I’d often reflected on his words, but having heard no recent mention of his whereabouts, I’d come to the conclusion that he must have returned...

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Joe Dean

Mike Rowe

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pp. 261-277

“Joe Dean from Bowling Green” has long been a legendary figure to those enthusiasts lucky enough to have heard his unique record, and both Bowling Green, Ohio, and Bowling Green, Kentucky, as possible hometowns have exercised the imagination of researchers. Interviewed in 1977, Dean was long retired from music and the steel mill and blissfully unaware of the problems of blues researchers. Rev. Joseph...

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Sparks Brothers

Mike Rowe, Charlie O’Brien

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pp. 278-290

In 1932 Victor Records introduced Pinetop and Lindberg, a piano-vocal duo from St. Louis who, with a session of arresting quality, made sufficient impact in the Depression years to be recalled the following year to the Chicago studios, with Pinetop especially in demand as an accompanist. From the company files we learned that pianist Aaron Sparks and his singer brother, Marion, hid behind the intriguing...

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Fontella Bass

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pp. 291-304

If we were to measure success in terms of record sales, then we would have to place Fontella Bass somewhere near the very top of the St. Louis music hierarchy, because she had one of the biggest-selling records by any St. Louis artist. With its unforgettable bass line intro and Fontella’s warm, soulful voice, the 1965 recording of “Rescue Me” is an enduring classic that generated sales in excess of a million copies, earning...

Part IV. Mississippi

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Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup

Mark Camarigg, Mike Leadbitter

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pp. 307-314

Despite not picking up the guitar until his early thirties, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup emerged as one of America’s top-selling blues artists after plying his trade on the streets of Chicago. Living in an abandoned packing crate under the 39th Street “L” station, he was signed to Lester Melrose’s famed Bluebird label in 1941. His first sides, including “Black Pony,” “Death Valley,” and “If I Get Lucky,” sold well and he eventually...

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Louise Johnson

Mark Camarigg, Bob Hall, Richard Noblett

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pp. 315-322

Since the appearance of this article in Blues Unlimited, little additional significant factual information has emerged about Louise Johnson and she largely remains a mystery. Census researcher Bob Eagle recently suggested that Johnson was born about 1908 in Tennessee and possibly lived near Son House in 1940 on the Tate Place at Banks in Mississippi. She has more recently appeared on various reissues focused...

Part V. Texas

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Juke Boy Bonner

Mark Camarigg, Mike Leadbitter

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pp. 325-334

Born on March 22, 1932, near Bellville, Texas, Weldon “Juke Boy” Bonner personified the modern bluesman whom writers and staff of Blues Unlimited greatly respected. The itinerant bluesman never enjoyed sustained success, but made his mark as an important blues scribe with songs like “I Got My Passport” and “I’m Black and I’m Proud” addressing modern struggles and civil rights issues facing black...

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Dr. Hepcat

Mark Camarigg, Mike Rowe

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pp. 335-344

Albert Lavada Durst, famously known as Dr. Hepcat, born on January 9, 1913, was a barrelhouse pianist and the first black disc jockey in Texas. He learned piano as a young boy and was later influenced by Baby Dotson, Boot Walton, and renowned barrelhouse stylist Robert Shaw. Always keeping busy, Durst recorded two singles for the Uptown label in 1949 and then sides for Don Robey’s Peacock label in the...

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Albert Collins

Mark Camarigg, Denis Lewis, Cilla Huggins

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pp. 345-358

Long associated with the stinging snap of the Fender Telecaster guitar, Albert Collins began performing in Houston nightclubs and recorded his first blues instrumental hit, “The Freeze,” in 1958. A collection of early singles on TCF Hall, The Cool Sounds of Albert Collins, marked his debut album, but it wasn’t until 1968 that Collins’s career ascended after he recorded a series of albums for Imperial that captured his...

Part VI. West Coast

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Johnny Otis

John Broven, Mike Leadbitter, Simon Napier

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pp. 361-367

This interview was conducted when the Johnny Otis Show appeared on August 1, 1972, at the Aquarius in the old holiday and fishing town of Hastings, some five miles east of Bexhill-on-Sea. Singing, playing piano and vibes, Otis led his band, which included Clifford Solomon (tenor sax), Big Jim Wynn (baritone sax), Gene “Mighty Flea” Connors (trombone and trumpet), Willie “Jitter” Webb (guitar), Jimmy Reed...

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Roy Brown

John Broven

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pp. 368-400

As I look now at this feature, I am struck at how generally accurate Roy Brown—the first singer of soul who opened up the New Orleans R&B scene—was in his recollections, with the notable exception of his birth details. I recall that he was enthusiastic, friendly, and always smiling as he told of good times and bad. Of all my published interviews, I would say this one attracted the most positive reaction. It is of personal...

Part VII. Record Men

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Henry Glover

Steve Tracy

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pp. 403-415

When this interview with Henry Glover by a sixteen-year-old Steve Tracy was first published in three installments in December-March 1972, it was the first extensive discussion with Glover that had ever appeared in print. BU was always interested in exploring more than the lives of truly great but barely functional blues singers from the 1920s and 1930s and the related valuable history behind them, as the “moldy...

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Ralph Bass

Bill Greensmith, Norbert Hess

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pp. 416-434

Mike Leadbitter was among the first researchers to recognize the importance of the pioneering record men and their role in the development of rhythm and blues. In an early issue of BU he urged fellow researchers to interview the company owners, A&R men, and record producers, realizing they were a long neglected resource and a potential wealth of information. Steve Tracy’s interview with Henry Glover was one...

Index

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pp. 435-456

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About the Editors, Other Works in the Series, Colophon

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Bill Greensmith is a photographer from England now living in St. Louis; producer of CDs for Red Lightnin’, Ace, and Rhino Records and consultant for numerous record companies; former co-editor of Blues Unlimited (1974–87); and former host of a weekly blues program on KDHX, St. Louis...