Friday, April 01, 2016

BLUES IN CHICAGO—The Early to Mid Fifties

In the first years of the fifties the Chicago blues band sound was becoming tougher and louder and beginning to solidify into what we now call “classic” Chicago blues. Almost all of the music we’ll hear in this segment was made for independent labels, larger ones like Chess and Vee-Jay, and smaller, short-lived outfits such as J.O.B., Sabre, Chance, and States. First up we have Little Walter’s first two Checker singles: an in-the-studio improvisation called “Juke” and the atmospheric “Mean Old World.” Jimmy Reed’s first record, “High And Lonesome” from 1953, has John Brim on guitar and possibly Albert King on drums and is noticeably “heavier” sounding than many of his subsequent recordings. Little Walter also makes an appearance playing harmonica on John Brim’s “Rattlesnake,” slotted for issue on Checker but withdrawn before release. Newcomers J. B. Hutto and His Hawks come crashing in with a primitive but exciting “Combination Boogie” and Tampa Red updates his late career sound with Big Walter’s amplified harp.

As we move into the mid-fifties, we’ll hear a jivin’ record by Willie Nix based on the “Catfish” theme with Eddie Taylor on guitar and Snooky Pryor playing harmonica; and one of Junior Wells’ early outings on record as a leader, recorded while he was AWOL from the army.

Little Walter & His Night Cats • Juke • 1952

Little Walter & His Night Caps • Mean Old World • 1952

“Juke”: Little Walter, harmonica; Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, guitars; Elgin Evans, drums. Chicago, May 1952

“Mean Old World”: Little Walter, vocal/harmonica; Louis Myers, Dave Myers, guitars; Fred Below, drums. Chicago, 
October 1952

Get ’em: His Best: The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection

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