First post here:
The gentleman pictured above is one T-Bone Walker, he of the flashy showmanship and smooth guitar playing. He is the guy who wrote “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad),” a blues that has remained a popular staple since it was released in 1947. T-bone had a significant impact on B.B. King (who we lost this year and, trust me, will have a couple of posts of his own very soon).
By the late ’40s and into the ’50’s, electric blues had become established in places like Chicago and Memphis. Artist such as Walker, B.B, Little Walter, Buddy Guy and others were playing regularly at clubs and juke joints from Washington D.C. to LA and all over the South. (And as mentioned in a previous post, these shows were being performed for, and records sold to, a predominantly African-American audience.)
In Buddy Guy’s autobiography he talks about arriving in Chicago (from Louisiana) in the ’50’s after guys like Muddy and B.B. had already established themselves. One of the things he’s fairly blunt about is that these guys really were pretty hard-living and not necessarily the nicest guys either to each other or their women. (BB was always a gentleman. The other guys not so much). Little Walter was, by all accounts, a pretty hot-tempered guy. But he inspired a legion of harmonica players.
And if you’re a blues player, there’s no way you didn’t learn the licks of this last guy, Elmore James. His version of Robert Johnson’s “Dust My Broom” not only brings us full circle but is a great example of his slide technique that pretty much everyone copied. (Blues is notorious for guys borrowing other guy’s riffs. You can copyright a song but you can’t copyright a riff.)
I think I’m gonna need a third blues post for the later British and American players. But I’ll do that one later on down the road…