This week’s blues birthdays include T-Bone Walker, Mamie Smith, John Fogerty and more!
Mamie Smith: May 26, 1883
This vaudeville singer, dancer, and actress was the first African American artist to make vocal blues recordings nearly a hundred years ago. With songs like “Crazy Blues,” and “It’s Right Here For You (If You Don’t Get It, ‘Tain’t No Fault of Mine),” recorded on August 10, 1920, she would go on to sell a million copies within a year of their release. The success of Smith’s recordings proved a profitable market for this style of music, and she paved the way for other female blues singers such as Ida Cox, Victoria Spivey, and Bessie Smith.
Mark Helm AKA Levon Helm: May 26, 1940
Levon Helm, an American musician and actor who achieved fame as the drummer and vocalists for Canadian-American roots rock group The Band. Helm is mostly known for his deeply soulful, country-accented voice, multi-instrumental ability, and creative drumming style. His musicality and vocals are highlighted on many of The Band’s recordings, most notably on “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
Aaron Walker AKA T-Bone Walker: May 28, 1910
A Texas-born singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist T-Bone Walker is by far one of the most respected guitarists in blues history. He had a direct influence on many musicians including B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Albert King, Eric Clapton, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and the Allman Brothers Band. In addition to his pioneering work with the electric guitar, he also penned the immortal blues standard “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad)”.
John Fogerty: 5/28/1945
Musician and producer John Fogerty rose to fame as the lead guitarist and vocalist, as well as primary songwriter, of the roots rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival. With its mixture of blues, country, swamp, and Southern rock, Creedence became a large success. And even though the band only lasted five years, it became a staple of the American rock scene from the late 60’s into the early 70’s. After his breakthrough group disbanded in 1972, Fogerty began a solo career that truly took off with 1985’s Centerfield.
John Bonham AKA Bonzo AKA The Beast: 5/31/1948
Widely considered the greatest drummer in the history of rock music, John Bonham was a crucial member of the tremendously influential hard rock group Led Zeppelin. With his awe-inspiring speed, power, and infectious grooves, this English musician has remained one of the most celebrated drummers and percussionists of his genre, and he has influenced untold numbers of musicians for nearly five decades now despite his untimely death at 32 years old in 1980.
Sol Canal for Keeping the Blues Alive
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