Photo by Hreinn Gudlaugsson
Lil’ Ed Williams: 4/18/1955
A singer-songwriter and blues slide guitarist from Chicago, Lil’ Ed Williams and his band The Blues Imperials play straight from the heart funky dance blues music grounded in the slide guitar stylings of past masters like Elmore James and Hound Dog Taylor. Williams was first inspired to play the blues when he was a kid by his uncle, the famous slide guitarist J.B. Hutto, who he studied with as a teen. After learning to play slide guitar (as well as drums and bass) from Hutto, Williams and his half brother James “Pookie Young” founded The Blues Imperials in 1975 – Pookie played bass. Building up a following by playing riotous, groove-tastic shows, they signed with Alligator Records in the mid-1980’s. Soon they were touring internationally and appearing with such esteemed artists as Koko Taylor and Elvin Bishop. During a brief hiatus of the band in the mid-90s, Williams released several solo records. The band would soon resume activity and went on to be nominated for 8 Blues Music Awards for Band of the Year, two of which they won. The band’s latest album of original music, Jump Start, was released by Alligator in 2012.
Peter Frampton: 4/22/1950
– English-American rock vocalist, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who is known the world over for both his prowess as a guitarist and for his iconic use of the Talkbox in his playing. He cut his teeth in the pop rock group The Herd before forming the boogie-blues rock band Humble Pie in 1969. He set out on his own in 1971, but it would not be until the release of his career-defining live album, Frampton Comes Alive!, in 1976 that he would become a household name. Though his career has faltered from time to time, he continues to remain a respected musician and guitarist to this day. In 2007 he was awarded a Grammy for his instrumental album, Fingerprints, and in 2013 he hosted “Frampton’s Guitar Circus” which featured such guests as B.B. King, Sonny Landreth, David Hidalgo, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Mike McCready, and Robert Cray.
Albert Nelson AKA Albert King: 4/25/1923
– Easily one of the most influential and recognizable guitarists to ever partake, and unquestionably reign over, the blues. Known as “The Velvet Bulldozer” for his immense size and demanding stage presence, Albert King’s unique style utilized “upside-down” strung guitars and masterful bends to breath unique life into his soulful blues. The 1960’s saw a number of hit recordings released by Stax Records, but the most important by far was the immortally influential “Born Under a Bad Sign”, which has become both a standard of blues music and rock & roll. His prowess directly influenced such legends as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mick Taylor, and Warren Haynes. This legend was without question a true King of the Blues.
Gertrude Pridgett AKA Ma Rainey: 4/26/1886
– Billed as “The Mother of the Blues”, this influential and powerful vocalist was one of the earliest documented professional blues singers. Actively performing twenty years before she began to record in 1923, she was one of the most popular artists of that decade with over 100 recordings. Her most cherished pieces include “Bo-Weavil Blues”, “Moonshine Blues”, and the enduring classic “See See Rider”, the last of which has been preserved in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. Ma Rainey was inducted into both the Blues and Rock & Roll Halls of Fame in 1983 and 1990, respectively.
-Jeff Hamburg, Brian Reiser & Evan Crocker
Keeping the Blues Alive