Son Seals: 8/13/1942
Award-winning guitarist and singer who began to perform professionally as a drummer at the age of 13 for harpist and slide player Robert Nighthawk before picking up the six-string at 16. He would sit in with a number of top tier blues musicians in his hometown of Osceola, AK such as Albert King and Rosco Gordon, before heading to Chicago in 1971. Discovered and signed by Alligator Records, the guitarist’s first album, entitled The Son Seals Blues Band, was released in 1973. The jam rock juggernaut Phish has covered his song “Funky Bitch” and has invited Seals to play with them on more than one occasion. Son Seals remained active until his passing in 2004 and was the recipient of numerous Blues Music Awards. In 2009, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Born in Jamaica and raised in Alabama, this bluesman-to-be ran away from home before the age of 13 stowed away in a medicine show. His travels shaped him into a well-versed musician, skilled as a vocalist, harmonica player, and guitarist (complete with a unique style of his own forging). In 1949 he began a thirteen-year collaboration, both in the studio and on the road, with John Lee Hooker, after which he took up with Otis Redding for some time. After some time off, he began his own recording career in earnest in 1970 and continued to both record and tour (very) extensively until passing away from an unfortunate automobile accident in 2011. Due to his extensive touring schedule he was nicknamed “The Gypsy of the Blues”.
Eric Bibb: 8/16/1951
Multiple-time award-nominated American folk-blues guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist who took up the guitar from the age of seven and began to play professionally at sixteen. Three years later he relocated to Paris where, thanks to fellow guitarist Mickey Baker, his interest in blues music ignited. He would move yet again, settling in Stockholm, Sweden, and in 1972 began a long and celebrated recording career. He has since recorded nearly 40 albums and has been nominated for numerous Blues Music Awards as well as a Grammy nomination for his work on Taj Mahal’s Shakin’ a Tailfeather. His latest recorded project was a collaborative country-blues hybrid album with North Country Far and bassist Danny Thompson, which you can read more about by clicking here. [Photograph by Brian Blauser]
Luther Allison: 8/17/1939
– Before he was known for his pulse-pounding performances and powerhouse guitar prowess, this bluesman taught himself to play the guitar shortly after moving to Chicago with his family at age twelve. He sharpened his skills and frequented the blues clubs throughout the Windy City, where he would often have the chance to sit in with a numerous giants of the genre. In 1967 he signed to Delmark Records and released his debut album two years later. Allison built a strong following off of his performances. He signed to Motown Records in the early 70’s before departing for Europe in 1977 where he lived and worked for a number years. Signed to Alligator Records, he returned to the United States in the early 90’s where his popularity erupted, boosted not only by universal critical acclaim (he would win 5 Blues Music Awards in 1996 alone) but also a plethora of appearances at festivals. He enjoyed his rejuvenated career, both on the road and in the studio, until his passing in 1997.
– Jeff Hamburg,
Keeping the Blues Alive