Keeping The Blues Alive

Blues Birthdays: March 5 – March 11

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J.B. Lenoir: March 5, 1925

A pivotal singer, songwriter, and overall musician who predominantly worked on the Chicago-Blues scene in the 50’s. J.B., which is actually his given name, grew up listening and being inspired by the music of Blind Lemon Jefferson. By the early 40s, Lenoir was playing with musicians like Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James.

Lenoir moved to Chicago from Mississippi in 1949. A helping hand came from fellow musician Big Bill Broonzy who “introduced JB to the blues community.” Lenoir became a major artist for Chess Records, recording a few of his most famous tracks like “The Mojo” and “Let’s Roll.”

Lenoir scored a hit with “Mamma Talk to Your Daughter” (Parrot Records) in 1954 with the song hitting #11 on the R&B chart. Written by Lenoir with Alex Atkins, the song has since been covered by Magic Sam, John Mayall, Magic Slim, Robben Ford, Jon Primer, Leslie West, and Robert Palmer, along with many others. Unfortunately, Lenoir died young due to a car accident in 1967 at the age of 38.

In 2011, Lenoir was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

Furry Lewis: March 6, 1893

Furry Lewis was a 1920’s guitarist, singer, and songwriter who specialized in country blues. He got his start in the famous W.C. Handy blues band and drew inspiration from guys like Blind Lemon Jefferson.

The hectic touring life soon began to take a toll on Lewis, who decided to pause his music career for street-sweeping in 1922. In 1927, the blues called to him once again and Lewis began recording for the famous Vocalion Records in Chicago. Some of his successful records during the late 1920’s for Vocalion and other labels included “Kassie Jones,” “Billy Lyons & Stack-O-Lee,” and “Judge Harsh Blues.”

To this day he is remembered fondly as a country blues musician, garnering over 168,000 streams for his song “Judge Harsh Blues” on Spotify.

Willie Johnson: March 4, 1923

Willie Johnson was a great and well-known Memphis electric blues guitarist. He was best known as the guitarist in Howlin’ Wolf’s band in the late 40’s. Not only did Johnson tour with the band, but he was also a major recording member at their Sun Record sessions during this time as well. Johnson’s pioneering use of distortion as well as his subtle jazz touch, made his sound very unique and special.

Johnson joined other Memphis-area musicians like Bobby Blue Bland during his free time. When Howlin Wolf decided to head to Chicago to further his potential, he urged Johnson to join him. Instead, Willie Johnson remained behind in Memphis, and Wolf would replace him with the legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin.

Although Johnson did collaborate a bit with Howlin’ Wolf as well as Muddy Waters in Chicago, for the rest of Johnson’s life he mostly made his living outside of playing music. Willie Johnson passed away on February 26, 1995.

Walter Trout: March 6, 1951

Walter Trout is a blues rock singer, songwriter, and celebrated guitarist from New Jersey. He began his career as a sideman for such legendary musicians as John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton, Deacon Jones and Percy Mayfield. In 1981 he joined the blues-rock band Canned Heat. After a three year residency with them, he secured the coveted position of guitarist for John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers alongside guitarist Coco Montoya.

After being in some of the most celebrated blues bands, Trout kicked off his own solo career in 1989 and has gained a massive following. After some serious health struggles, Trout fought his way back from the brink and continues to thrive in the blues. In 2016, he won two Blues Music Awards for Song of the Year “Gonna Live Again” and Rock Blues Album of the Year Battle Scars.

Also, in 2017, Trout released We’re All in this Together a collaboration album with some of the biggest names in blues including Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Warren Haynes, Joe Bonamassa, and others.

Robin Trower: March 9, 1945

Robin Trower is a renowned English guitarist whose virtuoso abilities, psychedelic-blues rock style, and his deep, soulful playing on the Fender Stratocaster have been hailed for decades. He launched his career with the progressive rock band Proctol Harum in 1967, and would depart to begin the his own band in 1971. The Robin Trower Band would debut in 1973 to both critical and public acclaim. The group’s first five albums, including Trower’s crowning achievement Bridge of Sighs, all reached certified gold status. Since his recording debut, he has remained one of rock & roll and blues music’s most revered guitarists and has released a massive catalog of over forty albums.

-Keeping The Blues Alive

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