Keeping The Blues Alive

Neil Young On Stage With His Acoustic

Blues Birthdays: November 11 – November 17

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Mose Allison: November 11, 1927

A prolific and highly respected singer, pianist, and songwriter throughout a long-lasting career. Allison was born in Mississippi and grew up on his grandfather’s farm. When he was just five years old, he learned how to play the piano as well as a few other instruments. By thirteen, he had composed his first song and developed an appreciation for music. By 1956, Allison relocated to New York City where he polished his jazz piano skills and joined artists such as Stan Getz and Zoot Sims. By 1957 he had his first album and the following year he formed his own jazz trio.

What set Allison apart was his “unique mix of blues and modern jazz.” The trio and piano playing were along the jazz lines and his vocals and placements centered around blues. Therefore, his influence spread far and wide with many musicians. In fact, Pete Townsend covered the classic “Young Man Blues” and John Mayall recoded dozens of Allison’s tunes as well. Other musicians who channeled Allison’s musical direction include Tom Waits, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, and many others. Over his lifetime, Allison recorded over 30 studio albums and is considered a legend among musicians. He passed away in November of 2016 at the age of 89.

Booker T. Jones: November 12, 1944

An insanely talented multi-instrumentalist who played a significant role in R&B and soul music. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee and was raised in a stable home. As a child, he was considered to be a musical prodigy, exhibiting extraordinary skills at multiple instruments at a young age. At school, he learned how to play saxophone, trombone, bass, oboe, piano, and organ and excelled at each of them. He played with his church but had his first professional music experience at 16 when he played baritone sax on an album by Carla and Rufus Thomas.
By 1962, after hanging around Satellite Records, he met other fantastic musicians and formed his band Booker T. and the MG’s. In fact, Jones was still a high school student when he helped write the world-famous instrumental album “Green Onions.”
Since then, he has worked in the studio with other world-class musicians which earned him a Grammy for lifetime achievement. Jones still performs to this day, dazzling audiences with his proficiency at the guitar, piano, and other instruments

Photo By: by Piper Ferguson

Neil Young: November 12, 1945

Neil Young is one of the greatest folk-rock musicians to ever come out of the music scene. He was born in Toronto Canada, and besides a brief time in Florida as a child, stayed in Canada for most of his younger life. Young was captivated by music at a young age and was inspired by many genres of music like RnB, country, rockabilly, and others. He loved artists like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Johnny Cash, and many others who all musically convinced him to start learning an instrument. He actually started learning music on a cheap plastic ukulele.

By the later 60’s, Young had a made a name for himself playing guitar and singing in local bars and coffee shops, reminding people of a “young Bob Dylan.” He then decided to relocate to LA to pursue his music career. There he met fellow musicians and started the folk-rock mixed band Buffalo Springfield. After two years, the band split up and Young decided to embark on his solo career, which is still going strong today. Besides his very successful solo career, Young is also known for his collaboration with the Folk-Rock trio Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The band has won many awards and accolades over the years and his considered one of the best folk-rock bands in history.

Young continues to tour and record and even released a new album this year.

W.C. Handy: November 16, 1873

William Christopher Handy is known as “The Father of the Blues.” He was not only a great musician, but is still considered to be one of the best songwriters in music. Without Handy and his efforts, blues would not be as popular as it is today. The genre was mostly only popular in the Mississippi Delta region of the United States. Handy and his songs changed that drastically, bringing the blues to multiple regions and causing it to spread widely.

In 1902, Handy undertook a trip through Mississippi, learning about the various styles of black popular music present. It was in 1912, however, when Handy finally wrote down and published the sheet music for a song called “Memphis Blues.” Some consider this 12-bar blues to be the first true blues song, although it would be more accurately to consider it the first published blues song.

By 1914, Handy had become a popular and prolific composer of the blues. In addition to Memphis Blues, Handy wrote tunes like “Beale Street Blues”, “Yellow Dog Blues,” and “Saint Louis Blues.” In 1926 Handy would publish a book called Blues: An Anthology – Complete Words and Music of 53 Great Songs, one of the earliest serious studies of blues music. Throughout his life, Handy received many honors including performing at Carnegie Hall, an induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and receiving a Grammy’s Trustees Award.

Hubert Sumlin: November 16, 1931

Hubert Sumlin was a Chicago blues singer and guitar player whose unique guitar sounds stood out in a crowd and gained him a lot of recognition by fans and critics alike. He was born in Mississippi and grew up in Arkansas. At eight years old, he received his first guitar and was instantly intrigued by it. His love for blues music began when he snuck into a concert and met the legendary bluesman Howlin’ Wolf.
By 1954, Wolf had asked Sumlin to relocate to Chicago to become the second guitarist in his band. After Wolf’s death in the late 70’s, Sumlin continued to play with members of the “Wolfpack” which were members of the Wolf’s band, and also started a solo career as well.

Sumlin was a great guitar player and was known for his “shattering bursts of notes, sudden cliffhanger silences, and daring rhythms suspensions.” He was given the number 43 spot in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list. Sumlin passed away in December of 2011 at the age of 80.

Patrick Ortiz


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