Blues News



This week’s blues birthdays feature legendary musicians such as J.J. Cale, Tom Waits, Junior Wells, and southern rock pioneer Gregg Allman!

J.J. Cale – December 5th, 1938

John Weldon Cale was a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who helped to bring the Tulsa Sound into existence. Born on December 5, 1938, in Oklahoma City, his subdued blend of blues, country, folk, rockabilly, jazz, and fluid guitar riffs became the foundation to his signature sound.  As a teenager, Cale studied sound engineering and built himself a recording studio while living with his parents in Tulsa. After graduation, he was drafted into the Air Force where he learned technical training. Cale moved to Los Angeles in the early ’60s and took a job as a studio engineer, his knowledge mixing and sound recording played a pivotal role in his career as he often acted as his own producer, engineer, and session player. While in LA he began going by J.J. Cale as to differentiate himself from fellow musician John Cale of The Velvet Underground. His biggest hit was “Crazy Mama” in 1972 which peaked at #22, however many of his songs have been recorded by other artists such as “After Midnight” and “Cocaine” made famous by Eric Clapton and “Call Me the Breeze” on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 album Second Helping. In 2008, Cale and Eric Clapton received a Grammy Award for their album The Road to Escondido. Cale preferred to keep a low profile and avoided the spotlight for much of his career, though his influence as a musical artist has been widely acknowledged as an important part of rock history. A year after Cale passed away, Eric Clapton released The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale in 2014. The tribute album featured Tom Petty, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, Derek Trucks and more covering Cale’s beloved songs.

Tom Waits – December 7, 1949

Thomas Alan Waits was born in Pomona, CA on December 7, 1949. His uncle’s raspy voice inspired his signature growling gravelly whiskey-soaked vocal style. Waits has released 16 albums and was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Despite his lack of radio airplay, he gained a cult following and his songs have been widely covered by artists Joe Bonamassa, The Eagles, Norah Jones, Rod Stewart, and Johnny Cash. A talented songwriter, Waits is admired for his lyrical storytelling which has become a porthole for him to express the words in his head. Bob Dylan and writers of the Beat Generation like Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg heavily influenced Tom Waits own evocative lyrics and writing style. The title song on Wait’s second studio album, The Heart of Saturday Night, was written as a tribute to Jack Kerouac. Waits said “Kerouac liked to consider himself a jazz poet, using words the same way Miles uses his horn. And it’s a beautiful instrument. He had a melody, a good sense of rhythm, structure, color, mood, and intensity.”


Gregg Allman – December 8, 1947

Gregory LeNoir Allman was born on December 8th, 1947 in Nashville, Tennessee, a year after his older brother and band member Duane Allman. Gregg is best known for being a southern rock pioneer and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band. The band formed in Jacksonville in 1969, with his brother Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson. Gregg’s emotive and weathered voice coupled with his powerful and soulful Hammond B-3 organ helped to create The Allman Brothers country rock, jazz, and old-time blues sound that put them at the forefront of the jam scene. Gregg was also a talented songwriter, penning several of the band’s famous songs including “Midnight Rider” and the epic blues-rock hit “Whipping Post”. He continued to front the Allman Brothers Band for 45 years, even after the sudden deaths of both Duane and Berry Oakley. He also had a successful solo career touring as the Gregg Allman Band, both Laid Back (1972) and I’m No Angel (1987) albums reached certified gold. In 1995 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Allman Brothers Band and won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement in 2012. Gregg Allman sadly passed away on May 27, 2017, from liver complications but left the world with his fondly remembered musical legacy.

Junior Wells – December 9, 1934

Chicago blues singer and harmonica player Junior Wells was born Amos Wells Blakemore Jr. on December 9, 1934, in a small town in Arkansas. The legendary musician began his professional career in the blues as a member of Muddy Waters’ band in the early 50’s. In 1965 his classic debut album, Hoodoo Man Blues, launched a career that would last over three decades and would see frequent collaborations with guitar giant Buddy Guy. His best-known song remains the blues staple “Messin’ with the Kid”.

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