It’s always exciting when two notorious icons collaborate and bring us a unique sound and melding of souls. And it’s even more stirring when they are two veterans who have been around for so long, experienced the evolution of the music they play and cherish, and are still around to remind us where it came from.
Renowned Chicago blues harmonica master James Cotton (aka Super Harp) was captured on February 23, 2012, with Keith Richards as they rehearsed the Willie Dixon-penned Howlin’ Wolf classic “Little Red Rooster.” The two were preparing for the tribute concert Howlin for Hubert, which was held in honor of cherished guitarist Hubert Sumlin who had passed away on December 4th of 2011.
When you think of Richards and the Rolling Stones, the first image that comes to mind is probably not this one. Rather than a rollicking and rip-roaring production, it is just two men, their instruments, and as much feeling as fits in a five minute clip. The British band, like many of their contemporaries, started out listening and covering many of these American players during the mid-century blues revival. With his custom 10 string guitar, open G without the low E string(s), Richards revels in the timeless tune.
James Cotton, on the other hand, started out his career as a drummer, but truly made a name for himself as a blues harp extraordinaire. Throughout his life, he played and recorded with different bands, but none as notorious as the Muddy Waters band, which he was the leader of from 1955 to 1965, and played harmonica for on Grammy award-winning 1977 album Hard Again. Cotton passed away in March 2017 at 81 years old.