This week we celebrate legends from all walks of blues life…even some fictional ones.
Armenter Chatmon aka Bo Carter: June 30, 1892
While he was primarily known for his outright raunchy and taboo lyrics, including “Banana in Your Fruit Basket” and “Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me”the Mississippi blues man also transcended into more serious blues themes. He was actually the first to record the standard “Corrine Corrina.” Carter became one of the most prominent blues recording acts of the 1930s, recording 110 sides, and played with and managed the family group, the Mississippi Sheiks.
James Cotton: July 1, 1935
A legend of the Chicago blues, this harmonica virtuoso, bandleader, and singer-songwriter made a name for himself backing some of the biggest names in the business before blazing his own trail. Mentored at a very young age by harpist extraordinaire Sonny Boy Williamson II, his first venture as professional musician found him backing the towering Howlin’ Wolf in the early 50’s. In 1954, Cotton was personally asked by Muddy Waters to join his backing band, where he would remain and contribute his exemplary skills for twelve years. In 1967 he set out on his own to begin what would become his own acclaimed and successful forty-plus year career. Cotton earned himself the nickname “Superharp” for his relentless performances and mighty powerful skills as a blues harpist. Cotton died of pneumonia on March 16, 2017, at the age of 81.
Dan Aykroyd aka Elwood Blues: July 1, 1952
We couldn’t leave a blues brother out of this one! Dan Aykroyd developed his musical career in his hometown of Ottawa, particularly through his regular attendances at The Owl, a club that featured many blues artists, including James Cotton, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and many more. After meeting John Belushi on Saturday Night Live, and with a little encouragement from then-SNL music director Paul Shaffer, the Blues Brothers characters were born. The Blues Brothers turned into an real life performing band and then the 1980 film by the same name we all know and love. Aykroyd also went on to co-found the House of Blues chain of music venues.
William “Willie” Dixon: July 1 , 1915
Perhaps the most important songwriter of blues music in his day Dixon had a hand in hundreds of songs over the course of his career. These include the classics, “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” and “Little Red Rooster.” He was a major influence in shaping Chicago blues by penning songs for the likes of Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Little Walter, and even some of the biggest songs in the arsenals of both Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Dixon was also an accomplished singer, bandleader, record producer and bassist, and was featured on bass on many of the recordings of the songs he wrote. His influences also crossed over into rock and roll to bands such as The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Cream.
Anthony Topham: July 3, 1947
The English blues guitarist is best known for being the first lead guitarist of The Yardbirds. At only 16 years old, he faced parental disapproval coupled with the anxiety of abandoning his art studies, so Topham left the band before they achieved mainstream popularity and was replaced by Eric Clapton. He played and recorded with several groups through out the years, including John Mayall, and different iterations of the Yardbirds, but also devoted his life to painting and interior design.
Alan Wilson aka Blind Owl: July 4, 1943
The guitarist, harpist, singer, and songwriter co-founded the blues and boogie rock group Canned Heat. An early blues aficionado, he had the distinct opportunity to reteach Delta bluesman Son House “how to play like Son House” after the elder musician was rediscovered in 1964, after two decades away from music. He once again had the chance to work with another legendary influence of his when Canned Heat recorded an album with John Lee Hooker, who found Wilson to be one of the best harmonica players he had ever seen.
Sol Canal for Keeping the Blues Alive
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