Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mississippi Born Blues

Mississippi Born Blues Artists

Big Bill Broonzy
Born: June 26, 1893, Scott, Mississippi
Died: August 15, 1958, Chicago, Illinois
Also known as: William Lee Conley Broonzy
Grave Location: Lincoln Cemetery, Blue Island, Illinois USA
As a young boy Big Bill Broonzy would return home from a day's fieldwork with cornstalks, which he'd rub together as a homemade fiddle while his many brothers and sisters — 16 — danced to the music he made. By the age of 14 he was performing as a professional fiddler, and after moving to Chicago as an adult he switched to guitar. He became a prolific songwriter as well as a performer and recording artist and was a foundational contributor to the pre-war Chicago blues scene. He was a clever lyricist with a flair for narrative, and is known for having one of the largest and most versatile repertoires on record, from a slick urban blues sound to his acoustic country blues roots as well as folk and traditional spirituals. Broonzy also acted as a mentor to younger musicians, helping many of them secure performing dates and recording sessions. When the Chicago blues sound was transformed by the emergence of the electric guitar, Broonzy kept performing as a more itinerant folk-blues act, paving the way for the future of blues in Europe and the U.K. As he aged he continued to perform, even as he suffered from throat cancer, to which he succumbed in 1958.

Essential listening: "When Will I Get to be Called a Man," "Key to the Highway," "Big Bill Blues," "All by Myself"

Willie Brown
Born: August 6, 1900, Clarksdale, Mississippi
Died: December 30, 1952, Tunica, Mississippi

Willie Brown was an outstanding guitarist as well as vocalist who had an enormous influence on the origination and development of Delta blues. Brown performed regularly with blues legends Charley Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson, and also backed Patton and House on recordings. He is known as an accompanist rather than a soloist, although he did record three extraordinary solo performances. Later in his career he primarily performed with Son House. Both Brown and House disappeared from the music scene during the 1940s, and, sadly, Brown died before the blues revival of the 1960s, when many of his contemporaries were rediscovered by blues scholars.

Essential listening: "M & O Blues," "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor," "Future Blues"

Sam Chatmon
Born: January 10, 1897, Boltmon, Mississippi
Died: February 2, 1983, Hollandale, Mississippi
Buried: on John Gettis's plantation near Jackson.

Sam Chatmon was born into a highly musical family —
His father Henderson Chatmon, a native of Terry, Mississippi, was an ex-slave who played the fiddle for square dances. He lived to be 105 years old and had nine sons and two daughters, all of whom seemed to have his musical ability. Chatmon's mother played the guitar.

As a boy Sam often played with the Chatmon Family String Band, and when three of his brothers formed the Mississippi Sheiks, who became very popular, he sometimes played with them as well. But Sam Chatmon was a multi-instrumentalist in his own right — playing mandolin, bass, guitar and banjo — and worked as a traveling musician with a wide repertoire that included blues until the early 1940s. He became a plantation worker until the 1960s blues revival, at which point, like many of his contemporaries, he embarked upon a second career as a musician, performing and recording until his death in 1983.

Essential listening: "My Little Woman," "Shake 'Em All Down," "God Don't Like Ugly," "Hollandale Blues," "Sitting on Top of the World"

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup

Born in Forest, MS August 24, 1905
Died in Nassawadox, VA on March 28, 1974

Arthur Crudup began his musical career singing gospel in church choirs.He began playing the blues for parties in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1939, but Crudup moved to Chicago in the hopes of making a better living. For awhile he played street corners in Chicago blues, but what he earned was not enough to live on. He lived in a packing crate underneath an elevated train track until he was found by blues producer Lester Melrose. Crudup was hired to play at a party at Tampa Red's house in 1941, and as a result of that night, was signed to record for RCA/Bluebird. However, the relationship with Melrose deteriorated after Crudup found out that he was not being paid royalties for the songs he wrote in 1947. By this time Crudup had become an innovator because his sound was his own. He returned to Mississippi after his falling out with Melrose and ran a successful bootlegging business. He did continue to record with RCA in the late 1940's and 50's, and he also toured with Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) and Elmore James. Crudup continued singing the blues until his death in March of 1974.

Crudup is remembered as a great bluesman and songwriter who was born and raised in Mississippi.

Bo Diddley
Born: December 30, 1928, McComb, Mississippi
Also known as: Otha Ellas Bates McDaniels

Like many bluesmen, Bo Diddley has his deepest musical roots in gospel. He also studied classical music in his youth, but turned to blues after he was introduced to the music of John Lee Hooker. Reportedly it was Hooker's classic "Boogie Chillen" that had such a dramatic impact. Diddley's music is definitely blues-based, however he has had a more profound impact on rock and roll, especially through the beat he's known for, which became foundational in the genre. He influenced the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, among many others, with his particularly lighthearted, rhythm-based brand of blues. Diddley grew up in Chicago and began his blues career playing on the street, eventually forming his own band — which included harmonica master Billy Boy Arnold — and signing with record label Chess. Many of his songs are blues and rock and roll classics. Diddley further influenced rock and roll with his design of a square guitar, one of his trademarks. He continues to tour and record.

Essential listening: "Who Do You Love," "You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover," "Mona," "I'm a Man"

Willie Dixon
Born: July 1, 1915, Vicksburg, Mississippi
Died: January 29, 1992, Burbank, California

Willie Dixon is best known for his songwriting prowess, although his influence on the blues includes his superb work as a producer, arranger, session musician and performer. Dixon began performing in Chicago in the late 1930s; his career was interrupted briefly in the early 1940s when he was jailed for refusing the draft as a conscientious objector. He later worked for the blues label Chess, where his songwriting gave a significant boost to the careers of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter and others. Howlin' Wolf had such success with his rendition of Dixon's tunes that for years they were his primary recording and performance efforts. As a mentor to vocalist Koko Taylor, Dixon had her record "Wang Dang Doodle," which became a huge hit and is still her signature classic. Later in his life Dixon had to fight to reap the financial rewards of his art and subsequently worked on behalf of other artists to assist them in securing publishing royalties. He influenced not only his contemporaries, but countless blues and rock and roll artists, including Led Zeppelin, the Doors and Cream. His body of work as a songwriter boasts many blues standards and rock and roll classics.

Essential listening: "Back Door Man," "I Can't Quit You Baby," "The Seventh Son," "You Shook Me," "The Little Red Rooster"

John Lee Hooker
Born: August 22, 1917, Clarksdale, Mississippi
Died: August 21, 2001, Los Altos, California
John Lee Hooker was a master of "boogie" with haunting, sensuously compelling signature vocals and the ability to create a whole world of sound from a single, repetitive chord. His unique, original style hugely influenced other blues artists and especially rock and roll. The Rolling Stones, the Animals, early Fleetwood Mac and Johnny Winter are just a few of Hooker's admirers. Early on he was influenced by gospel and Delta blues. He learned to play guitar from his stepfather, who reportedly knew blues legend Charley Patton. In 1943 he moved to Detroit, where his sound was a welcome and complete change from the slicker post-war blues. For the next four decades Hooker continued to work with his signature style, performing and recording, and his devotion to his craft never faded, even when his popularity did. The respect he'd long garnered from the blues and rock community was evident in his comeback 1989 release The Healer, which featured a roll call of prestigious names from both genres. As he aged he was known as a living blues legend, and he continued to perform, even when he had to be slowly escorted to the stage.

Essential listening: "Boogie Chillen," "I'm in the Mood," "Hoogie Boogie," "Boom Boom," "Baby Lee," "The Healer"

Willie James Foster

born September 19, 1921 Leland Mississippi
died May 20, 2001 in Jackson Tn.

Willie James Foster was born "like a rabbit" between the rows of a cotton field outside of Leland, Mississippi, on September 19, 1921. His mother went into labor while picking cotton on the plantation where she sharecropped. After Willie's birth she wasn't able to have any more children.

At age five he recognized he would like to play an instrument, so he bought juice harps and made a diddly bow. At age seven he bought his first harmonica for 25 cents that he had saved from carrying water to the fields for two weeks of pay. He became the first musician of his family. The Fosters had little money and often he had sacks tied on his feet for shoes. Willie Foster quit school in the fourth grade.

In 1937, Foster saw Muddy Waters perform at the Dunleith plantation, and he also remembered a visit by John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. In 1938, at age 17, Foster migrated to the north to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked in factories for three years. Then he signed up for World War II duties. He was stationed in England and recalled his first stage appearance a performance on the harp during a talent show.

In 1953, Willie Foster met Muddy Waters in Chicago, where they both performed (LivingBlues.html). In 1963, Foster moved back to Mississippi to care for his father, who had been in a severe car accident. He began playing area jukes in Holly Ridge, Indianola, and Greenville

Willie Foster died of a heart attack in his sleep after a performance at a private party in Jackson, Tennessee, early on the morning of May 20, 2001.

Foster is survived by his wife Chestrene, six children, twelve grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He lays at rest in Holly Ridge near his parents.

Major Works: Just Messin' Around , Love Everybody , Honey Ain't Sweet , Hoochie Coochie Man

Son House
Born: March 21, 1902, Riverton, Mississippi
Died: October 19, 1988, Detroit, Michigan
Also known as: Eddie James House, Jr.

Son House was originally a preacher, and he brought the fiery intensity of Baptist gospel to his interpretation of Delta blues. A powerfully emotional performer, his presence onstage was riveting and almost frightening in its ability to move the listener. He was influenced by and often played with blues greats Charley Patton and Willie Brown, yet his style remained distinctly his own. He is credited as the primary influence on blues legends Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters as well as Bonnie Raitt and many others. House disappeared from the blues scene from the early 1940s through the mid-1960s, until researchers tracked him down, whereupon he began a second career as a respected performer. His past association with Patton and Johnson, as well as his own legendary skill, made him particularly valuable and respected as a living record of blues history. As music critic Cub Koda put it, "Hailed as the greatest living Delta singer still actively performing, nobody dared call themselves the king of the blues as long as Son House was around." *

Essential listening: "Preachin' the Blues," "Death Letter," "John the Revelator," "Dry Spell Blues," "My Black Mama"


Howlin' Wolf
Born: June 10, 1910, West Point, Mississippi
Died: January 10, 1976, Hines, Illinois
Also known as: Chester Arthur Burnett

Howlin' Wolf was inspired by the passionate showmanship of legends Charley Patton and Tommy Johnson, but he took it to the next level. More than just a great showman, "the howler" was an almost transcendent performer, losing himself in the power of the music and letting it flow uninhibitedly through his voice. Wolf could whip the crowd into a frenzy like no other performer, and his stature — at more than 6 feet tall and 300 or so pounds — matched his formidable musical presence. His voice was truly original, a nasty sounding, expressively gritty growl that conveyed the meaning of the lyrics — many of them penned by legendary songwriter Willie Dixon — and his interpretation helped many songs become classics. The allure of Wolf's music was further enhanced by the superb guitarists who played with him — Willie Johnson in the early years and Hubert Sumlin in later years — as well as his own skill with guitar and harmonica, the latter of which he learned to play from master Sonny Boy Williamson. Wolf was a hero of many equally gritty rock and rollers, including the Rolling Stones. Like many Mississippi bluesmen, Wolf saw his career take off in Chicago, where to this day he is an enduring and beloved part of the city's history.

Essential listening: "Smokestack Lightnin'," "Moanin' at Midnight," "Evil," "Killing Floor," "Shake for Me"

Mississippi John Hurt
Born: July 3, 1893, Teoc, Mississippi
Died: November 2, 1966, Grenada, Mississippi
Also known as: John Smith Hurt

Mississippi John Hurt brought unprecedented warmth to the blues, characterized by his gentle, gracious presence as a performer and the tenderness and depth of his songwriting. Hurt mastered a form of finger picking on the guitar that significantly influenced generations of blues, folk and rock musicians. From the time he was 14, Hurt performed locally in and near his tiny hometown while making his living as a farm laborer. Like other Mississippi masters, he was tracked down later in life by a blues fan and scholar and introduced to the burgeoning blues revival of the mid-1960s. During the last three years of his life, to his surprise and delight, he was accepted with open arms by thousands of fans and subsequently made his living as a performer. He has influenced the musicianship and songwriting of blues, folk and rock and his musical descendants include Taj Mahal, Ben Harper, Bob Dylan and many others.

Essential listening: "Frankie," "Louis Collins," "Avalon Blues," "Stack O' Lee," "Big Leg Blues"

Elmore James
Born: June 27, 1910, Richland, Mississippi
Died: May 24, 1963, Chicago, Illinois
Elmore James was a master of slide guitar, and has influenced just about everyone who has ever picked up a slide. His powerful vocals would naturally and dramatically crack and catch, giving authenticity to his sound. His on-and-off day job as a radio repairman complemented his art — he experimented with sound distortion decades before it became a staple of modern rock. James began performing at the age of 14, and played with Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson and others. His style as a vocalist and guitarist were heavily influenced by Robert Johnson, and his reworking of Johnson's original "(I Believe I'll) Dust My Broom" became a signature hit for him (under the shortened title "Dust My Broom"). Like his contemporary Muddy Waters, James brought his version of Delta blues to Chicago, where his amazing band, the Broomdusters, added to the city's superb music scene. James has influenced blues and rock and roll musicians, from B.B. King and Eric Clapton to Johnny Winter and Duane Allman, as well as many others.

Essential listening: "Dust My Broom," "The Sky is Crying," "Hand in Hand," "Shake Your Money Maker"

Skip James
Born: June 21, 1902, Bentonia, Mississippi
Died: October 3, 1969, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Also known as: Nehemiah Curtis James

Skip James is known for his unique, haunting style of blues. He combined falsetto vocals with minor chords, complex finger picking, an idiosyncratic tuning, and a highly personal style of songwriting to create some of the genre's most original music. James was one of Robert Johnson's biggest influences; his original song "Devil Got My Woman" was reworked by Johnson and became the latter's signature hit "Hellhound on my Trail". Like many of his contemporaries of the early Delta blues scene, he turned to another means of livelihood, becoming a preacher at the age of 30 and turning his musical attention to gospel. By chance James was rediscovered during the early 1960s, and subsequently thrilled blues fans at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, thereby re-launching his career. It was obvious that his musical skills were still as sharp as ever and his unique style was intact. In 1966 the band Cream released a popular version of James's original "I'm So Glad."

Essential listening: "Devil Got My Woman," "I'm So Glad," "Sickbed Blues, "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues"

Robert Johnson
Born: May 8, 1911, Hazelhurst, Mississippi
Died: August 28, 1938, Greenwood, Mississippi

A young Robert Johnson hung around the Saturday night dances in the Delta watching Son House, Willie Brown and Charley Patton play and, to their amusement, trying to play guitar during the breaks. Years later Johnson ran into House and Brown, and Johnson's skill on the instrument stunned them. He had acquired his skill in such a short time that it inspired a rumor that became legend — Johnson must have sold his soul to the devil. His tortured voice and emotional intensity seemed to give credence to the legend, although it is more likely that his own determination and inherent talent, as well as his exposure to the great Delta bluesmen, deserve the credit for his genius. In addition to being a gifted lyricist and composer and innovative guitarist, Johnson transferred "boogie woogie" from the piano to the guitar, playing the bottom guitar strings to accompany himself with a bass line, a technique that has become standard in blues composition. His influence on blues, from Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton to the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, is legendary.

Essential listening: "Walkin' Blues," "Love in Vain Blues," "Come on in My Kitchen" "Terraplane Blues," "Cross Road Blues"

Tommy Johnson
Born: 1896, Terry, Mississippi
Died: November 1, 1956, Crystal Springs, Mississippi

Tommy Johnson was a hell-raiser who could belt out the blues with a wide vocal range, from a low throaty snarl to a high falsetto. He had a dramatic flair in performance similar to his contemporary, Delta blues king Charley Patton, and in the early, pre-Robert Johnson days his influence on the genre was second only to that of Patton and Son House. He was not a virtuoso on the guitar, but had an original, evocative style, well-matched to his theatrical delivery. Johnson significantly influenced blues greats Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk and especially Howlin' Wolf, who would carry on and even outdo the Patton/Johnson tradition of incendiary, down-and-dirty showmanship. Johnson was also the quintessential blues bad boy, with a penchant for rampant womanizing and for alcohol, the latter of which led him to drastic extremes. He was known to down denatured alcohol, used for artificial heat, when the real thing wasn't available, a habit he documented in his original song "Canned Heat," from which the 1960s blues-rock group took its name. Johnson left behind a small but outstanding collection of recordings, almost all of which became classics.

Essential listening: "Maggie Campbell," "Big Road Blues," "Cool Drink of Water," "Canned Heat"

Albert King
Born: April 25, 1923, Indianola, Mississippi
Died: December 21, 1992
Also known as: Albert Nelson

As a child an enterprising Albert King reportedly built his own guitar out of a cigar box. A brilliant guitarist in his own right, King was originally inspired by Texas blues great Blind Lemon Jefferson. Like B.B. King, he was a master of single string solos and used the technique of "string bending" to great emotional effect. He was also left-handed, and instead of restringing the guitar, he just learned to play it upside down, which added an original tone to his style. His blues are infused with a Memphis soul sound; he became a rock and blues star after signing to the Memphis-based Stax label, which was responsible for some of the finest soul music ever recorded. King always managed to keep his sound fresh and original, and had a significant impact on blues and rock; he has influenced Eric Clapton, Robert Clay, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Otis Rush, among others. He had the honor of playing San Francisco's Fillmore West on opening night with John Mayall and Jimi Hendrix and often shared the bill with rock artists throughout his career. King continued to tour until his death in 1992.

Essential listening: "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong," "Crosscut Saw," "Born Under a Bad Sign," "I'll Play the Blues for You"

J.B. Lenoir
Born: May 5, 1929, Monticello, Mississippi
Died: April 29, 1967, Urbana, Illinois

J.B. Lenoir probably picked up his solid "boogie woogie" influence in New Orleans, where he spent some time performing before he settled into Chicago's blues scene during the fifties and sixties. While in New Orleans he played with blues greats Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James. Once Lenoir made it to Chicago, Big Bill Broonzy helped introduce him to the local blues community, and he became an important part of the city's blues scene. He was a talented songwriter and bluesman with an obvious political awareness. Examples of his outspoken views can be found in "Korea Blues," and "Eisenhower Blues" — the latter reportedly caused enough controversy that his record label forced him to remake the tune under the title "Tax Paying Blues." His penchant for social commentary and his high-pitched vocals distinguish him from other bluesmen of that time. Lenoir's recordings are also distinctive for their excellent saxophone arrangements and unconventional drumming (Alex Atkins and Ernest Cotton were often on sax with Al Gavin on drums). Lenoir had successfully toured Europe and was likely about to achieve greater fame when he died in 1966 due to complications from a car accident.

Essential listening: "Shot on James Meredith," "Mama, Talk to Your Daughter," "Everybody Wants to Know," "Natural Man," "Eisenhower Blues," "Korea Blues," "Vietnam Blues"

Magic Slim
Born: August 7, 1937, Grenada, Mississippi
Also known as: Morris Holt

A Magic Slim performance brings the history of Chicago blues to life — he studied and played with the masters and he brings their styles together, infusing them with his own fiery skill. He might not be the King of the Blues in Chicago, but he's certainly one of the royal family. Slim grew up in Mississippi and knew blues great Magic Sam when the two were children — it was Sam who gave him the nickname. Slim came to Chicago in the mid-fifties with the hopes of becoming a great bluesman, but didn't have the skill level to hold his own with the city's stars. He came back ten years later having honed his licks and formed a band with his brothers; the group soon became a powerful force on the city's South Side. Slim was particularly influenced by the guitar work of Muddy Waters, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and his old buddy Magic Sam, and he was a devoted student. Decades (and personnel changes) later Slim and his band still maintain a reputation for blowing the room away with their powerful lead and rhythm guitar stylings and a truly amazing repertoire, including fine original material.

Essential listening: "Scuffling," "Love My Baby," "Help Yourself"

Muddy Waters
Born: April 4, 1915, Rolling Forks, Mississippi
Died: April 30, 1983, Westmont, Illinois
Also known as: McKinley Morganfield

Muddy Waters grew up in the Mississippi Delta, singing as he worked in the cotton fields as a boy and playing near his favorite muddy creek — thus the nickname. He picked up a guitar when he was 17. Influenced by the deeply emotional performer Son House as well as Robert Johnson, Waters became an accomplished bluesman himself. In the early 1940s he took the raw depth of the Delta blues to Chicago, and in a few years he had revolutionized the city's blues scene. His many contributions to Chicago blues include his skill with an electric guitar, his tough, powerful vocals, and his evocative, compelling songwriting. As a bandleader he established the ensemble sound and style of Chicago electric blues — just about every great Chicago blues player of that time was in Waters's band at one point or another. British rockers the Rolling Stones took their name from a Waters's song — a testament to Waters's extensive influence on both American and British rock and roll.

Essential listening: "Rolling Stone," "Honey Bee," "I Can't Be Satisfied," "Mannish Boy," "Got My Mojo Working"

Charley Patton
Born: 1891, Edwards, Mississippi
Died: April 28, 1934, Indianola, Mississippi

Charley Patton is the uncontested father of the Delta blues. His ferocious, high energy performance brought the house down on a regular basis with a gritty, raw vocal style and an ability to act as a one-man percussion section with his guitar, creating an innovative flow of rhythm and counter-rhythm. His uninhibited performances onstage were reflected in his lifestyle — he was a match for any one of his musical descendants as a hard drinker and womanizer. Patton's legacy has inspired, directly and indirectly, generations of both blues and rock and roll musicians. The guitar gymnastics of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan are echoes of Patton's performance style, and his use of rhythm and "popping" bass notes presaged funk by decades. Patton influenced and played with blues greats Son House and Willie Brown, and also influenced Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Shines, John Lee Hooker, and Pop Staples, among many others.

Essential listening: "Pony Blues," "High Water Everywhere," "Oh Death," "High Sheriff Blues"

Jimmy Reed
Born: September 9, 1925, Dunleith, Mississippi
Died: August 29, 1976, Oakland, California
Also known as: Mathias James Reed
Grave Location: Lincoln Cemetery, Worth, Illinois USA Jimmy Reed's brand of blues was smooth, warm and even sweet — quite a contrast to the rough, gritty sound which usually characterizes the genre. Reed and his guitarist Eddie Taylor were childhood friends in Mississippi, and they later settled in Chicago, where they would became a unique recording presence. Reed's easygoing style, built on a solid foundation of Delta blues, featured walking "boogie woogie" bass notes, catchy rhythmic hooks — crafted by Taylor — and fluid harmonica riffs. All this was delivered through Reed's expressive, irresistible vocals — the combination was a contagiously compelling sound. Some of Reed's success was also due to his wife Mary Lee's considerable talent as a songwriter. Reed's recordings were hugely popular with both blues and pop audiences; he enjoyed a long series of hits from 1955 through 1961. Many of his songs have been covered by blues, rock and roll and pop artists, including the Rolling Stones, who along with Bob Dylan acknowledge him as a huge influence. Even the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley, couldn't resist recording a Jimmy Reed song.

Essential listening: "Ain't That Loving You Baby," "Baby What Do You Want Me to Do," "Hush, Hush," "Shame, Shame, Shame," "You Don't Have to Go"

Otis Rush
Born: April 29, 1934, Philadelphia, Mississippi

Otis Rush is a stunning vocalist, innovative guitarist and songwriter who has hugely influenced blues and rock artists, including Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan (whose band, Double Trouble, was named after Rush's song of the same name), Jeff Beck, and Carlos Santana. Rush was inspired to become a bluesman after he moved to Chicago in the late forties and saw Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf perform. Along with Buddy Guy and Magic Slim, Rush developed a playing style that would become known as the "West Side sound," an emotionally intense combination of guitar licks and expressive vocals, with an urban sound that signified a departure from classic Mississippi Delta blues. Willie Dixon recognized Rush's genius early on, and Rush's recording of Dixon's original, "I Can't Quit You, Baby," reached number 9 on the R&B charts in the mid-fifties. A songwriter in his own right, Rush's frequent use of minor keys provides his music with a subtle but unmistakably anguished tone and interesting moodiness. He is a left-handed guitarist, and like Albert King, one of his primary influences, he plays the guitar upside down rather than having it restrung. Rush continues to tour.

Essential listening: "I Can't Quit You, Baby," "Double Trouble," "So Many Roads, So Many Trains," "All Your Love"

Ike Turner
Born: November 5, 1931, Clarksdale, Mississippi
Died : December 12, 2007 San Marcos Ca.
Also known as: Izear Luster Turner, Jr.

Ike Turner has been an integral part of the history of blues, rock and R&B. As a pianist and guitarist he backed visiting bluesmen and performed with his own band, the Kings of Rhythm, while still in high school. He worked as a talent scout in Memphis and throughout the south, and as such he accelerated the careers of Howlin' Wolf, Little Milton and others; as a session musician he often backed up the talent he discovered. Turner's band recorded the song "Rocket 88" in 1951 (recorded under the name Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats), which hit number 1 on the R&B charts and is often called the "first rock and roll song." The band became very popular in St. Louis, and in the late fifties Turner added vocalist Annie Mae Bullock to the mix (who later changed her name to Tina Turner and married Ike). The band became the Ike & Tina Turner Review, and made R&B and rock history, charting singles, packing black nightclubs and touring with the Rolling Stones. Tina left the band and the marriage in 1974; subsequently Ike experienced some hard times, and his career faded. He later made a comeback, and continues to record and perform.

Essential listening: "Rocket 88," "Shake a Tail Feather," "Proud Mary," "Steel Guitar Rag," "I'm Lonesome Baby," "Tore Up," "Ike's Theme," "Catfish Blues"

Otha Turner
Born: June 2, 1907, Jackson, Mississippi
Died: February 26, 2003

Blues fife and drum musician Otha Turner grew up near the Mississippi Delta. Fife and drum music is a traditional genre that has its roots in the northern Mississippi hill country and is based on African-American work songs and spirituals. The fife is an instrument similar to the flute, often made out of bamboo. Turner worked as a farmer in Como, Mississippi, where he also led the Rising Star Fife and Drum band for sixty years. The band eventually made it to Chicago, where for years they opened the city's legendary Blues Festival. While in his nineties, Turner preserved his historically significant music with the recordings Everybody's Hollerin' Goat and Senegal to Senatobia.

Essential listening: "Shimmy She Wobble," "Granny Do Your Dog Bite," "Shake 'Em," "Boogie," "My Babe," "Senegal to Senatobia," "Sunu"

Bukka White
Born: November 12, 1909, Houston, Mississippi*
Died: February 26, 1977, Memphis Tennessee
Also known as: Booker T. Washington White

Bukka White moved to the Mississippi Delta as an adolescent and was influenced by Charley Patton — as a result he played a particularly pure form of Delta blues. White's devotion to the music was considerable; after a run-in with the law in Mississippi in 1937, he jumped bail in order to record in Chicago. He was apprehended and incarcerated at Mississippi's Parchman Farm, where he was popular as an entertainer, and where his gift for songwriting wasn't hampered — like many of his originals, the song "Parchman Farm Blues" became a classic. White's real taste of fame came after Bob Dylan recorded White's original song "Fixin' to Die Blues" in the early 1960s. Curious about the song's original author, two young blues players found White by sending a general delivery letter to Aberdeen, Mississippi (tipped off by his blues song of the same title). These leaps in visibility led to White's fame in later life, as both a performer and a storyteller, as he embodied both the Delta blues and its rich history.

Essential Listening: "Shake 'Em on Down," "The Panama Limited," "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues," "Fixin' to Die Blues," "Parchman Farm Blues"

Cassandra Wilson
Born: December 4, 1955, Jackson, Mississippi

Cassandra Wilson is primarily known as an accomplished jazz singer, although her stunning full, low voice and skill as a songwriter have encompassed other genres, and she has been heavily influenced by the musical traditions of the south, including the Delta blues. She cites the complexity of Robert Johnson's songwriting, guitar work and vocal delivery as one of her primary influences. Wilson is a prolific recording artist, and has followed up her 1985 debut with almost one album each year, and sometimes two. Her body of work includes acoustic blues, folk, jazz, and funk. Wilson's 1999 release, Traveling Miles, was a tribute to Miles Davis. She has toured with Wynton Marsalis. Her critically-acclaimed recent release, Belly of the Sun, was recorded in Mississippi with both her own band and local musicians and combines funk, pop and rock with a tribute to pure Delta blues.

Essential listening: "You Move Me," "Round Midnight," "Darkness on the Delta," "You Gotta Move," "Hot Tamales"

There are many many more blues artist that are from Mississippi, however I will save them for a later posting as there are to many to post in one blog.

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