Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Little Smokey Smothers passes away at age 71

Chicago blues guitarist and vocalist Albert Abraham "Little Smokey" Smothers, 71, died on November 20, 2010, according to Alligator Records.

Smothers, who served as a mentor to musicians including Paul Butterfield and Elvin Bishop, died of natural causes at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Chicago.

According to an Alligator news release, Smothers was born into a musical family in Tchula, Mississippi on January 2, 1939 and moved to Chicago as a teenager. His older brother, guitarist Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers became a well-known Chicago blues artist. Little Smokey took up guitar and before long was recording and performing with artists like Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, his soul singer cousin Lee "Shot" Williams and others.

Concentrating primarily on his instrumental skills, he toured and led bands playing locally in Chicago's South Side blues clubs beginning in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. He partially retired to raise a family, but returned to blues in 1978. He spent most of the 1980s playing small Chicago clubs and touring occasionally as a sideman, including as lead guitarist with the Legendary Blues Band.

For more information, including funeral arrangements, visit the Alligator Records Web site.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mississippi Blues Trail heads north to the Badger State

The Mississippi Blues Trail, a collection of important blues locations, winds its way through Mississippi, Memphis, Arkansas, Alabama and, eventually, Chicago. This weekend, the trail extends another 100 miles north to the small town of Grafton, Wisconsin, which is the home of Paramount Records.

The record label produced 78 rpm records of early blues pioneers including Charley Patton, Skip James, Son House, Ma Rainey and Blind Lemon Jefferson. According to, more than 1,600 songs were recorded in Grafton between 1929 and 1932. Over 60 African Americans recorded their blues, spirituals, and even sermons in a "make-shift" studio of an old chair factory, opposite of the pressing plant.

The Grafton Blues Association will unveil the marker during the fifth annual Paramount Blues Festival in Grafton on Sept. 18.
Grafton is about 20 miles north of Milwaukee.

The marker will be located at the former location of the Wisconsin Chair Factory, which housed the Paramount recording studio.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Delmark reissues songs from Dawkins' Leric Records

Most blues fans are very familiar with the work of blues guitar legend Jimmy Dawkins. Not everyone is aware of his work as a record producer with his own label, Leric Records. In the 1980s, the label released 45s by Tail Dragger, Queen Sylvia Embry, Little Johnny Christian and Nora Jean Wallace, to name a few.

Thanks to Delmark Records, these records are now being reissued for the first time on CD, "Jimmy Dawkins presents: The Leric Story." In addition to the artists listed above, the package also includes unissued sides by Vance Kelly and Big Mojo Elem. Dawkins contributes as a sideman, along with Johnny B. Moore, Lafayette Leake, Willie Kent, Eddie "Jewtown" Burks, Michael Coleman and Chico Banks.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

New law to help Mississippi blues artists in need

The Mississippi Legislature has passed a bill that will provide help to struggling blues artists in the state, according to the Associated Press.

The legislation allows the Mississippi Blues Commission to "raise and expend grant funds to provide assistance to any blues musician in need." The bill amends the original law that created the commission.

The commission will handle the funds, which would only go to Mississippi performers. "We don't just want some guy who goes out and buys a harmonica to say, 'I'm a bluesman. Give me some money,'" said Mississippi state Sen. Billy Hewes. "We want it to go to true artists."

BusinessWeek article
Mississippi Blues Commission

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lonnie Brooks, Charlie Musselwhite, Bonnie Raitt named to Blues Hall of Fame

The Blues Foundation has announced the inductees for the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010, including Lonnie Brooks, Charlie Musselwhite and Bonnie Raitt.

The induction ceremony will be held on Wednesday, May 5, at the Memphis Marriott Downtown in Memphis, Tennessee, the night before the 31st Blues Music Awards.
The Hall of Fame committee, consisting of scholars, record producers, radio programmers, and historians, is chaired by Jim O'Neal, founding editor of Living Blues.

Here is the complete list of the 2010 inductees:

Classic of Blues Literature
The Bluesmen by Samuel Charters

Classic of Blues Recording - Single or Album Track
"All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" -- Otis Rush (Cobra, 1958)
"Fever" -- Little Willie John (King, 1956)
"Key to the Highway" -- Big Bill Broonzy (OKeh, 1941)
"Match Box Blues" -- Blind Lemon Jefferson (OKeh and Paramount, 1927)
"Spoonful" -- Howlin' Wolf (Chess, 1960)

Classic of Blues Recordings - Album
Hung Down Head by Lowell Fulson (Chess LP, 1970; CD, 1996)
I Hear Some Blues Downstairs by Fenton Robinson (Alligator LP, 1977; CD, 1991)
Strong Persuader by Robert Cray (Mercury LP/CD, 1986)

Peter Guralnick
Sonny Payne

Amos Milburn
Bonnie Raitt
Charlie Musselwhite
Cus Cannon and Cannon's Jug Stompers
Lonnie Brooks
W.C. Handy

Blues Foundation Web site

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blues GRAMMYs go to Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Derek Trucks Band

If you're interested in learning who took home the GRAMMY awards for best blues albums in 2009, don't bother watching tonight's show. (Unless you want to see the rumored Lady Gaga-Elton John duet.) Don't despair, however, as we have the scoop here:

The GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Blues Album went to "Already Free" by The Derek Trucks Band [Victor Records].

Other nominees were "This Time" by The Robert Cray Band [Nozzle Records/Vanguard]; "The Truth According To Ruthie Foster" by Ruthie Foster [Blue Corn Music]; "Live: Hope At The Hideout" by Mavis Staples [ANTI]; and "Back To The River" by Susan Tedeschi [Verve Forecast].

The Best Traditional Blues Album GRAMMY went to "A Stranger Here" by Ramblin' Jack Elliott [ANTI].

Other nominees were " "Blue Again" by The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band Featuring Rick Vito [429 Records]; "Rough & Tough" by John Hammond [Chesky Records]; "Stomp! The Blues Tonight" by Duke Robillard [Stony Plain Records]; and "Chicago Blues: A Living History" by Billy Boy Arnold, Lurrie Bell, Billy Branch & John Primer, Larry Skoller, producer [Raisin' Music].

Another blues recording won in the category of Best Historical Album. "The Complete Chess Masters (1950-1967),"
a Little Walter compilation from Hip-O Select, took top honors. However, the soundtrack for "Cadillac Records" did not win for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or other Visual Media, losing out to "Slumdog Millionaire."

By the way, I watched some of the pre-telecast online at the GRAMMY Web site and probably enjoyed it more than the actual show with all of its star power. We got to see a few gospel, R&B and folk performances, along with some award presentations by Mick Fleetwood and Robert Flack. Taylor Swift even showed up to collect her first two GRAMMYs ever and no one even took the microphone away from her!

GRAMMY Web site

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tail Dragger DVD puts viewer smack dab in Chicago blues club

Are you in the mood for some authentic Chicago blues, but don't want to visit the Windy City in January? A good alternative is the latest DVD from Tail Dragger, "Live At Rooster's Lounge." This stellar release from Delmark puts the viewer right in the middle of the west side Chicago blues club for a raw and raucous performance from James Yancey Jones, the aforementioned Tail Dragger.

The DVD is a follow-up to Tail Dragger’s first Delmark DVD, "My Head Is Bald - Live at Vern's Friendly Lounge." "My Head is Bald" was named best blues DVD by Living Blues magazine in 2005 and "Rooster's Lounge" is just as good. (Both titles also can be purchased as separate audio CDs.)

Thanks to the excellent camera work, “Live at Rooster’s Lounge” almost makes it seem as if the viewer is sitting in the lounge, as Tail Dragger stalks the premises not unlike his mentor, the late, great Howlin’ Wolf. The video captures Tail Dragger as he works the crowd and even flirts with the ladies. You can almost taste the beer and soul food as it’s served to the patrons.

Tail Dragger’s vocals are backed ably by guitarists Rockin' Johnny Burgin and Kevin Shanahan, harpist Martin Lang, bass player Todd Fackler and drummer Rob Lorenz. Dragger’s good friend, West Side blues legend Jimmy Dawkins, contributes his distinctive guitar sound to one song, “Wander,” a Tail Dragger original.

The set list includes a nice mixture of originals and covers from Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Joe Williams, John Lee Hooker and Little Walter.

Delmark Web site

Tail Draggers’ Web site