- May 1st.,1943-- David Lee Durham
- May 14th.,1934-- Grady Gaines
- May 29th.,1918-- William "Bill"/"Lazy Bill" Lucas
- May 1st.,1981-- Ethel V. Finnie
- May 15th.,2012-- Donald "Duck" Dunn
- May 31st.,2000-- Johnnie Harrison Taylor, aka "The Blues Wailer"
Some May Blues Births:
Answer to the April 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was Jack Owens, born as L.F. Nelson, on November 17, 1904, in Bentonia, Mississippi. The "Owens" surname came from his mother while the "Nelson" came from his father, who deserted the family when Jack was around 5 or 6 years old. While he was still in the picture his father and an uncle taught the youngster some chords on the guitar. As I stated in the question Jack also learned, as a youth, fiddle, piano, and fife, but stayed with the guitar as his instrument of choice. One of his local peers, Nehemiah "Skip" James, travelled to Jackson to get an audition with Henry Columbus "H.C." Speir, a record store owner and talent scout for several companies producing records. Out of that audition came a trip to Grafton, Wisconsin, to record several sides for Paramount Records. He had tried to get Jack to also go but Jack was not interested in traveling to perform. He chose instead to stay in Bentonia where he worked as a farmer, sold home-made bootleg liquor on the side, and ran a local in-town juke joint on weekends. He preferred to play his music on his front porch. Eventually his house became known as "Jack Owens' place, since, by then, all the furniture had been removed from the front parlor, and an opening cut in the wall, through to the kitchen, to pass through food and drinks. Some of the locals, which included Skip James and Henry Stuckey (who had taught both Skip and Jack how to play), played there sometimes. Jack would perform too, for the dancing. He could play and sing loud enough to be heard over the dancers. While playing he would keep time by stomping on the floor with his feet, a style that became known as "the Bentonia School". There's another bluesman, from Tutwiler, which is about 110 miles north of Bentonia, who used that style. Him, you probably know -- John Lee Hooker. Jack made no recordings until the late 1960's. He was first recorded one night, September 7, 1966, by musicologist David Evans. Two of those songs were released on a compilation album in 1968, "Goin' Up The Country". That album was made up of several bluesmen from Mississippi and Louisiana, with one or two songs by each, and was released on the Decca label. Jack's second album, again recorded by Evans on September 7, 1970, released in 1971, on the Testament label, featured Jack and his long-time friend, Benjamin "Blind Bud" Spires accompanying on harmonica. That album was titled "It Must Have Been The Devil". Spires was the son of Arthur "Big Boy" Spires who recorded with Chess Records in the 1950's and '60's. Jack's third album, "Jack Owens: Bentonia Country Blues", on the Albatross label, was recorded August 13 and 16, 1978, in Bentonia, by Gianni Marcucci. There was a 4th. album, "Blues From the Blue Front", recorded in April 1996, by Peter Redvers-Lee's Midnight Creeper Records, but it closed before it was released. Featured on it were Jack, Blind Bud Spires, Tommy Lee West, Mookey and Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Cleo Pullman, and Jacob Stuckey. There are several compilations currently in print featuring a few songs by Jack. In the years after his 3rd. album, Jack performed at music festivals across the U.S.A. and Europe. He passed away on February 9, 1997, in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
Blues Question For May 2017: this bluesman, born in Mississippi, moved to Louisiana in his teens. He spent most of his life working outside the music field, but did perform, on the side. He recorded on at least four different labels, all in widely- spaced geographies and years. He performed from Massachusetts to California. He was one of 12 children and went on to have 10 of his own. Any idea who this bluesman is/was ??
Blues Trivia (kin'da, again) For May 2017: while putting together the info on/about Jack Owens, I was also looking into some old "string band" players -- James "Butch" Cage and Willie B. Thomas, who often performed together. One of their more daring tunes was "Kill That Ni@@er Dead", which was not racial, but rather about going after another man who you thought had "wronged you" with your woman. Ever curious, I kept looking and found quite a few more songs peppered with the "N" word. I found that it was also used by a lot of the Delta bluesmen. While looking through them I ran across another spot on Jack Owens, but not of that type of thing. Along with him, several other Bentonia area bluesmen were shown in reference to a cafe that opened up in Bentonia in 1948. It is the "Blue Front Cafe", where a lot of the locals and also the travelling bluesmen would perform, including Jack. It was founded by Carey and Mary Holmes, and is run today by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, one of their sons, who is said to be the "last Bentonia School" player. The cafe is listed on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Here's the important part. While going through all of this hunting, I stumbled into a listing of a couple of videos that looked interesting. Boy, talk about under-estimating something! These two videos, about an hour long each, are time well-spent! There is a combination of historic footage not normally seen, from the early days of the development of the blues, leading into New York City, into Memphis, into Chicago, and into present-day blues-rock and blues. There is an interview with a bluesman, sitting in a chair in the side yard of the "Blue Front Cafe". As soon as I saw that spot I knew this video has to be passed on for all to made aware of and to see! Those videos are titled "Blues America, Part 1 and Part 2". If you love the blues and really want to learn more about it, watch the show, learn, and, above all, ENJOY!!
Some May Blues Passings:
Proprietor of The Sound of Blue record shop in Kent, Ohio.