Initially sales were slow and the first couple LP rereleases continued the trend. Aimed at the Folk/Blues market of the time his juke joint boogie in overdrive just didn’t click. That changed over the years as another generation of Blues fans who preferred the music in its full throttle primal form discovered Lightnin’. The full sessions were released on Diving Duck Records as two LPs, BAD BOOGIE VOLUME 1 and BAD BOOGIE VOLUME 2. Running in chronological order Lightnin’s amp can be heard to warm up over the course the session. At the beginning, throughout Volume 1, it’s fairly clean with just a bit of snarl as he navigates through more or less familiar territory in fine form. Volume 2, however, is where things start to happen. The tubes in the amp have warmed, saturating the sound, and Lightnin’ himself is feeling loose and fired up at the same time. Apparently the liquor kicked in about the same time as the guitar amp and he’s off flying through the stratosphere.
Three songs into Side 1 of Volume 2 Lightnin’ peaks with the guitar instrumental that became a standard for every guitar slinger to follow, “Hopkins Sky Hop”. Popular opinion places Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” with Ike Turner from 1951 as the first Rock ’n’ Roll record because of its distorted guitar but the song is still very much a Jump Blues number featuring piano and saxophone with the distorted guitar merely doubling the bass line, a common studio trick prior to widespread use of the electric bass. “Hopkins Sky Hop” on the other hand is pure unadulterated guitar boogie in all its raw six-string splendor. Electric guitar and rhythm section, nothing more, tube amp overdriving. Recording engineers of the time would often tell guitarists to turn down which would affect not only the volume but the tone due to the inherent qualities of vacuum tube technology, while on gigs they would turn their amps up resulting in a glorious sound that equipment manufacturers have been trying to reproduce ever since. Buddy Guy struggled famously with this. No such problem plagued Lightnin’ on this day in 1954, his amp is turned up and while not a live album he’s flying like we can only imagine he sounded in the juke joints of Houston. Other highlights are “Moving’ Out Boogie”, “My Little Kewpie Doll”, and “Had A Gal Called Sal”.
The two BAD BOOGIE LPs can still be found and with numerous CD releases over the years were eventually released as THE HERALD SESSIONS. His influence was echoed in 1983 with Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble’s “Rude Mood” from their debut album TEXAS FLOOD and in just about every guitar boogie instrumental since. With a lack of live recordings this may be also be one of the closest representations of Lightnin’ sounded in his natural element.