- April 5th.,1934-- "Big" Bill Collins
- April 16th.,1979-- Sean Costello
- April 29th.,1925-- Otis Rush
- April 1st.,1997-- Booker T. Lexing, aka Jimmy "Count" Hughes
- April; 12th.,2018-- Deborah Francine Coleman
- April 26th.,1988-- Arbee Stidham
Hope that this finds everyone well, and coping O.K. with the current situation. You'll have observed that some of the NEOBA events have been cancelled or postponed. This is going to be true for all types of musics and musicians. It's most likely to have a considerable negative effect on summer concerts, cruises, and other music venues, and may stretch into the fall/ winter period, though I do hope I'm wrong. But, as is said-- hope for the best, plan for the worst.
Some April Blues Births:
Answer To The March 2020 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Benny Turner, born October 27, 1939, in Gilmer, Texas. As I stated in the Question, he was the younger brother of a blues icon, one Fred "Freddie" King (shown on his early recordings as Freddy). Both boys learned how to play guitar from their mother, Ella Mae (King) Turner, along with the help of two of her brothers, Leon and Leonard King. Benny started his musical career playing guitar and doing background vocals with a gospel group, The Kindly Shepherds. During that period he also started playing with Freddie and his band, in some Chicago blues clubs. While doing that, he met Dee Clark (remember the song "Raindrops"?), who invited him to go on tour with him and his R&B band, which he did. After that, for a short time, he played bass for The Soul Stirrers. He, after a while, re-joined his brother's band. Freddie passed away three days after Christmas, in '76, which hit Benny hard, so hard, in fact, that he went into a state of deep depression, for which he was eventually hospitalized. When he recovered, two years after Freddie's death, Benny joined Mighty Joe Young's band, and performed with them for eight years. When he left that band, he moved to New Orleans, where, in '86, he became the band leader for Marva Wright, a blues singer of some note. He stayed in that spot for twenty years. After she passed away in 2010, Benny went out on his own and recorded four albums, the latest in 2019. The one that has garnered the most recognition and awards is "My Brother's Blues", a tribute to Freddie, being a collection of the songs Freddie liked the best, and yes, Benny's still alive
Blues Question For April 2020: This bluesman only travelled one time and recorded only four songs. He was a guitarist and singer, who also played the kazoo. He's another of those "unknown" bluesmen, but you'll recognize his recording partner on those four songs. Any ideas on who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For April 2020: The song is "Ice Cream In Hell", and the artist is Tinsley Ellis. This was released on January 31st. of this year, on an album of the same title. I picked this one to show that I do listen to the newer artists, even though I favor the old "stuff". Those old artists and songs are how one learns about the blues, not just the songs, but the blues life in general. "There is much to be learned, Grasshopper".
Blues Trivia For April 2020: This ties in with Benny Turner (kinda'). Freddie King, his older brother, was a big man at 6ft.5in., and on the heavy side, where Benny was average height and skinny. When the family moved to Chicago, Freddie's first and main job, was working in a steel mill, and going to the blues clubs to listen, at night. At age 18, in 1952, he met and married another Texas transplant, Jessie Burnett, with whom, over the years, he/they had seven children. After sitting in with quite a few of the big names of the blues, he started his own band, and did a considerable amount of touring, about 300 shows a year, along with studio work. In 1960 he signed a recording contract with Cincinnati's King Records, and did his early recordings on King's subsidiary label, Federal Records, and was usually shown as Freddy King. His touring schedule in those years was the biggest contributor to his death, as he was a hard-partier. When he'd be setting up for a show, he'd usually, for lunch or dinner, have a Bloody Mary, because he didn't like to be feeling too full to work hard. That led to stomach ulcers, which caused his health to decline. If you get on YouTube and look at some concert footage of him performing, you'll see his size, how hard he worked, how in-command of the music, his playing, and his performance he was. He passed away at the age of 42, from the ulcers and acute pancreatitis. Now, a bunch of trivia: that 1960 contract with Federal got him to record four songs, two of which were released in '60, but not met with a lot of success. The other 2 were released in '61. One of those is now a blues standard, a blues instrumental, unheard of at that time as popular, "Hide Away", which was named after a Chicago West Side club, Mel's Hide Away Lounge. It made it onto and up the pop and R&B charts, not to the top, but close enough. There was a time when a guitarist, auditioning for a gig or a spot in a band would be asked "can you play Hide Away ?". If the answer was no, you were gone. It has been said that Freddie was the best of the four Kings, including Albert, B.B., and Earl. Now, let's back up a bit in time. In 1956, Freddie made his first recording (shown as Freddy King) on the small El-Bee Records label, #157. The "A" side was "Country Boy", and the "B" side was "That's What You Think". Freddie didn't play guitar on these, he only did vocals. The "A" side was a duet with Margaret Whitfield, while the "B" side was just him on the vocal. The surprise here is the musicians on these songs: Earlee Payton on harmonica, Billy "The Kid" Emerson (he's the one who did the original "The Woodchuck" song) on piano, and, depending on what source you're looking at, either Milton Rector or Robert "Big Mojo" Elem on bass. Fred Below was on drums, but the surprise here is the guitarists: Eugene Pearson, and our own Robert Lockwood Jr.. You often hear or see the phrase "small independent label" ? Well El-Bee is one of those. it recorded that #157 of Freddy's in '56. It recorded #161, "The Foster Bros.", in '57 (they went on to record quite a bit more on other labels), and #162, "Vera & The Three Jays" (the only recording by them that I've seen). That label was owned by Chicago lawyer John Burton, and those are the only three records that label put out, a total of six sides.
Some April Blues Passings:
Some March Blues Births:
Answer To The February 2020 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/ is Eddie Shaw, born March 20, 1937, in Stringtown, Mississippi. In his teens he played tenor sax with the local blues musicians. When he was 14, he played at/ on a jam session with none other than The Ike Turner Band, in Greenville. In '57 he had a gig in Itta Bena (remember that town's name and some of the great bluesmen to come from there?), where he was spotted, then approached by Muddy Waters, who invited him to play in his Chicago- based band. Once in Chicago he found that he was splitting the sax position in the band with A.C.Reed (real name Aaron Corthen, with Reed being the type of instrument). Shaw then left Muddy's band and went with Howlin Wolf's band in '72, which he would take over the running of, a position he held up to Wolf's death in '76. He would continue to run that band, The Wolf Gang for several years, until it disbanded. In '74 Eddie "inherited" a blues club at which he and Wolf and the band had performed frequently, at that time known as the 1815 Club, which was it's street address on W. Roosevelt Road, on the corner at S. Wood Street. In '70, the club's owner, at that time called the Alex Club, was stabbed to death on the dance floor, while trying to stop a knife fight between two women. Different family members ran it and re- named it the 1815 Club, though they really didn't want to be running it. That's how and why Eddie ended up with it. He then made the Wolf Gang the house band, and re- named it Eddie's Place. Since he was still running the band, which was always touring and performing all over the U.S. and abroad, he wasn't there to manage it, and it went downhill. He decided to close it in '80. As I stated in the Question, he re- opened it almost 10 years later, re- named again as The New 1815 Club, with a new partner, LeRoy Edwards. He sold it shortly thereafter, and it was re- sold several times over the years, until it was bought by a Baptist church in '94, and was named the Howard Chapel Community Church, with the Rev. James Brooks running it. Eddie Vaan Shaw Jr. joined the Wolf Gang, performing with his dad. At that time Vaan used a three- necked Fender guitar. He eventually replaced Hubert Sumlin as the guitarist in the band. His second, younger son, Stan, is a character actor of some note, who lives in Hollywood. Eddie passed away on January 29, 2018, in Chicago, of natural causes.
Blues Question For March 2020: This bluesman is the younger brother of a blues icon. When his older brother died, he quit performing for several years. When he did return, he was mostly performing as a sideman, which he did for years, before going out on his own. He did one album of his brother's songs, as a tribute. Any ideas on who this bluesman might be ?
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For March 2020: The song is "Ain't Got No Rabbit Dog", and the artist is "Smoky Babe" (Robert Brown), accompanied on harmonica by Clyde Causey, recorded in February of '60, in Scotlandville, Louisiana. Possibly, this was based on the song "Uncle Bud", a "rowdy blues" song recorded in '29, by Georgia Tom (Thomas A.Dorsey) and Tampa Red (Hudson Whittaker), though neither is credited with writing it.
Blues Trivia For March 2020: You can count this entire section as a collection of trivia, all thrown into the pot. When I was trying to figure out which Smoky Babe song to put in this blog, I did some digging into his recordings history. Turns out, he was recorded at only two sessions, in '60 and '61, by Dr. Harry Oster, yes, the same one who did all the recordings of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola, prisoners. He specialized in field recordings of what he viewed as American folk musics of all types. He started a record company, Folk-Lyric, to gather and sell these recordings, using that income to go out and record more. As it turned out, he was assisted in Smoky's sessions by a young man interested in doing the same thing, born a count in his native Germany, one Christian Alexander Maria "Chris" Strachwitz. When he came to the U.S., he settled in California, but wanted to head to Louisiana to do some recording of locals in small towns. This came about after he had seen the 1934 movie "New Orleans". Chris started the Arhoolie Records company to do these releases, when he would get some recording done. The first album released under that label was one by Mance Lipscomb, which actually had been recorded/ released earlier by another young man by the name of Robert "Mack" McCormick, who would become a musicologist and folklorist of some note. He's the one who suggested the Arhoolie name to Chris, as it was a word used to describe the "field hollar", which is known as "call and response" music, used by field hands to have a cadence while working. It was also used by the prisoners on "chain gangs". Oster's recordings of the blues men and women were later released on the Arhoolie label. The balance of his recordings were of all different types of musics, including Cajun, country, and various other ethnic origins. His company was sold to/ merged with Folkways. Another note: Mack McCormick quit high school to work in the Cedar Point ballroom, taking care of the needs of the musicians. This section of the blog was put together to illustrate how many different things fall into place or come into being, as a result of chance, luck, and sometimes planning and hard work. Hope it gives some food for thought.
Some Blues Passings For March 2020:
Proprietor of The Sound of Blue record shop in Kent, Ohio.