- January 4th., 1942-- Precious Bryant
- January 13th., 1939-- Earl Gilliam
- January 25th., 1938-- Etta James, born Jamesetta Hawkins
- January 3rd., 1980--Amos Milburn
- January 15th., 2011-- Fred Sanders
- January 29th., 2008-- "Uncle" Jesse White
First thing in January-- Let's wish the best of luck to Mojo Theory, in the band category, and Luther Tramell & John Sutton, in the solo/duo category, at the upcoming International Blues Challenge in Memphis!!
Some January Blues Births
Answer to the December 2015 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was William McKinley Gillum, aka Bill McKinley, but best-known as "Jazz" Gillum, born September 11th., 1904, in Indianola, Mississippi, also the birthplace of many prominent bluesmen. Although I mentioned in the original question that he played harmonica, he didn't learn to play it until later in his life. That would be at the age of six. The first instrument he learned to play was the harmonium (a pedal operated pump, reed type, organ). His parents had died when he was an infant and he was raised by an uncle, Ed Buchanan, until the age of seven. At that age, he ran away from home to live with relatives in Charleston, Mississippi, where he worked as a field hand from 1911 to mid-1915. He then moved to Minter City and lived there from 1915 to 1918. He then moved to Greenwood, where he lived from 1918 to 1923. Both of those were in Mississippi. The entire time he lived in Mississippi, he worked outside the music field, but did play the occasional gig and in the street for tips. In 1923 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he sometimes worked with "Big" Bill Broonzy and other bluesmen, as a sideman. Gillum recorded from the 1920's into the 1930's as a sideman for several of the local bluesmen, on the Bluebird/Arc labels. In 1940 he did the first recording of the blues standard, "Key to the Highway", featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar. Gillum's version of that song was recorded a few months later by Broonzy and that has become the "standard" of that song. Gillum would go on to record on the Vocalion, Victor, Folkways, and Candid labels. He recorded an early version, in 1946, of the song "Look on Yonder Wall", which featured Big Maceo (Major Merriweather) on piano. That song was later made famous by "T-Bone Walker". You can find Gillum, as a sideman, on recordings by Broonzy, Memphis Slim (Peter Chatman), Arbee Stidham and various others. He performed/ recorded up until 1961. From then on, he worked outside the music field. He died on March 29th., 1966, from a gunshot wound to the head during an argument in the street. By the way, his daughter, Ardella Williams, is an active blues singer in Chicago.
Blues Question for January2016: This bluesman was born in Arkansas. His father and an uncle were both musicians. He played harmonica, alto sax, clarinet, and guitar, all of which, except the guitar, he learned as a child. By his early teens he formed his own band/group. He recorded on at least nine labels and was the featured artist in a film. He lived in Cleveland, Ohio for a time. He wrote roughly 30 songs. Any idea who this bluesman is/was ??
Blues Trivia for January 2016: This trivia is to illustrate the interaction between several bluesmen: Frank Stokes, Garfield Akers, Dan Sane, Mississippi Joe Callicott, and Bukka White and how some of them worked together in the Doc Watts Medicine Show, Jack Kelly's Jug Busters, and the Beale Street Sheiks. I'm focusing on three of them-- Akers, Callicott, and Stokes. Akers, born 1901, in Brights, Mississippi, was a guitarist and singer. He recorded only 4 songs (we have those in stock). Two of these, Cottonfield Blues, parts 1 & 2, are thought to have been based on a song performed earlier by Henry Thomas. Akers' recordings were a duet with Mississippi Joe Callicott, where the two played off each others leads. It has been said that this is one of the best guitar "duels" ever done. Keep in mind though, that these were done in 1929. Akers and Callicott were best friends, up until they parted ways in the late 1940's. Akers died possibly somewhere between 1953 and 1959. When Callicott heard about Akers' death, he quit performing until the late 1960's and his "rediscovery". Akers also toured and performed with Frank Stokes in the Doc Watts Medicine Show. Stokes, while partnered with Dan Sane, performed in the fore-mentioned groups. Stokes also performed as a street singer in Church's Park (W C Handy Park) on Beale Street in Memphis. He later toured/played with Memphis Willie B (William Borum), and later, in and around Clarksdale, Mississippi, with Bukka White. Stokes was an influence in the playing of Akers, Callicott, and Jim Jackson. Though it's probably not clear, my intent with this is to show that blues musicians, from the earliest ones up to today's current players have several things in common. They work and play hard, they love the music, they try to make a living at it, and, most importantly, work together, even when they are sometimes, rivals.
Some January Blues Passings:
Proprietor of The Sound of Blue record shop in Kent, Ohio.