- July 1st.,1939--Syl Johnson
- July 15th.,1940--Willie Cobbs
- July 28th.,1943-- Michael Bloomfield
- July 1st.,2013-- Texas Johnny Brown
- July 11th.,1983-- Roosevelt Sykes, aka "The Honeydripper"
- July 27th.,1974-- Otis V. "Lightnin' Slim" Hicks.
Some July Blues Births:
Answer to the June 2016 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for was/is Joe Seneca, born Joel McGhee, in Cleveland, Ohio on January 4th.,1919. He first sang in the choir at Central High School. After high school, in his early career, he sang with a vocal group The Three Riffs, who were sometimes known as The Jungle Bugs or The Three Barons, performing in New York City after moving there. They would also perform in Boston, Cleveland, Chicago and St. Louis. He (they) recorded from 1939 to 1949, however little. Joe wrote two songs that were big hits-- "Talk to Me", recorded by Little Willie John, and "Break It to Me Gently", a 1962 hit for Brenda Lee and a 1982 hit for Juice Newton. He then went on to Hollywood to begin a new career, which started in the 1970's and went on into the '90's. We'll cover the t.v. spots first. He made several appearances as Dr. Zachariah J. Hanes, president of Hillman University, on The Cosby Show. He played Alvin Newcastle, a man afflicted with Alzheimer’s, on an episode of The Golden Girls. He played the accused, found innocent, on an episode of Matlock, titled "The Blues Singer". On that episode they, Seneca and Andy Griffith, did a duet, with acoustic guitars and vocals of "How Long, How Long Blues". His last episode on t.v. was on Law and Order, where he portrayed a blind murder witness. On the next size screen, he had an appearance on Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" video. Now, on to the big screen. In the 1982 film "The Verdict", he played Dr. Thompson. a witness for Attorney Frank Galvin, played by Paul Newman. The film was/is a really good courtroom/life drama, starring some of the big names of the time, and was nominated for 5 academy awards. In the 1985 film "Silverado" he played the father of Danny Glover's character. Joe made two films in 1988. one was Spike Lee's "School Daze", where he played President McPherson of Mission College. The film is a musical comedy drama based on Lee's experiences in college (s). It looks at members of black fraternity and sororities on a mostly black college campus on homecoming weekend, where the faculty is totally inept at it's job. The other two films are the ones for which he is best known. In 1988 he starred in the remake of 1958's "The Blob", as Dr. Christopher Meddows, the evil head of a government team. Now, on to the one all blues fans should recognize. In it, Joe played "Willie Brown", a blues guitarist/vocalist who is trying to help Eugene Martone, a classical guitarist who wants to be a bluesman, find a long-lost blues song. Willie is actually headed to a meeting to get out of his contract with the devil. This is the 1986 film "Crossroads", with Ralph Macchio playing Eugene. In the movie there's a cameo appearance by Frank Frost, harp player and member of the band "The Jelly Roll Kings". The soundtrack, still available by the way, was done by Ry Cooder and took a year to complete. This film, by the way, is what influenced "Geneva Red" to take up the blues harp. We met and spent some time with her some years back.
Blues Question for July 2016: this bluesman is credited with writing only seven songs, but he did a considerable amount of recording as a sideman. As he was one of fourteen children he didn't get into the blues until the age of about eighteen. One of the nicknames he used was used by at least four other bluesmen. Any idea who this bluesman is ??
Blues Trivia for July 2016: this is about another "blues genius" most people have never heard of. His name is "Kid" Wesley "Sox"/"Socks" Wilson, also known as Jenkins; Pigmeat Pete, born October 1st.,1893, in Jacksonville, Florida. From the age of twelve up to about nineteen, he played piano in a pit band in a local theater. Somewhere in that nineteenth year he met, teamed up with, traveled and performed with-- and married Leola B. Pettigrew, better known as Coot Grant. They remained together until he passed away on October 10th.,1958, in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, of a stroke. His "Socks" nickname came from one of his songs- "Dem Socks My Daddy Used To Wear". The "Coot" nickname came from a childhood pet name--"Cutie". From around 1912 he and Coot traveled and performed in the south, west and mid-west, making their first recording in Chicago in 1925. From there they went on to perform and record in New York City from that point up into the late 1930's/early 1940's. Socks and Coot were both good song writers and were hired by the best in that era to do so. Between them, they wrote over 400 songs. If you're a barbecue fan and go to one where period music is on in the background, one of their songs you'll probably hear is "Gimme a Pigfoot"(and a Bottle of Beer), made famous by Bessie Smith, and since then, recorded by many others--even Diana Ross. Due to illness, Socks quit performing in 1949. In 1951, he and Coot moved to Los Angeles, where they would remain until 1955, when they moved to Whitesboro, New Jersey. It has been said that while they lived in Los Angeles that they were "in financial distress". Besides Bessie, others who have recorded their songs are LaVern Baker, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Rory Block, Saffire--The Uppity Blues Women, Louis Jordan, B.B.King, Dr.John, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie, just to name a few.
Some July Blues Passings:
Comments about this Blues Blog: the bluesmen listed here, in the Answer to the Question area- Joe Seneca, and in the Trivia section- Socks Wilson, relatively unknown to most, were picked because they are a part of the "edges" or the "background" in a beautiful "painting" called the blues. Without the details, it's just another picture or just another genre of music. The blues is a living, breathing entity that needs to be fed and nurtured. Do your part to do that and, at the same time, you'll be doing yourself a favor. Go listen to some live blues in a juke joint, or some back-alley gut-bucket joint, or just some dive where blues is featured. Forget the highly polished, high-dollar "acts" and go see some real Blues. Enjoy it for what it really is about--LIFE!
Proprietor of The Sound of Blue record shop in Kent, Ohio.