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samedi 22 juin 2019

A.C. REED/ Complete Early Recordings 1961-70


A.C. REED/ Early Recordings 

           
Aaron Corthens dit A.C. Reed (ceci afin de se faire passer pour le cousin du célèbre Jimmy Reed, une parenté guère prouvée) est né à Wardell dans le Missouri le 9 mai 1926. Après des tâtonnements à la guitare et aux claviers, Aaron, un grand fan des big bands, a opté pour le saxophone. Venu jeune à Chicago, il commence sa carrière auprès de Willie Mabon et de Earl Hooker (avec qui il enregistrera substantiellement), gagnant au passage un "saxophone d'or" et un titre de "Roi du Chicago blues, version saxophone"! Durant les années 60, il multiplie les 45t pour une nuée de petits labels, collant le plus possible au style vocal de son cousin présumé, le célèbre Jimmy Reed. Le paresseux This little voice évoque bien Jimmy, mais I stay mad et surtout l'excellent My buddy buddy friends sont des pièces débordant de cet humour désabusé et décapant qui est la marque de la plume d'A.C. Entre 1970 et 1983, Reed est surtout le sideman attitré de Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Son Seals puis Albert Collins, ornant leurs concerts et leurs disques de ses sonorités râpeuses et carrées. Cet style simple mais essentiel au vrai Chicago blues amène nombre de musiciens de rock à utiliser ses talents pour certains de leurs enregistrements, tels Eric Clapton ou les Rolling Stones. Tout cela permet enfin à A.C. Reed d'entreprendre une carrière de leader à l'âge de la retraite. I am fed up with music, un 45t sorti en 1983 en deux versions, l'une "hard", l'autre plus chaste pour les oreilles sensibles est d'une irrésistible drôlerie. Aaron Corthens récolte même un W.C. Handy Award pour le microsillon correspondant: Take these blues and shove'em (Ice Cube). I'm in the wrong business (Alligator) dans lequel A.C. regrette de n'avoir pas embrassé la carrière de boxeur comme Rocky ou Mr T. est dans la même veine, avec le soutien de Stevie Ray Vaughan et Bonnie Raitt. A.C. Reed a enregistré d'autres disques pour Wolf ou Black & Blue, a excellemment figuré dans la célèbre anthologie Living Chicago blues (Alligator). Juste avant son décès (le 25 février 2004 à Chicago), A.C. a signé sans doute son meilleur album pour Delmark, le décapant Junk Food.
            Nous proposons ici l'intégrale des 45t enregistrés par cet intéressant bluesman de Chicago entre 1961 et 1970.
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT

Born Aaron Corthen (Warden, Missouri; May 9th 1926), this honking saxophone player has been a mainstay of the Chicago blues clubs and the recording studios. He began his career with Willie Mabon, then Earl Hooker which whom he worked and recorded during most of the 1960's. He always said he was a real cousin to the then famous Jimmy Reed, thus taking' the name A.C. Reed but it is unsure the fact is true!
            Anyway, A.C. Reed started to record a string of excellent 45's in 1961 with the minor hit This little voice in which he emulates the lazy phrasing of Jimmy Reed. All his records are full of humour, particularly I stay mad and the superb My buddy buddy friends that will enter the Top 100 R&B.
            After Earl Hooker's death, A.C. played in the bands of Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, Son Seals and Albert Collins, demonstrating all over the world his forceful sax playing. This collaboration earned him a strong reputation among the blues fans everywhere and he was asked to record with British stars Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. He then finally launched his career as a leader in the 1980's, fronting his own band and recording several excellent LP's (Take these blues and shove it) and CD's for Alligator (Living Chicago blues and I'm in the wrong business with Stevie Ray Vaughan), Wolf or Delmark (Junk Food, maybe his best album).
            A.C. died in Chicago on February 25th 2004, leaving a strong recorded legacy.
            This compilation gathers all his early 45s.
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT

A.C. REED
Early Recordings
A.C. Reed, vcl/t-sax; Pinetop Perkins, pno; Earl Hooker, g; Earnest Johnson, bs; Bobby Little, dms. Chicago, Ill. juin 1961
01. This little voice
A.C. Reed, vcl/t-sax; Little Ray Charles, pno; Reggie Boyd, g; Earnest Johnson, bs; Bill Stepney, dms. Chicago, novembre 1961
02. I wanna be free
03. Come on home
A.C. Reed, vcl/t-sax;Earl Hooker, g; Johnny "Big Moose" Walker, pno; Reggie Boyd, g; Earnest Johnson, bs; Bill Stepney, dms. Chicago, Ill, 1962
04. Mean cop
05. That ain't right
06. Crying blues
A.C. Reed, vcl/t-sax; Dusty Draper, a-sax; Bobby Fields, t-sax; Johnny "Big Moose" Walker, pno/og; Ivory Parker, g; Earnest Johnson, bs; Frank Swan, dms. Chicago, Ill. 1963
07. I stay mad
08. Lotta lovin'
A.C. Reed, vcl/t-sax; Detroit Junior, pno; Ivory Parker, g; Earnest Johnson, bs; Buddy Ray, dms. Chicago, Ill. 1965
09. I'd rather light than switch
10. I got money to burn
A.C. Reed, vcl/t-sax; horns; Lafayette Leake, pno; M.T. Murphy, g; Ivory Parker, g; Leroy Stewart, bs; Tyrone Harris, dms/perc. Chicago, Ill. 1966
11. My baby is fine
12. My baby's been cheating
13. Talking about my friend
14. Boogaloo tramp
A.C. Reed, vcl/t-sax; Pinetop Perkins, kbds; Johnny Twist Williams, g; Earnest Johnson, bs; Charles Hicks, dms. Chicago, Ill. 1970
15. Things I want you to do
16. Three short two


dimanche 9 juin 2019

BOBO JENKINS

BOBO JENKINS/ DETROIT BLUES MASTERS
Volume 1

            

 Même si sa discographie est limitée, Bobo Jenkins a été un des principaux bluesmen de Detroit, à la fois par sa constante présence dans les clubs, son entregent et sa capacité à rassembler autour de lui presque tout ce que la ville comprenait de bluesmen "profonds. Durant les années 1970-80, il a été aussi un des principaux acteurs de la survie du Detroit blues, réussissant à faire organiser des festivals, impliquant de plus en plus de personnes et de pouvoirs publics dans ce qu'il vivait comme une mission.

            John Pickens Jenkins naît à Forkland dans l'Alabama le 7 janvier 1916 d'un couple de métayers. Son père meurt dans un accident avant son premier anniversaire et la vie sera très dure pour le jeune garçon: peu d'école, les travaux des champs permanents dès l'âge de huit ans, un oncle terriblement sévère qui vit avec sa veuve de soeur (la mère de Bobo) et qui bat constamment l'enfant.

            A onze ans, Bobo s'enfuit de la maison maternelle, arrive à Memphis et devient le garçon à tout faire de la pension de famille de Emma Miller, un établissement qui héberge les nombreux Noirs de passage dans la grande cité du coton. Puis il travaille dans une maison close où des orchestres animent les soirées chaudes. C'est là que Bobo s'initie vraiment au blues!

            Après de nombreuses pérégrinations et autant de boulots différents, Bobo est incorporé en septembre 1944, découvre le monde extérieur au Sud Profond et décide qu'il n'y retournera plus. Il s'installe à Detroit, devient un mécanicien auto accompli, se fait embaucher chez Chrysler où il restera 26 ans.

            Il fréquente aussi les clubs de Hastings Street où se développe un blues spécifique à la ville de Detroit, rencontre et se lie d'amitié avec John Lee Hooker, Eddie Kirkland, Eddie Burns, Joe Von Battle (le principal producteur du Detroit blues). Passionné par cette musique, Bobo s'achète une guitare et commence à son tour à se produire sur scène.

            Ecœuré par la défaite des Démocrates dont il est (comme beaucoup de Noirs) un fervent partisan, tandis qu'il travaille sur sa chaîne d'assemblage, il compose son premier blues, un texte remarquable Democrat blues:

            The Democrats put you on your feets and you had the nerve to vote'em out"

            Il chante son morceau en public et obtient un gros succès. Cela l'encourage à composer d'autres blues très personnels, ce qui sera une de ses grandes caractéristiques. Avec l'aide de John Lee Hooker, Bobo passe une audition à Chicago chez Chess en 1954. Phil Chess est enthousiasmé par Democrat blues, lui demande un autre blues du même genre. Dans le studio, Bobo compose en quelques minutes Bad luck and trouble. Avec en outre un petit orchestre venu avec John Lee de Detroit (en particulier l'excellent harmoniciste Robert Richard), Bobo Jenkins signe ses débuts discographiques de bien belle manière. Democrat blues/ Bad luck and trouble connaît un certain succès commercial à Chicago et Detroit et deviendra un grand classique du blues des années 50.

            Cela permet à Bobo et son orchestre de se produire à Detroit mais aussi dans toutes les villes industrielles de la région. Il est même à l'affiche de plusieurs tournées nationales avec Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Reed, Mahalia Jackson, Lionel Hampton, Louis Jordan. Mais, avec une famille nombreuse, Bobo préfère la sécurité d'un bon salaire chez Chrysler que les risques d'une vie de musicien. Il joue alors essentiellement à Detroit et ouvre un petit club attenant à sa maison où apparaîtront tous les bluesmen de la ville (Baby Boy Warren, Little Sonny etc...) et de nombreux artistes de passage comme Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller). Mais du coup, il enregistre seulement sporadiquement et pour des labels de Detroit comme Fortune, des titres là aussi souvent remarquables avec de nouvelles compositions (Ten below zero) mais aussi d'excellentes versions de Sweet home Chicago (Baby don't you want to go) ou Decoration day.

            Dans les années 1960, Bobo construit lui-même et de bric et de broc (avec des cartons récupérés dans les supermarchés) son propre studio qu'il appelle Big Star et commence à s'enregistrer lui-même ainsi que nombre de bluesmen de la ville dont certains n'avaient jamais pu graver de disques et tente de leur trouver des engagements dans une scène musicale de Detroit désormais dominée par la Soul de Motown.

Copyright; Amy Van Singel
            Mais bientôt certains journalistes et amateurs de blues comme Sheldon Annis et Fred Reif se joignent à lui dans cette campagne de promotion du blues. En août 1970, ils convainquent la ville de créer le Detroit Blues Festival qui présente tous ceux qui font le blues de Detroit, un évènement couvert par la presse et les télévisions et largement commenté dans les colonnes de Living blues.

            Bobo qui jouit désormais d'une confortable retraite de Chrysler, se consacre totalement à sa musique et à la cause du blues: Saginaw blues festival, Belle Isle Festival, Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival... Il devient même membre officiel du Comité Culturel de la ville de Detroit.

            Parallèlement, Bobo continue à enregistrer pour Big Star, notamment trois albums personnels où il démontre sa capacité à composer des textes souvent autobiographiques, remarquables de vérité. Ces disques souffrent malheureusement des médiocres techniques d'enregistrement du studio de Bobo. Ils n'en demeurent pas moins d'excellents moments de down home blues.

            Avec l'aide de Fred Reif, Bobo réussit à jouer son blues dans des lieux de plus en plus prestigieux comme le Smithsonian Institute en 1976. En 1982, il est de la tournée européenne de l'American Living Blues Festival mais, malade, il ne peut assurer qu'un seul concert et doit être rapatrié d'urgence à Detroit.

            C'est là qu'il décède le 14 août 1984, laissant une œuvre non négligeable dont nous proposons ici l'intégralité des années 1954-72 en deux parties: la première regroupe toutes les séances qu'il a enregistrées pour des 78t et 45t; la deuxième réédite - en tentant d'améliorer le son original autant que faire se peut - son premier (et meilleur) album pour son label Big Star. Le reste peut se trouver sur l'excellent site: http://dontaskmeidontknow.blogspot.fr/



                                  Gérard HERZHAFT



            Although not very well known, Bobo Jenkins has been a mainstay and a driving force of the Detroit blues scene that he has largely contributed to elaborate and establish.

            John Pickens Jenkins was born in Forkland, Al. on January 7, 1916 from a family of poor sharecroppers. After his father's death while he was still a baby, Bobo has to work very early in the fields. A very brutal and insensitive uncle (his mother's brother) takes charge of the kid with more kicks and punches than food and education. When he is eleven, Bobo runs away to Memphis where he makes a living as an odd-job boy in several places including a brothel where he hears for the first time the blues. After a stint in the army during the war, Bobo relocates himself in Detroit and finds a secure job at Chrysler's assembly line where he will stay 26 years.

            He is also a faithful patron of the Hastings Street clubs, taking pictures and becoming friend with uprising bluesmen like John Lee Hooker, Eddie Kirkland or Eddie Burns. More and more enthralled with the music, Bobo buys a guitar, take some blues lessons with his friends and starts to play some numbers in the clubs.

            While in his assembly line, Bobo composes Democrat blues, his first number that boasts his distrust of the winning Republicans at the 1952 Presidential contest.

            " The Democrats put you on your feets and you had the nerve to vote'em out"

            Impressed by this blues (that he will include later in his songbook), John Lee Hooker brings Bobo and an array of Detroit blues musicians in Chicago in 1954. A quite enthusiastic Phil Chess hurries Bobo and his band (with the excellent harp player Robert Richard) in the studio to record Democrat blues and the flip (written in a few minutes for the occasion by Bobo) Bad luck and trouble. This single is a small hit in Chicago and Detroit and will become an all-time blues classic among blues buffs all over the world.

            For some time, Bobo enjoys some fame, is featured in tour packages alongside such luminaries as Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Reed, Mahalia Jackson, Lionel Hampton, Louis Jordan. But with a large family, Bobo chooses instead of a professional musician's life the security of a steady job. He thus mostly plays in Detroit and even runs a small club where he features most of the local bluesmen, including Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) who stayed in Detroit for awhile. But his recordings are then quite sparse and mostly for local labels like Fortune with a poor distribution outside his hometown. Anyway those records are first rate, alternating personal self-penned blues (Ten below zero) with striking versions of blues standards like Baby don't you want to go.

            During the 60's, the ever creative Bobo Jenkins, builds his own studio and starts to record himself as well as most of the local bluesmen. At the end of the decade dominated by Motown, Bobo's label Big Star is almost the only one issuing blues records in Detroit!

            With the help of some blues fans like the writer Sheldon Annis and Fred Reif, they persuade the city of Detroit to launch in August 1970 a Detroit Blues Festival that features all the local bluesmen, an event largely covered by the local medias as well as the Living Blues Magazine.

            When retired from Chrysler, Bobo devotes himself full time to the blues. He is in and off stage of the Saginaw blues festival, Belle Isle Festival, Ann Arbor Jazz & Blues festival and even becomes a member of Detroit City's Culture Board... He also continues to record for his Big Star label, particularly three albums which are today sought-after items in which he further demonstrates his uncanny ability to compose striking autobiographical blues. Unfortunately, those LP's are a little bit marred by poor and muffled sound.

            With Fred Reif's help, Bobo is also able to play in some prestigious venues like the Smithsonian Institute in 1976. In 1982, Bobo is part of the American Blues Legends' European tour but, very ill, he can't play but one gig and has to come back home in a hurry.

            He dies in Detroit on August, 14, 1984 leaving an array of quite good records. We have gathered all his singles on Bobo 1 and Bobo 2 features his first (and best) Big Star LP with some tentative enhanced sound!

            The remainder of his recordings are of course quite hard to find but can be downloaded from the excellent blues blog: http://dontaskmeidontknow.blogspot.fr/

                                  Gérard HERZHAFT















BOBO JENKINS/ Complete Early Recordings



Bobo Jenkins (John Pickens Jenkins), vcl/g; Robert Richard, hca; Albert Washington, g; Harry Fleming, dms. Detroit, Mi. 1954

01. Democrat blues

02. Bad luck and trouble

Bobo Jenkins, vcl/g; g; pno. Detroit, Mi. 1955

03. Decoration day blues I & II

Bobo Jenkins, vcl/g; Robert Richard, hca; James "Rabbit" Johnson, g; bs; Ted Walker, dms. Detroit, Mi. 1957

04. Baby don't you want to go I

05. Baby don't you want to go II

06. Ten below zero I

07. Ten below zero II

08. Seasick and water bound

Bobo Jenkins, vcl/g; Eddie Taylor, g; Willie Johnson, g; Earl Phillips, dms. Chicago, Ill. 1959

09. Nothing but love

10. Tell me who

Bobo Jenkins, vcl/g; Walter Cox, pno; James "Rabbit" Johnson, g; Ted Walker, dms. Detroit, Mi. 1960

11. You will never understand

12. Tell me where you stayed last night


Bobo Jenkins, vcl/g; og; horns; James "Rabbit" Johnson, g; bs; dms. Detroit, Mi. 1972

13. When I first left home

14. Reeling and rocking

15. Cold hearted blues

16. I love that woman

17. Solid gold

18. You will never understand n°2

19. Tryin' to get you off my mind

20. 24 years

21. I sure got to leave your town

22. Have you heard the news

23. Tell me who

24. I'm glad trouble don't last always


samedi 20 avril 2019

DETROIT BLUES MASTERS/ Volume 13


DETROIT BLUES MASTERS/ Vol. 13

            Let's start this new volume of our Detroit Blues Masters' series with the legendary singer-pianist Detroit Count, "legendary" mostly for his classic two sided storytelling of the Hastings Street Opera recorded by the great Joe Von Battle and reissued umpteenth times! But Bob White, the real name of Detroit Count has much more to offer. Bob, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, around 1920 went to Detroit in 1938, seemingly already an accomplished barrelhouse pianist. He recorded as soon as 1940 with The Florida Kid and under his real name. His whereabouts during the war years are shady but it seems that he was drafted and served on the Pacific zone. Anyway, he recorded again in 1948 and 1949 as Detroit Count, then a well known character and musician of the burgeoning Hastings Street scene. He is at ease either on a boogie piece like Detroit boogie (Piano boogie) or a cocktail lounge piece. The early 1950's find him playing the piano and the organ Hammond and singing as a member of the Emmit Slay Trio. He waxed a last session in 1954 with the Sax Kari band that I unfortunately have been unable to get a copy. He disappeared from the musical scene after the mid-1950's and seems to have passed in Detroit around 1970.
           
Although he recorded his first tracks in Detroit, singer and guitarist Johnny Wright is certainly not a Detroit blues performer. Born in Centerville, Tennessee February 20 1930, he began to sing and play guitar at an early age alongside his brothers Sherman (who played harmonica) and George (at the fiddle). In 1950, Johnny went to Saint Louis to try his luck. In a couple of years, he had gained a great reputation playing regularly at the Cosmopolitan Club He was even a member of an early Chuck Berry's band! In 1953, seeking for work in Detroit, Johnny recorded for Joe Von Battle the autobiographic blues I was in Saint Louis/ I stayed down boy that were issued on the DeLuxe label. The record gained enough attention for Johnny to be recorded by Ike Turner in Saint Louis. Wright then formed his own blues band and recorded again for the local Stevens label. Always seeking more opportunities, Johnny moved to Los Angeles, joined Ike Turner's band, formed a new personal one to play regularly in Southern California. But the 1960's were lean years for the blues and Johnny had to find a day job at Terre Haute, Indiana in a steel mill while playing week ends in local clubs with a white band under the nickname "Rolling Stone". He thus recorded a late 45s with the Steve Rusin band and played locally until his death at his Terre Haute's home on 2 June 1988.
            Last but not least, singer Katie Watkins is a total unknown, having recorded two very down home blues in 1957-59, the first backed by the Sax Kari's band with Kari on guitar.
            Thanks to all of those who helped for those researches, particularly the Dave Kyle's article on the National Road Magazine.
                                               Gérard HERZHAFT

DETROIT BLUES MASTERS
Volume 13
DETROIT COUNT (Bob White), vcl/pno; Alfred Elkins, bs/vcls. Chicago, Ill. 7 November 1940
01. I'm the woogie man
02. Pullet and Hen blues
Detroit Count, vcl/pno. Detroit, Mi. 1948
03. Hastings Street Opera I & II
Detroit Count, vcl/pno; band. Detroit, Mi. 1948
04. I'm crazy about you
05. Hastings Street woogie man
06. Detroit boogie
07. Parrot Lounge boogie
Detroit Count, vcl/pno; King Porter, tpt; Wild Bill Moore, t-sax; band. Detroit, Mi. 1949
08. My last call
09. Little Tillie Willie
Detroit Count, vcl/og; Emmit Slay, g; Larry Jackson, dms. Detroit, Mi. 23 January 1953
10. You told me that you loved me
11. Brotherly love
Detroit Count, vcl/og; Emmit Slay, vcl/g; Larry Jackson, dms. New York City, 30 March 1953
12. I've learned my lesson
13. Be mine once more
14. Male call
Detroit Count, vcl/pno; Sax Kari, g; band. Detroit, Mi. 1954
Brand new gal
One room, the blues and you
JOHNNY WRIGHT, vcl/g; Band. Detroit, Mi. 17 November 1953
15. 54 blues
16. Boogie baby
17. I stayed down
18. I was in Saint Louis
19. She went away
20. Up boy
Johnny Wright, vcl/g; Raymond Hill, t-sax; Eddie Jones, t-sax; Ike Turner, g; pno; Jesse Knight Jr, bs; Eugene Washington, dms. Saint Louis, Mo. November 1955
21. The world is yours
22. Suffocate
Johnny Wright, vcl/g; Joe Whitfield, t-sax; bs; Joe Hunt, dms. Saint Louis, Mo. January 1959
23. Look at that chick
24. Gotta have you for myself
Johnny Wright, vcl/g; band. Los Angeles, Ca. 1962
25. Wine head
Who was?
Johnny Wright, vcl/g; Steve Rusin, hca; Billy Five Coats, pno; Dave Kyle, g; Steve Ridge, dms. Terre Haute, In. 1978
26. Move
27. Shut up
KATIE WATKINS, vcl; Sax Kari, g; Jimmy, bs; dms. Detroit, Mi. 1957
28. Trying to get you off my mind
Katie Watkins, vcl; band. Detroit, Mi. 1959
29. Don't take, give

Thanks to our friend Tom Thumb, we have now three 1977 tracks by Johnny Wright backed by Steve Rusin and band: Coal Shed + Johnny's bad air boogie + I was in Saint Louis (solo guitar version with Steve Rusin). Those titles are there



vendredi 5 avril 2019

SHAKEY JAKE


SHAKEY JAKE/ Complete Studio Recordings

           
James D. Harris was born 12 April 1921 (or 1920) at Earle, Arkansas and raised on his parents' small farm. He came to Chicago still a teenager. There he listened to the numerous blues players of the Windy City and saw several times John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson who encouraged him to play the harmonica and sing the blues. He so started a musical career around 1945. With a warm and soft voice, he gained some recognition in Chicago clubs but always found a better way of living in working outside the music. Garage owner, taxi driver, cook, record label owner, strip club owner (and maybe a pimp!)... James earned his Shakey Jake's nickname as a noted gambler, shaking the dice (although some better informed people (?) once told me Jake was named "Shakey" by the numerous women he knew for his bedtime skills). Anyway, he resumed a full blues career during the 1950's in training, promoting, composing blues for and playing with his nephew, Magic Sam (Jake had just married Sam's aunt). Although he is not often credited for that, Shakey Jake played an important part in creating and defining the blues style that would be later on called "West Side Sound" and many of Magic Sam's songs were penned and arranged by his uncle.
            Under his name, Shakey Jake recorded two singles in 1957 and 1958 and two odd full albums for the then fledgling Bluesville label that were very bad received at the time of being issued but that finally are aging rather well. German promoters of the first American Folk Blues Festival wanted another and more famous harp player, also a Shakey, Big Walter Horton on the bill but Willie Dixon who was at the AFBF wheel in Chicago didn't want Walter because of him being not very reliable and instead took Shakey Jake. Jake fared quite well on the very successful tour, befriended with T-Bone Walker (and even won his shoes on cards!) but turned down several offers to record and play more in Europe. In 1968, he toured and recorded in California for the World Pacific label and feeling that the L.A. weather suited him better than windy Chicago's, he settled in Los Angeles where he became a favorite of the local young blues bands like Rod Piazza or William
Clarke. He opened a club (Safara Club), launched a record label (Good Time), recorded with his protégés. But the times were hard for Jake who lived in a very bad and dangerous area and had to sell discarded paper and cardboard to recycling centres for his bread and butter.
            Quite ill during the late 1980's, he finally came back to Pine Bluff, Arkansas where he died on 2 March 1990.
            He leaves us a nice blues heritage. We have gathered here almost all of his studio recordings that thus do not include his AFBF 1962 performances which are easily available elsewhere on CDs.
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT







 BLUES EN DISQUES





samedi 16 mars 2019

LITTLE SONNY WILLIS/ DETROIT BLUES MASTERS 11


LITTLE SONNY WILLIS/ Detroit Blues Masters Vol. 11
Complete Studio Recordings 1958-74


           
Little Sonny aura connu une brève heure de gloire entre 1966 et 1974 au cours de laquelle il a été un des seuls harmonicistes de blues à réussir dans la Soul Music, alors dominante chez le public noir américain.
            Né à Casimore près de Greensboro dans l'Alabama le 6 octobre 1932, Aaron Willis a été élevé par sa mère Elmira et sa grand'mère, une Rainer d'origine Cherokee qui écoutait religieusement le Grand Ole Opry, particulièrement DeFord Bailey que Little Sonny (tout le monde l'appelait ainsi dès l'enfance) a tenté d'imiter avec l'harmonica offert tous les ans par sa mère à Noël. Venu à Detroit pour y travailler dans l'industrie automobile, Little Sonny fréquente assidument les clubs de Hastings Street dont il photographie (sa passion) les artistes et les clients et joue de l'harmonica avec les bluesmen comme John Lee Hooker, Eddie Burns, Baby Boy Warren et Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) qui a vécu quelque temps (et enregistré) à Detroit. Fondant son propre groupe qui comprend Mr Bo (Louis Collins) à la guitare et Chuck Smith au piano. Il enregistre quelques disques pour Duke (Gotta find my baby), Excello (Love shock qui est un petit succès régional) et d'autres petits labels locaux.
           
Contrairement à la plupart des bluesmen qui sont mis de côté par la montée de la vague Soul des années 60 et perdent tout contact avec le public noir, Little Sonny décide de tenter sa chance dans ce genre. Sans beaucoup changer son jeu d'harmonica Sonny se consacre à des riffs répétitifs, puissants, directs et sans fioritures, impeccablement soulignés par une rythmique funky. Il produit lui-même un 45t dans ce style pour son label Speedway (The creeper/ Latin soul) qui rencontre suffisamment d'intérêt parmi le jeune public noir pour attirer l'attention du producteur Al Bell. Sous son égide, il enregistre alors trois albums pour Enterprise, une sous-marque de Stax qui possède alors la fine fleur de la Soul Music dans son catalogue. Black & Blue, New King of the Blues harmonica et Hard Going up, produits avec soin et bien distribués permettent à Little Sonny de tourner à travers les Etats Unis avec la Volt/ Stax Revue en compagnie des plus grands noms de la Soul sudiste. Il figure ainsi dans le célèbre concert Wattstax de 1972, enregistré et filmé à Los Angeles.
            Quelque peu snobés par la critique de blues, notamment britannique, ces albums ont tous remarquablement passé le test du temps et sont aujourd'hui considérés comme des classiques, fort originaux, de l'harmonica blues.
            Mais la faillite de Stax est fatale à Little Sonny qui ne trouve plus de label et de moins en moins d'engagements. Il travaille hors de la musique avant de reformer un petit orchestre avec ses fils et d'enregistrer en 1995 Sonny side up (Sequel), beaucoup plus blues mais dans lequel on retrouve la puissance et l'originalité de ses disques antérieurs.
            Nous proposons ici, dans l'ordre chronologique, la totalité des enregistrements effectués par Little Sonny en studio entre 1958 et 1972.
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT

     
     Little Sonny (born Aaron Willis on 6 October 1932 in Alabama) has started to learn the harmonica listening to DeFord Bailey on the Grand Ole Opry. Coming to Detroit City to work in the industry, he was soon playing (and taking pictures, his hobby) and singing with local bluesmen like John Lee Hooker, Eddie Burns, Baby Boy Warren and also learned a little more of the harp playing with Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) when the bluesman stayed for awhile in Detroit during the early 50's. Sonny started recording some singles in the late 50's with a local small hit with "Love Shock". When the Soul trend started to be the strongest musical genre among the young African-Americans, Sonny, unlike most of the other bluesmen, jumped successfully in this fledgling movement and recorded three albums for Enterprise, a Stax subsidiary, that earned him some commercial success and the opportunity to tour with the main Soul Revues of the time. Sonny did not change so much his style, forceful and straightforward, but he put his solos and instrumentals in a Soul band context a la Booker T. & The MG's. Those albums were then a little bit scorned by the blues critics (partiularly in England) but they have stood up the test of time and are today considered as classic examples of the harmonica blues of this period.
            This post gathers all the studio recordings made by Little Sonny Willis between 1958 and 1974
                                                       Gérard Herzhaft


LITTLE SONNY WILLIS
Complete Studio Recordings
Little Sonny, vcl/hca; Chuck Smith, pno; Eddie Burns, g; George Deloatch, bs; James Crawford, dms. Detroit, Mi. avril 1958
01. I gotta find my baby
02. Hear my woman calling
Little Sonny, vcl/hca; Eddie Burns, g; James Johnson, bs; James Crawford, dms. Detroit, Mi. 1959
03. Love shock
04. I'll love you baby
Good good feeling I & II (unissued) 
Lovin' man (unissued)
Our friend Tom Thumb tells us that the two hitherto 1959 unissued tracks have been in fact at long last issued under the titles "Hastings Street after hours" and "Love you pretty baby". Those are currently available on Down Home Blues - Detroit - Detroit Special Wienerworld WNRCD5095. Thanks!
Little Sonny, vcl/hca; Eddie Willis, g; Chuck Smith, pno; Sam Hall, bs; James Crawford, dms. Detroit, Mi. 1966
05. The mix up
06. Inside my heart
Little Sonny, vcl/hca; band. Detroit, Mi. 1967
07. The creeper
08. Latin Soul
Little Sonny, vcl/hca; band. Detroit, Mi. 1968
09. We got a groove
10. Sonny's bag
11. Don't ask me no questions
12. Stretchin' out
13. Let's have a good time
14. Orange pineapple
15. Down don't bother me
16. The blues for you
Little Sonny, vcl/hca; Rudy Robinson, og; g; bs; George Davidson, dms. Detroit, Mi. décembre 1969 - janvier70
17. Wade in the water
18. They want money
19. Baby what you want me to do
20. Eli's pork chop
21. Hey little girl
22. Hot potato
23. Don't ask me no questions
24. Tomorrow's blues today
25. Back down yonder
26. Sad funk
27. The creeper returns
Little Sonny, vcl/hca; Ron Gorden, og; Aaron Willis, g; Eddie Willis, g; Bobby Manuel, g; The Bar-Keys, horns; bs; Willie Hall, dms. Memphis, Tn. septembre 1971
28. Hung up
29. Sonny's fever
30. You got a good thing
31. A woman named trouble
32. Honest I do
33. Paying through the nose
34. Memphis B-K
35. Where women got meat on their bones
36. I found love
Little Sonny, vcl/hca; band. Detroit, Mi. 1971
37. Things I used to do
38. Blues with a feeling
Little Sonny, vcl/hca; Rudy Robinson, kbds; Eddie Willis, g; Aaron Willis, g; Sam Witcher, g; South Memphis Horns; Roderick Chandler, bs; Curtis Sharp, dms. Detroit, Mi. 1972
39. Going down slow I & II
40. It's hard going up
41. My woman is good to me
42. You're spreading yourself a little too thin
43. The day you left me
44. You can be replaced
45. Do it right now
46. You made me strong
47. Sure is good
48. I want you