Tag Archives: Blues

Reclaimed Soul Episode 037: Otis Clay’s Truth Is…

otisclayOn this installment of Reclaimed Soul (my radio show), we’re be graced by Chicago vocalist Otis Clay. We listen to some favorite deep records from his 50+ year career that spans Gospel, Soul, and Blues.

We also hear about the father figures in Otis Clay’s career, and about why he decided to start his own record label. He even talks about how it felt to find out that he’s “big in Japan” (among other places).

Plus, we’ll sample his newest album, “Truth Is” which was produced and arranged by Chicago Soul heavyweight Tom Tom Washington (Tom Tom also contributed to this interview).

for more on Reclaimed Soul, visit: vocaloreclaimedsoul.tumblr.com

 

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More and More: Little Milton’s plea for more as the cost of living was skyrocketing.

Whew. That was a long blogpost title, huh? I know. But, let me explain:

In late 1967, Chess Records’ Checker subsidiary released this record entitled “More and More” by Little Milton, where the chorus sings and growls:

“More and More… all the time!”

Ironically, the flip is a meandering soulful blues cut called “The Cost of Living”. So, maybe the editorial statement of the release was:

“The Cost of Living” is “More and More”!

Or, maybe, on a more hopeful note:

With “The Cost of Living” growing “More and More”… find More with Less!

Either way, it’s a beautifully grooving little record by Little Milton in the vein of all his grooving blues-soul hybrids cut here in Chicago in the late 1960s (my favorites being “Drifting Drifter”, “Blind Man”, “Don’t Leave Her”, “Poor Man”, and more). It also just happens to make me pretty happy.

James (“Little”) Milton Campbell, Jr. recorded most of his best known material here in Chicago, but he hailed from St. Louis. In addition to growling soulful vocals, he also played blues guitar. Oh yes, and he wasn’t particularly little.


Howlin’ Wolf: getting in the mood with a psychedelic “Spoonful”

An absolutely beastly rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful” by… Howlin’ Wolf. I feel like playing this cut tomorrow night.

Part of a push at Chess Records in the late 1960s (spearheaded by Gene Barge and Marshall Chess) to rerecord both Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters in the then contemporary Psychedelic Blues style featuring awe-inspiring session work by Morris Jennings, Phil Upchurch, and more. Read more about this groovy situation here.


You’re Tuff Enough: junior wells’ new breed blues

  • The title cut off this 1968 album is a bluesy monster produced by Charles Stepney with more than enough groove to stay squarely in the pocket.  Also on this album is the local hit “Up in Heah”, another blues-infused party track.  Both of the records will make sceptics rethink the blues. According to the back of the album:

“Talk about somebody being “tuff” enough. One night in Pepper’s Lounge, a little night spot on Chicago’s South Side, Junior Wells was introduced as “the little Giant of the blues”. It was around midnight and the Chatter that had been incessant for about three hours ceased. In cool dignity the little black walked to the stage, and said: “I’m gonna sing them damn blues, and you’d better dig it.” This audience at Pepper’s where all the blues greats have passed through and left their mark, is as hip an audience as any performer ever faced. When you bring them slow blues it better be nasty, and when you swing it better make them move. Shoot blanks and you won’t last long. Junior Wells could stay there eternally. “

–David Llorens

 

 


Good Lovin… or else

This is a record that embodies Chicago Grit and Get Down.  “Good Lovin” by the legendary Otis Clay is at once a love song and a warning.  Take heed.  Says he: “And if you walk out my life, I hope you fall and break your neck”.  If that ain’t grit, I don’t know what is….

A favorite at my gigs, it’s a mid seventies bluesy stomper with some wah wah sweetening by Benjamin Wright. Released on Echo Records here in Chicago, later on Elka Nationally. Enjoy.

Light on the South Side Book Release

light-on-the-southsideblog

In the mid-’70s, photographer Michael Abramson set his viewfinder on the South Side of Chicago, specifically the many clubs and lounges that served as Hothouses of street fashion (among them, the legendary High Chaparral and the Showcase Lounge). They reflected where blues, soul and disco collided:  a dream of grit and gold lamé.  The resulting photos have been compiled into the book A Light on the South Side.

The Numero Group presents:
A Light On The South Side
Release party, Discussion, and Social
Sunday, November 1st 2pm – 6pm
Chicago Cultural Center
Discussion with Michael Abramson and Rick Kogan in the Claudia Cassidy Theater
Reception in the G.A.R. Rotunda

Following the talk there will be a book signing and reception where Intelligentsia Coffee will be serving a special Numero-inspired creation, the 24-Carat Blend, and the Numero staff will be playing South Side classics in the G.A.R. Rotunda.


Howlin’ Wolf (covering Howlin’ Wolf)

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“Evil”.  A fundamental Howlin Wolf record, created here in Chicago, back in the 1950s.  A platter of standard electrified Delta Blues.  Now, add Marshall Chess (son of Chess Records’ Leonard Chess), the turbulent and psychedelic 1960s, and some of the best jazz, funk, and soul studio players in the city.  Remake and enjoy.

Well that’s not exactly true.  Howlin Wolf (above) didn’t like the remake.  Actually, the first album of such remakes, released on Chess Records’ Cadet Concept label was called:

‘This is Howlin’ Wolf’s
new album.
He doesn’t like it.
He didn’t like his electric
guitar at first either.’

The album, the brainchild of Marshall Chess, was a product of the times.  In the sixties, white rock groups from America and the UK were gangstering Chicago Blues records.  They remade them nearly word for word and listed themselves as artists, thus robbing originators like Howlin Wolf  and Muddy Waters out of royalties.  Chess decided to re-record the artists performing their own compositions in a then-contemporary psychedelic blues style.  The albums were panned by purist critics, the same critics that called white psychedelic blues artists like Cream “visionary”.

But, I like it.  And I hope you do, too.  For info on Muddy Waters’  psychedelic blues remakes, click here.


Light: On the South Side…Grit and Gold Lamé

I, for one, have stared for more than a moment at the forgotten, peeled paint on the side of the 408 Club building over on 79th Street (just East of King Drive).  In mid-seventies hipster font, the ad reads “Sheba Disco”, apparently some sort of disco club.  I’ve wondered what manner of elephant bells and Quiana was to be found there in its heyday. 

In the mid-’70s, photographer Michael Abramson set his viewfinder on the South Side of Chicago, specifically the many clubs and lounges that served as Hothouses of street fashion (among them, the legendary High Chaparral and the Showcase Lounge). They reflected where blues, soul and disco collided:  a dream of grit and gold lamé.   

Those photos have been compiled in Light: On the South Side, which is set for a November release by local label Numero Group.  The package also includes a 17-track vinyl-only comp entitled Pepper’s Jukebox, featuring various local juke joint luminaries including Bobby Rush and Little Mack. Cratediggers, this one also includes the one-time cockroach of Chicago 45rpm collecting: “I’m a Streaker, Baby” by Arlean Brown.  Remember that one?  Couldn’t even give that one away, it was so plentiful.  Anyway, check out the photo gallery, above (from the forthcoming book).  Be inspired.  Jive on.

 photo by Michael Abramson224_x600_cl_light18


Electric Mud: Electrified Delta Blues got a New Jolt

muddy rain

(“Tom Cat” by Muddy Waters)

The late sixties in Chicago was a wild time.  The Democratic National Convention and the Riots in 1968 labeled us as unruly, Serial Killer Richard Speck in 1966 labeled us as unsafe, and Martin Luther King, Jr.,  (marching in North Lawndale for equal housing in 1966), labeled us as a place that “The people of Mississippi ought to come to….to learn how to hate”. And yet we created such sweet music…

  Roaring blues, sophisticated jazz, gritty garage rock, smoothed out vocal pop, and shimmering soul (among other genres) all “jus grew” here.  Chess Records (based near 22nd and Michigan) was, in fact, the epicenter of the Electrified Delta Blues that changed the sound of popular American music FOREVER.  That was the music that served as rock-and-roll’s bassinet.  So it was no surprise that Chess Records, nearing the end of the 1960s and reinvigorated with fresh young talent (producer/arranger Charles Stepney, drummer Morris Jennings, and guitarist Phil Upchurch among them), decided to have their living legend artists (i.e. Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf) re-record their groundbreaking 1950s work in an updated funky psychedelic blues style. 

 White psychedelic rock artists had been ripping off their artists’ work for years.  Now they were, in effect, reworking their own art.  Muddy and Wolf weren’t feeling it.  Critics of the day panned the works. Yet, today, the albums born out of this time (including “Electric Mud”) have an almost cultish following.  Produced by Marshall Chess and the legendary Gene Barge, this body of work is just another example of good old Chicago invention….. For a sample of Howlin Wolf’s psychedelic blues tryst, click here.

Drummer Morris Jennings discusses Muddy Waters’ album “Electric Mud” with Ethnologist Jeff Thomas.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Morris Jennings Discusses Muddy Water…“, posted with vodpod

Hi-Fi White: Foodstamps, Bulldogs, and Hollywood


Wilbur White was a nightclub singer on the South Side of Chicago whose bluesy growl wielded so much power that he was nicknamed Hi-Fi.  He’d been in the clubs since the 1950s, and although I hear he put on a knockout of a show, that never translated into record sales.  Speaking of knockouts, he played bit roles on Sanford & Son and in the boxing-in-prison movie Penitentiary (1979).  In the film, he was cast as the gap-toothed transvestite Sweet Pea.  Behind the scenes, the film was so under-budget that White took initiative and collected food stamps from cast and crew, becoming the production’s official caterer.  He fed over one hundred actors and technical staffers for the final week of shooting.   That’s good ol’ Chicago can-do!

here’s a clip of perhaps his signature number, Bulldog.

and here’s the trailer for the film:


NOTE: view the comments on this post for first hand stories and recollections…