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Posts Tagged ‘Howlin’ Wolf’

RIP, James Cotton (March 16, 2017) Blues Great

Posted by themusicsover on March 16, 2017

James Cotton
July 1, 1935 – March 16, 2017

Photo: Brian McMillen /

According to a press release from Alligator Records, world-renowned blues harmonica master James Cotton, whom Rolling Stone called, “One of the greats of all time, burning with brilliant virtuosity,” died on March 16, 2017 of pneumonia at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas. He was 81. His overwhelmingly powerful harmonica playing was one of the iconic sounds of the blues. He toured worldwide for over 60 years.

Born on a cotton plantation in Tunica, Mississippi on July 1, 1935, Cotton was a working musician by age nine. He learned harmonica directly from Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller), toured with Williamson and Howlin’ Wolf, and recorded for Sun Records in 1953 before spending 12 years touring and recording with Muddy Waters (starting at age 20). Cotton was featured on Muddy’s famous 1960 At Newport LP on Chess Records, including the iconic version of Got My Mojo Working, one of the classic recordings of Chicago Blues.

After his 1953 Sun sessions, Cotton didn’t record under his own name again until the mid-1960s, with tracks included in the groundbreaking Chicago/The Blues/Today! series of LPs on Vanguard. Along with Otis Spann, he cut The Blues Never Die! for Prestige.

In 1966 he formed The James Cotton Band, quickly earning a reputation as one of the most commanding and potent live blues performers in the world—a man who could literally suck the reeds out of his harmonica from the pure force of his playing. He made his initial solo albums, three for Verve and one for Vanguard, in the late 1960s.

Cotton’s blistering talent and full-throttle energy kept him in demand at concert halls all over the country. He played the Fillmore East in New York, the Fillmore West in San Francisco and every major rock and blues venue in between. During the 1970s, he cut three albums for Buddah and one for Capitol.

Cotton signed with Alligator Records in 1984, releasing two solo albums and the famed Harp Attack! with Junior Wells, Carey Bell and Billy Branch. He won a Grammy Award in 1996 for his Verve album, Deep In The Blues and recorded four albums for Telarc Records before returning to Alligator in 2010. His most recent recording was 2013’s Grammy-nominated Cotton Mouth Man.

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Died On This Date (May 30, 2012) Pete Cosey / Guitarist For Miles Davis

Posted by themusicsover on May 30, 2012

Pete Cosey
October 9, 1943 – May 30, 2012

Pete Casey was a legendary Chicago guitarist who is most often associated with Miles Davis with whom he played between 1973 and 1975.  But his musical footprint by no means stopped with the jazz great.  For several years, Cosey was a house guitarist for Chess Records which afforded him the opportunity to play on records by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Etta James.  After he parted ways with Davis in 1975, Cosey continued working but with mostly far lower-profile artists than he had during his early years.  Pete Cosey passed away on May 30, 2012.  He was 68.

Thanks to Harold Lepidus for the assist.

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Died On This Date (December 4, 2011) Hubert Sumlin / Chicago Blues Legend

Posted by themusicsover on December 4, 2011

Hubert Sumlin
November 16, 1931 – December 4, 2011

Hubert Sumlin was a Chicago Blues electric guitarist and singer who is most often remembered for his time playing with Howlin’ Wolf during the 1960s.  Decades later, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at #43 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time. Raised in Arkansas, Sumlin was just six when he began playing to guitar, and he was still just a youngster when he first met Wolf after sneaking into one of his shows.  Years later, Wolf, who had by then settled in Chicago, invited Sumlin to move up and join him in his band.  By 1955, Sumlin was the lead guitarist of the group, and would stay as such for the rest of Wolf’s career.  Sumlin can be heard on Wolf’s landmark album, Howlin’ Wolf, which is considered one of the greatest blues albums of all times.  He also played with Muddy Waters for a brief time.   Sumlin released several of his own albums between 1964 and 2004 when he had to give up recording after having one of his lungs removed.  He did, however, continue to perform up into his final years.   In 2008, Sumlin was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, and over the years he received four Grammy nominations.  Hubert Sumlin died of heart failure on December 4, 2011.  He was 80.

Thanks to Harold Lepidus for the assist.

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I Know You - Hubert Sumlin

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Died On This Date (November 20, 2010) Albert “Little Smokey” Smothers / Chicago Bluesman

Posted by themusicsover on November 20, 2010

Albert “Little Smokey” Smothers
January 2, 1939 – November 20, 2010

Little Smokey Smothers was a popular Chicago-area blues singer and guitarist.   Smothers was playing the guitar by the time he turned 15, and within two years, he had moved from his home in Mississippi to Chicago to make his mark.  In those early years, he played with the likes of Magic Sam, Otis Rush and Howlin’ Wolf, for whom he played on his Chess recordings.   During the early ’60s, Smothers met Paul Butterfield and soon helped him form the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  He played with most of the blues greats during the ’60s, but his career all but dried up by the ’70s so he left the business to work construction.  His music career enjoyed a renaissance during the ’90s – he spent the next several years performing at popular blues festivals and recording albums.  After his health began to deteriorated during the mid-2000s due to diabetes, old friends and collaborators like Elvin Bishop stepped in to help with fund raisers, etc.  On November 20, 2010, Little Smokey Smothers died of natural causes.  He was 71.

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That's My Partner! - Elvin Bishop

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Died On This Date (August 12, 1997) Luther Allison / Chicago Blues Legend

Posted by themusicsover on August 12, 2010

Luther Allison
August 17, 1939 – August 12, 1997

Luther Allison was a gifted Chicago blues guitarist who backed up both Howlin’ Wolf and James Cotton.  One of his first admires was Muddy Waters who invited Allison to join him on stage when he was just 18.  He started making records in the early ’60s and building a substantial following based in part on his lengthy live shows.   In 1972, Allison became the first and one of the few ever blues artists to be signed to Motown Records.  During the late ’70s, he moved to France where he was very popular.  He eventually moved back to the United States were he continued to perform and record well into the ’90s.  In 1997, Luther Allison died of a brain tumor at the age of 57.

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Luther's Blues - Luther Allison

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