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Posts Tagged ‘Otis Spann’

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 / brianmcmillenphotography.com

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 (March 21, 2011) Pinetop Perkins / Blues Great

Posted by themusicsover on March 21, 2011

Joseph “Pinetop” Perkins
July 7, 1913 – March 21, 2011

Pinetop Perkins was a Delta blues pianist and singer whose remarkable career spanned from the 1920s until his passing in 2011.  At 97, he was one of the last surviving original Delta bluesmen who were still playing and releasing records.  In March of 2011, he became the oldest person to ever win a Grammy.  It was for Joined At The Hip that he recorded with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.  Perkins began his career as a guitarist, but was forced to switch to piano after he injured the tendons in one of his arms.   By the 1950s, he was touring with Earl Hooker. He also made his first record, “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” at Sam Phillips’ legendary Sun Studios in Memphis.  Perkins moved to Chicago in 1968 and within a year, he was hired by Muddy Waters to replace Otis Spann in his band.   Perkins played with Waters for more than a decade.  It wasn’t until 1988 – and countless vinyl appearances as a sideman – that Perkins finally released his first album, After Hours.   He went on to record several more over the next three decades.  In 2004, while driving in La Porte, Indiana, 94-year-old Perkins was struck by a train – yes a TRAIN – and although his car was demolished, he walked away with minor injuries.  Perkins continued to perform a couple shows nearly every week in Austin where he had eventually settled.  Pinetop Perkins passed away on March 21, 2011.

Thanks to Stephen Brower for the assist.

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Joined At the Hip: Pinetop Perkins & Willie

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Died On This Date (April 24, 1970) Otis Spann / Chicago Blues Legend

Posted by themusicsover on April 24, 2010

Otis Spann
March 21, 1930 – April 24, 1970

Otis Spann was one of greatest blues pianists to come out of post-war Chicago. And some consider him the greatest, period. Spann gigged around mostly on his own throughout much of his teens and then joined up with Muddy Waters in 1952. He appeared on nearly every one of his Chess recordings. Oddly, Chess failed to recognize his talents as a singer, so he left to record for Candid, Vanguard, Storyville and others. Otis Spann would have no doubt earned the fame he deserved had he lived past the age of 40. He died of liver cancer on April 24, 1970

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Otis Spann

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Died On This Date (October 3, 1976) Victoria Spivey / Early Blues Great

Posted by themusicsover on October 3, 2009

Victoria Spivey
October 15, 1906 – October 3, 1976

With Louis Armstrong

With Louis Armstrong

Victoria Spivey was a Houston born blues singer who came to prominence in the 1930s.  Her career began with her singing at local parties and clubs while still in her teens.  Before she knew it she was sharing the stage or singing on records with the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Louis Armstrong and King Oliver.  Spivey transitioned to film during the ’30s, appearing in such movies as Hallelujah!.  She retired from show business in 1951, but made a comeback during the folk revival of the early ’60s.  During her later career she recorded with the likes such greats as Otis Rush, Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, and even Bob Dylan who played harmonica and sang back-up on a 1962 recording.  Victoria Spivey died of an internal hemorrhage at the age of 69.

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Victoria Spivey Vol. 1 1926-1927 - Victoria Spivey

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