|Robert Johnson – One of the earliest Delta Blues singers, he only had two known photographs and 41 tracks laid to vinyl (some of the same songs were in different keys). Covered by the likes of Widespread Panic, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and many blues artists, his life ended too soon. Clapton once said:”I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson.”
Muddy Waters – McKinley Morganfield lived as a legend in his own time, personifying the Chicago blues, and making Chess Records a mint. What else would you expect from the man who wrote “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” “Rollin’ Stone” and “Baby Please Don’t Go,” among others? He influenced Hendrix, Clapton, the Stones, Johnny Winter and SRV, not to mention countless other musicians.
John Lee Hooker – “Mr. Lucky” had blues sound all to himself. The man who brought us “Boogie Chillen” finally faded away – R.I.P. Though probably known better for “I’m in the Mood” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer,” my favorite Hooker tune is “The Waterfront.” It reminds me of many coastlines I’ve encountered in the U.S.
Taj Mahal – One of the few good experiences I had at Bonnaroo 2004, Taj jammed and noted four generations in attendance. This Grammy-winner plays a mean dobro, among other instruments. For a nice overview, try his “In Progress & In Motion, 1965-1998.” For something a little more on the edge, try “Kulanjan,” his album with kora master Toumani Diabate that mixes blues with West African music for something that may be similar to music played hundreds of years ago.
|Leadbelly – Huddie Ledbetter served two stints in jail before folklorist John A. Lomax recorded his plea for pardon for the Library of Congress. Though he never got to enjoy the commercial success of his music, Leadbelly did gain notoriety. Along with Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly is considered genuine Americana and is rightfully acknowledged as the “King of the 12-string Guitar.”
Willie Dixon – My first taste of the “real” blues came from this man. His songs made hits for Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Little Walter, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Rogers, Sonny Boy Williamson, Magic Sam, Zeppelin, Cream and the Doors, among others. Maybe you’ve heard “Back Door Man,” “I Can’t Quit You,” “You Shook Me” or “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man?” If not, you don’t know what you’re missin’.
Jimi Hendrix – Some of you cats who don’t know better will be bamboozled by finding Jimi here in the blues. As stated, you just don’t know any better. Take time to listen to “Blues” – you’ll have hair standin’ on end. When he got out of the army, Hendrix went South … and we’re glad.;) How else could we have gotten “Red House” or “Voodoo Chile?” Hendrix redefined the blues in his own image, but then again, Hendrix redefined about everything.
Stevie Ray Vaughan – I’m drivin’ down JFK Boulevard in North Little Rock when the radio screams, “Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash today.” I had to stop on the side of the road. If I had never listened to SRV, I’d have never gotten into the blues. He may not have invented the Texas blues, but he defined the sound.
Ronald W. Sitton
(Last verified: 11/20/15)