Eric Clapton

Born 30 March 1945, Ripley, Surrey, England. The world's premier living rock guitarist will be forever grateful to his grandparents, for they gave him his first guitar. The young Eric was raised by his grandparents Rose and Jack Clapp when his natural mother could not face bringing up an illegitimate child at the age of 16. He received an acoustic guitar for his 14th birthday, then proceeded to copy the great blues guitarists note for note. His first band was the Roosters, a local R&B group that included Tom McGuinness, a future member of Manfred Mann , and latterly part of the Blues Band.

Johnny Winter

Born in Beaumont, Texas on February 23, 1944, passed on July 16, 2014. John Dawson Winter III grew up surrounded by the blues, country and Cajun music. Johnny Winter was an American music legend. Since his first appearance on the pages of Rolling Stone in 1968, Johnny epitomized the fiery and flamboyant rock and roll guitar hero. Yet Johnny continually returned to the blues roots from which his music sprang.

JOHN MAYALL

 John Mayall was the paternal guardian of British blues in the 1960s. His band the Bluesbreakers was something of a blues college for young musicians, who, under Mayall's guidance, got a first class education in American blues. Everyone from guitarists Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor to bass players Jack Bruce and John McVie to drummers Mick Fleetwood and Aynsley Dunbar spent time in the Bluesbreakers. Mayall, a competent singer, keyboards player, and harmonica player, gave the band and its long line of musicians a blues vision that was vital to the growth and popularity of the English blues scene in the '60s.

OTIS RUSH

 Rush grew up on a farm in Mississippi, but moved to Chicago as a teenager. Though his first recording brought him a good deal of fame, his recording career is a bit checkered. The temperamental southpaw's live performances are worthwhile though, every one of them. International blues guitar legend. Headlined the 1995 Chicago Blues Festival with an amazing mainstage set, and was nominated for several "Best Traditional Blues Album" Grammy (including at least 1996, 1998), and Contemporary Blues - Male Artist of the Year (1996). The New York Times calls him "One of the best living bluesmen." The Chicago Reader concurs, saying "when he's on there's still no better blues guitarist in this city."

Freddie King

 Born. Billy Myles, 3 September 1934, Gilmer, Texas, USA, d. 28 December 1976, Dallas, Texas. Freddie (aka Freddy) was one of the triumvirate of Kings (the others being B.B. and Albert ) who ruled the blues throughout the 60s. He was the possessor of a light, laid-back, but not unemotional voice and a facile fast-fingered guitar technique that made him the hero of many young disciples. He learned to play guitar at an early age, being influenced by his mother, Ella Mae King, and her brother Leon. Although forever associated with Texas and admitting a debt to such artists as T-Bone Walker he moved north to Chicago in his mid-teens. In 1950, he became influenced by local blues guitarists Eddie 'Playboy' Taylor and Robert Lockwood. King absorbed elements from each of their styles, before encompassing the more strident approaches of Magic Sam and Otis Rush. Here, he began to sit in with various groups and slowly built up the reputation that was to make him a star.

T-Bone Walker

Aaron Thibeaux Walker was born in northeast Texas in 1910 to Rance and Movelia Walker. Movelia chafed under her strict, church-going parents and left for Dallas with her baby a year later. From his mother (to whom he was always close), T-Bone inherited his wanderlust and love of music. While in grade school, he left one summer with Dr. Breeding's medicine show. His freshman year he ran away to join Ida Cox's troupe, touring the state until the authorities finally caughtup with him. As a boy he lead legendary bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson around the streets of Dallas; T-Bone would take Jefferson's tin cup, shaking it in time with the music then passing it around. He could also be seen listening outside the window of a local church as the choir sang and the preacher called upon God, "my pulse ... racin'".

ELMORE JAMES

 b. 27 January 1918, Richland, Mississippi, USA, d. 23 May 1963. Although his recording career spanned 10 years, Elmore James is chiefly recalled for his debut release, 'Dust My Broom'. This impassioned, exciting performance, based on a virulent composition by country blues singer Robert Johnson , was marked by the artist's unfettered vocals and his searing electric slide guitar. James's formative years were spent in Mississippi juke joints where he befriended Rice Miller ( Sonny Boy Williamson ), a regular performer on the US radio station KFFA's King Biscuit Time show. Elmore accompanied Miller for several years, and through his influence secured his initial recording contract in 1951. 

LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS

 Lightnin' Hopkins was a texas blues great whose career spanned six decades and who, in all probability, made more recordings than any other blues artist. He was a prolific songwriter, a master raconteur, and a convincing performer. His guitar style, with its ragged rhythms and carefree collection of meter and structure could never be considered conventional. But it did possess a remarkable and authenticity, and it almost always seemed the ideal vehicle to carry his and complement his dry, sagebrush-scratched vocals.

BUDDY GUY

George Guy, 30 July 1936, Lettsworth, Louisiana, USA. An impassioned and influential guitarist, Buddy Guy learned to play the blues on a rudimentary, home-made instrument, copying records he heard on the radio. By the mid-50s he was sitting in with several of the region's leading performers, including Slim Harpo and Lightnin' Slim . In 1957 Guy moved north to Chicago. He initially joined the Rufus Foreman Band but was quickly established as an artist in his own right. The guitarist's first single was released the following year, but his career prospered on meeting Willie Dixon . This renowned composer/bassist brought the young musician to Chess Records where, as part of the company's house band, he appeared on sessions by Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.

ROBERT JOHNSON

Robert Leroy Johnson, 8 May 1911 (sources for this date vary), Hazlehurst, Mississippi, USA, d. 13 August 1938, Greenwood, Mississippi, USA. For a subject upon which it is dangerous to generalize, it hardly strains credulity to suggest that Johnson was the fulcrum upon which post-war Chicago blues turned. The techniques that he had distilled from others' examples, including Charley Patton , Son House and the unrecorded Ike Zinnerman, in turn became the template for influential musicians such as Muddy Waters , Elmore James and those that followed them. Credited by some writers with more originality than was in fact the case, it was as an interpreter that Johnson excelled, raising a simple music form to the level of performance art at a time when others were content to iterate the conventions. 

B.B. King

Riley B. King, b. 16 September 1925, Indianola, Mississippi, USA - d. 14 May 2015.  The son of a sharecropper, King went to work on the plantation like any other young black in Mississippi, but he had sung in amateur gospel groups from childhood. By the age of 16, he was also playing blues guitar and singing on street corners. When he was 20 years old, he temporarily quit sharecropping and went to Memphis, where he busked, and shared a room for almost a year with his second cousin, Bukka White . However, it was not until 1948 that he managed to pay off his debts to his former plantation boss. After leaving farming, he returned to Memphis, determined to become a star.

JOHN LEE HOOKER

Born 2 August 1917, Clarksdale, Mississippi, USA died 21 June 2001. Born into a large family of agricultural workers, Hooker's first musical experiences, like those of so many other blues singers, were in church. A contrivance made from an inner tube attached to a barn door represented his first makeshift attempts at playing an instrument, but he subsequently learned some guitar from his stepfather William Moore, and they played together at local dances. At the age of 14, he ran away to Memphis, Tennessee, where he met and played with Robert Lockwood . A couple of years later he moved to Cincinnati, where he stayed for about 10 years and sang with a number of gospel quartets. 

Muddy Waters

Born McKinley Morganfield, 4 April 1915, Rolling Fork, Mississippi, USA, d. 30 April 1983, Chicago, Illinois, USA. One of the dominant figures of post-war blues, Muddy Waters was raised in the rural Mississippi town of Clarksdale, in whose juke-joints he came into contact with the legendary Son House . Having already mastered the rudiments of the guitar, Waters began performing and this early, country blues period was later documented by Alan Lomax . Touring the south making field recordings for the Library Of Congress, this renowned archivist taped Waters on three occasions between 1941-42. 

Koko Taylor

Koko Taylor, the Queen of the Blues was born in Shelby County Tennessee on September 28, 1928, died on Wednesday June 3th 2009. She left Tennessee for Chicago, Illinois in 1952 with her husband, Robert “Pops” Taylor, and began singing in Chicago blues clubs. Koko was best known for her 1965 hit “Wang Dang Doodle,” a song written by legendary bluesman Willie Dixon. In 1975, Taylor signed with Alligator Records, and released nine records under that label. She was a legend, nominated for eight Grammys over her career. She was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1997 and was awarded the Blues Foundation Lifetime Achievement Ward in 1999. Taylor won more awards than any other Blues artist, totaling 29. She played with other musical greats such as, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Koko Taylor preformed for the last time on May 7, 2009 at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis. In addition to her musical achievements, Taylor also had several movie roles to her credit such as David Lynch’s Wild At Heart and Blues Brothers 2000.

Albert King

Born in Indianola, MS, but raised in Forrest City, AR, Albert King (born Albert Nelson). He is one of the major influences on blues and rock guitar players. Albert King played guitar left-handed, without re-stringing the guitar from the right-handed setup; this "upside-down" playing accounted for his difference in tone, His first album for Stax, 1967's 'Born Under a Bad Sign', was a collection of his singles for the label and became one of the most popular and influential blues albums of the late '60s. Early in 1969, King recorded 'Years Gone By', his first true studio album. King continued to perform until his sudden death in 1992.

Rory Gallagher

 Born 2 March 1949, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, Eire, d. 15 June 1995. Having served his musical apprenticeship in the Fontana and Impact Showbands, Gallagher put together the original Taste in 1965. This exciting blues-based rock trio rose from regional obscurity to the verge of international fame, but broke up acrimoniously five years later. Gallagher was by then a guitar hero and embarked on a solo voyage supported by Gerry McAvoy (bass) and Wilgar Campbell (drums). He introduced an unpretentious approach, which marked a career that deftly retained all the purpose of the blues without erring on the side of excessive reverence. Gallagher's early influences were Lonnie Donegan, Woody Guthrie, Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters and he strayed very little from those paths. The artist's refreshing blues guitar work, which featured his confident bottleneck playing, was always of interest and by 1972 Gallagher was a major live attraction.

Skip James

 Born June 21, 1902, in Yazoo City, Mississippi, died October 3, 1969, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Skip James was raised on the Woodbine Plantation, fifteen miles south of Yazoo City and a mile and a half from nearby Bentonia. James developed his three-finger picking style, a style practiced by Charley Patton, Mississippi John Hurt, and Jackson native Bo Carter. James's trademark sound came from his E-minor tuning, which he called "cross-note tuning.

Willie Dixon

 (bass, vocals; born July 1, 1915, died January 29, 1992) Willie Dixon has been called “the poet laureate of the blues” and “the father of modern Chicago blues.” He was indisputably the pre-eminent blues songwriter of his era, credited with writing more than 500 songs by the end of his life. Moreover, Dixon is a towering figure in the history and creation of Chicago blues on other fronts. While on staff at Chess Records, Dixon produced, arranged, and played bass on sessions for Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, and others. In no small way, he served as a crucial link between the blues and rock and roll.

JUNIOR WELLS

 Amos Blackmore, 9 December 1934, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, d. 15 January 1998, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Having eschewed parental pressure to pursue a career in gospel music, Wells began playing harmonica on the streets of west Memphis, inspired by local heroes Howlin' Wolf and Junior Parker . Having followed his mother to Chicago in 1946, the young musician won the respect of senior figures of the blues fraternity, including Tampa Red , Big Maceo and Sunnyland Slim . Wells formed a trio, initially known as the Little Chicago Devils, then the Three Deuces, with Louis Myers (guitar) and David Myers (bass). 

American Blues Masters

Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins

Born July 7, 1913 in Belzoni, Mississippi, Grammy Award winner Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins took up piano mid-career after he was stabbed in the arm. Early on, Perkins accompanied such blues legends as Big Joe Williams and Sonny Boy Williamson. In 1953, already a well known back-up player, he made his first solo recording with Sun Records. 1n 1969 he replaced Otis Spann in the Muddy Waters Band and stayed for over a decade including many years with Bob Margolin. Today, “Pinetop” Perkins is an NEA Heritage Award recipient and at 96, the oldest living GRAMMY winner.

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Born 3 October 1954, Dallas, Texas, USA, d. 27 August 1990, East Troy, Wisconsin, USA. This blues guitarist was influenced by his older brother Jimmie (of the Fabulous Thunderbirds ), whose record collection included such key Vaughan motivators as Albert King , Otis Rush and Lonnie Mack . He honed his style on his brother's hand-me-down guitars in various high school bands, before moving to Austin in 1972. He joined the Nightcrawlers, then Paul Ray And The Cobras, with whom he recorded 'Texas Clover' in 1974. In 1977 he formed Triple Threat Revue with vocalist Lou Ann Barton. She later fronted Vaughan's most successful project, named Double Trouble after an Otis Rush standard, for a short period after its inception in 1979.

Peter Green

Having served an apprenticeship in various semi-professional groups, Peter Green became one of several guitarists who joined John Mayall 's Bluesbreakers as a temporary substitute for Eric Clapton during the latter's late 1965 sabbatical. When Clapton returned, Green joined Peter Bardens (organ), Dave Ambrose (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums) in a short-lived club band, the Peter B's. The quartet completed one single for Columbia Records : 'If You Wanna Be Happy'/'Jodrell Blues' in February 1966. The entire unit subsequently formed the instrumental core to the Shotgun Express , backing singers Rod Stewart and Beryl Marsden , but the guitarist found this role too restrictive and left after a matter of weeks.


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