Today’s Music to keep me SsSssaaAaAanNNnneEee in Isolation – Elmore James

I wanted a bit of strident slide guitar and emotion packed vocals, rockin’ music and some great Chicago Blues. What better than Elmore!! King of the Slide Guitar!!

Sleepy John Miller – a little story I woke up with this morning.

Sleepy John Miller

Sleepy John Miller was an itinerant Blues busker who played for dimes on the corner of Michigan and East 43rd in Chicago, outside the diner, during the height of the depression in the early thirties. Most days he made enough to enable him to eat. He needed nothing more. His home was the park bench in Jackson Park. Sleepy John was unusual because he only played his own material, autobiographical songs of poverty, hard times tinged with hope for better times to come.

The Chesk brothers were Polish immigrants who ran a hardware store on Wabash Ave. Above the store they had a small recording studio. It was very primitive, not really a studio at all, just a bare room with a portable recording machine. They ran a little side-line recording the local talent and selling the old 78 records to the black population who lived in that part of town.

On a summer evening the sound of those records could be heard leaking into the sweltering streets. Sleepy John would smile to himself when he heard one of his own songs being played. He took great pleasure in knowing it was being listened to.

Sleepy was a regular at the Chesk store. He’d come in, record his new songs, accept a pittance, along with a promise of royalties that never seemed to materialise, and leave. He never asked for much and seemed content just to know that his songs had been recorded.

In 1933 the Chesk brothers were sitting together in the back room with a glass of brandy holding what they called their business meeting, a meeting that usually went on into the early hours and involved cards.

‘You know that guy Sleepy Joe we’ve been recording?’ Len Cask remarked. Phil and Henry looked expectantly at him. ‘His records are selling like hot cakes. I can’t press them up fast enough. His sad old songs seem to be hitting the spot during this depression.’

The brothers divided up the work. Phil was the one who usually carried out the recordings. Len ran the shop and Henry oversaw the ordering and saw to the business side of things. It worked well. Even in the hard times of depression they were making a good living.

‘Yeah, I noticed that,’ Phil said, thinking back to the recording sessions. ‘He’s got something about him.’

‘I’ve sold hundreds in the last year. Literally hundreds. We owe him a fortune in royalties.’

‘Does he ever ask?’ Henry said abruptly, placing his glass purposefully on the table.

Phil and Len looked at each other. ‘No, never.’

Henry nodded and picked up his glass.

‘Probably enough to get a nice place,’ Len remarked whimsically, swirling the amber liquid in his glass.

No more was said about Sleepy Joe.

In the winter of 1933 a blizzard blew in off the lakes. The temperature dived to -27 degrees. The next day, under a pile of newspapers on a park bench in Jackson Park, Sleepy Joe Miller was found to have taken his last sleep – frozen stiff, his arms cradling his battered guitar.

As there were no next of kin the city hurriedly buried the frozen body in an unmarked municipal grave.

‘At least he’s left us another eight sides,’ Henry remarked to his brothers.

Today’s Music To Keep me SsSssaaAAaNnnnnNEEEE in Isolation – Howlin’ Wolf – The best!!

So brilliant!! The best voice and band. Those Willie Dixon numbers are genius. The power and raw brilliance. I shall enjoy listening to some Wolf today!!!

Howlin’ Wolf – The Best Of Vol 1 (Full Album / Album complet) – YouTube

BB King – the last of the great Blues Singers – A tribute.

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OK – Riley B King is not the last of the great Blues Singers – we still have the great Buddy Guy, Billy Boy Arnold and Lazy Lester – but he was a giant of a Blues Singer and Guitarist. But BB was one of the best.

The great years of Chicago was when Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf were slugging it out to be cock of the roost, Elmore James was searing out those unparalleled slide guitar riffs, Sonny Boy Williamson (the 2nd) was laying down his harp wailing stories and the Little Walter, James Cotton, Otis Spann and Shaky Horton providing ample support. Then there was the incredible John Lee Hooker.

Those were the great years of Electric Blues. Albert King was laying it down with Stax in Memphis and then there was the brilliance of Magic Sam, T-Bone Walker, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Albert Collins, Otis Rush, Freddy King and Slim Harpo. From the melting pot of New Orleans all through Louisiana and Mississippi up to Memphis and on to Chicago in the industrial north the Blues was flourishing.

BB King was a giant in this competitive forum. As a young kid he secured a spot on WDAI radio in Memphis and never looked back. He still busked on street corners though. His articulate voice and unique guitar style of slick, fluent runs were ideal in his brilliant story-telling blues. He excelled on numbers like ‘Everyday I have the Blues’, ‘Why I sing the Blues’, ‘The Thrill has Gone’, ‘Lucille’ and the great ‘When Love Comes to Town’.

BB King got himself the reputation of being the hardest working man on the circuit. He often played 365 concerts a year. It was testament to the love he felt for his music. He set up clubs in Memphis and Chicago and gained a huge following.

He went on performing right up to the end and has now died at the age of eighty nine. He was a real link to those early years of rural Blues in Mississippi. We’ll miss him but he has left us a brilliant legacy of music.

Thanks Riley! You made the world a better place.

The Thrill has gone! We’re the poorer for its passing.


Elmore James – Shake Your Moneymaker – Lyrics of sexual liberation.

elmore james Elmore+James+PNG

Elmore was a genius on the slide guitar. This song ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ has all the exuberance of great Chicago Blues.

While Britain was prim and proper the black Americans had a lively, free sexuality. It fuelled the sixties liberalisation!

“Shake Your Moneymaker”
Shake your moneymaker
Shake your moneymaker
You got to shake your moneymaker, yeah
Shake your moneymaker
You got to shake your moneymaker
And then…

I got a gal that lives up on a hill
I got a gal that lives up on a hill
Says she’ll let me roll her
But I don’t believe she will

She won’t shake her moneymaker
Won’t shake her moneymaker
I want to roll her I keep beggin’
She won’t shake her moneymaker
Won’t shake her money maker
She won’t…


I got a girl, but she just won’t be true
I got a girl, but she just won’t be true
Won’t let me do the one good thing I tell her to

She won’t shake her moneymaker
Won’t shake her moneymaker
Won’t shake her moneymaker
She won’t shake her moneymaker
Won’t shake her moneymaker
She won’t…

Muddy Waters – Opher’s World pays tribute to a genius.

Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters exploded out of Rolling Fork Mississippi to set Chicago on fire. He’d spent his youth living in a wooden shack on a plantation ploughing the land with an old tractor. He’d developed his Blues style from the early Bluesmen Son House and Charlie Patton. When he moved from Mississippi to Chicago he electrified to create a style that could be stark and agonised or rhythmic and shrill. Muddy was unique.
The rural acoustic Muddy had first been recorded by Alan Lomax as he toured the Deep South in the 1940s recording as many Blues-singers as he could find. Those early field recordings showed a young Muddy brimming with talent. He soon left those muddy tracks for the skyscrapers to try his luck with Chess and his electrified style was an immediate success. His band took the place by storm. He’d learnt his craft from the street performers and knew how to generate excitement. Those Chicago clubs were hot, loud and sweaty and he was competing with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James. He knew he had to pull out all the stops. He made sure his act was eye-catching. He was reputed to shake up a bottle of coke and shove it down his trousers, at the climax of the song he would flip the lid off and spray the crowd.
Those clubs were tough places to play. Life was cheap. There were guns, knives, drink, drugs, womanising and the gangsters that went with it all. You had to hold your own or you’d be eaten alive. Muddy always went tolled up to deal with all eventualities.
Muddy became one of the top acts at Chess vying with Howlin’ Wolf for the best Willie Dixon numbers. They had to share!
Without Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed the British Beat boom of the early sixties would have been greatly impoverished.
In Chicago perversely by the early sixties the Chicago Blues scene was dying on its feet. The young Black kids were getting into the more sophisticated style of Tamla. Blues was for the old folks. It left the Blues guys like Muddy high and dry. Fortunately there was an avid European market opening up and eager to snatch up all the Blues offerings they could get their hands on. The Chicago Blues guys, lauded by the British Beat Bands who had been inspired by them, found themselves with a large following of young White kids. It must have seemed incredibly strange.
Muddy seemed to lap it up. He performed a number of successful tours and festivals where he delighted in playing to his new enthusiastic white fans who hung on his every word, move and note.
I was fortunate enough to catch him a number of times backed by James Cotton and Otis Spann. He was great but I could not help thinking that he was a little restrained. I think there had probably been a great deal more of the unrestrained sexuality in those steamy Chicago clubs. I would have loved to have been there!
Muddy was a giant!