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Tim: Journeyman

Listening to Field Hollers
on my iPod

... the Blues in ¾ time

t has always amazed me how the blues have wrapped themselves around our little planet. Magic Sam and Charlie Musselwhite referred to them as a "comforter," B.B. King thinks of them as medicinal, "they're good for what ails you." For Johnny Winter, they break down to pure "emotion."

No matter how you feel about the blues, the fact is they originated out of necessity as a unique, free form means of communication. Refined shouts and hollers and syncopated work rhythms that could both inform and entertain. Field hands often learned of the latest plantation news while maintaining a steady working pace or they might sing and shout along with songs based on legendary tales or Delta lore.  Following that line of thought, the blues could very well be considered the original Internet.

Johnny Winter with writer
The Blues according to Johnny Winter... "it makes me feel good.
It makes me very happy."
Photo by: Yachiyo Mattox

The Blues traveled out of the Deep South, northward, strapped to the backs of laborers searching for something, anything better. They eventually found both coasts via minstrel wagons, empty boxcars and countless miles of dust-choked roads. Pausing only long enough for donations and scattered applause, the blues could be found at most crossroads, on busy street corners, in jukes, roadhouses and the occasional community fish fry.

Nothing could stop them; not mountains, oceans, or borders, poverty, not even wars. If anything, those challenges just fanned the flames. World War II instantly spread the genre to international shores. When you think about it, it's impossible to not experience 'the blues' when you're far from home, missing the ones you love and then there's that little matter of having a country full of people you don't even know, trying to kill you! Pretty much your ultimate mood breaker.

Chicago harp legend, James 'Snooky' Pryor witnessed some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting through the Soloman Island chain in the South Pacific. He told me after TAPS every night, they would leave the Army PA system hot and Snooky would break out his harmonica and blow some mournful, moaning blues through the dense, jungle battle lines.

You just know, that had to create a major pucker factor for the Japanese fighting forces. Sitting in total darkness, on an island in the middle of nowhere and hearing this woeful, wail drifting through the banana trees and coconut palms. Got those mean old, low down propaganda blues, AGAIN! Amplified, no less….another military 'blues' first. And I still can't listen to Snooky play 'Judgment Day' without thinking about that story.

Post war prosperity cast new light and gave players fresh perspective. The blues began to jump and swing more than ever. An edgier sound electrified Memphis and Chicago and as the 1950's dawned, a younger, hipper and whiter audience began to plug in. I think it was McKinley Morganfield who said it best, "The Blues had a baby and they named it Rock and Roll."

Carl Perkins, Little Richard Penniman, Elvis, Ike Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and dozens of others began to stretch and eventually blur music's segregated boundaries. Pandemonium ensued. The Rock and Roll onslaught gave much wider exposure to blues and folk music and breathed new life into the musicians that played them.

As the phenomenon spread into 1960's Europe, it seemed to reign-down heaviest in the United Kingdom. British teens especially, became infatuated with early Delta players and began plumbing blues roots and recordings. Adding their own style and presentation to the traditional, they packed up guitars, amps and drum kits and brought it right back to America. And America discovered the Blues all over again.

An extraordinary route to travel and even Johnny Winter had a tough time explaining it. "It's very strange," he said. "I don't know why it took that. I guess the blues has always been around and people didn't think much of it. When the English people started doing it, it was a whole different thing and they (American youth) picked up on it."

Pick up on it, they did and this time on a much larger and more enthusiastic scale. The Newport Jazz Festival in 1960 featured Muddy Waters with his band that included Otis Spann and James Cotton. The Newport Folk Festival provided a showcase for a whole host of the originators, from Son House and Robert Pete Williams, to Sleepy John Estes and Mississippi John Hurt.

Bill Graham's 'Winterland' and both Fillmore venues packed them in with Rock and Blues bills. Johnny Winter, Albert King, Hot Tuna, Janis Joplin, the Allman Brothers and Charlie Musselwhite. James Cotton readily admitted he’d done the East Coast - West Coast Fillmore run so many times, "he half-expected to die somewhere in-between." Chicago's Southside clubs spread rapidly into the suburban north side thanks in part to Mike Bloomfield, Big Joe Williams and a few dozen special friends.

The music was breaking down the cultural and racial barriers and replacing them with stronger, albeit 'tie-dyed' bonds to a brand new and very receptive generation of fans. The fervor behind the British Invasion added a tremendous amount of alternatives to the mix. And it's quite possible that the respect shown by overseas fans toward our blues elders became the catalyst for America's youth to take a second listen.

For a great number of baby boomers, myself included, if it hadn't been for John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, the Stones, Zeppelin, Cream and of course our homegrown, Johnny Winter, Jimi, Janis, Paul Butterfield and the Doors, we may have never RE-discovered the awesome talents of Chester Burnett, Willie Dixon, McKinley Morganfield, not to mention those who came before.

Just goes to show, you've got to keep those lines of communication open. Either that or invest in call waiting.

Let Tim know what you think about his traveling adventure.

I was there at the Shrine to see Bob come in riding on a baby elephant. He says in the interview it was either '68 or 69: it was both – it was New Year's Eve (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite),

Debbie Hollier, Nevada City, CA

* * * *

Who else played with Canned Heat and Deep Purple at the Shrine in '68?

Bill, LA

I think the Shrine show on New Years in '68, where Bob Hite rode out on the elephant, also featured Poco, Lee Michaels, Black Pearl, Love Army and Sweetwater. Don't know that Deep Purple was booked on that evening.

Bill, maybe you're thinking about the International Pop Fest in San Francisco a few months earlier that featured these fine folks... Procol Harum, Iron Butterfly, Jose Feliciano, Johnny Rivers, Eric Burdon And The Animals, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grass Roots, The Chambers Brothers, Deep Purple, Fraternity of Man & Canned Heat or possibly the following year in Jan of 1970 when Deep Purple appeared with Canned Heat and Renaissance on a triple-bill in London at the Royal Albert Hall.

One final note: The current Johnny Otis piece didn't mention it, but it was Mr. Otis that took Canned Heat into the studio the very first time to record in 1966. Small world, ain't it?

Tim

* * * *

Thank u for posting it! Bob is still boogin' around!! (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite),

Stefano Di Leonardo, Fisciano (Salerno, Italy)

* * * *

Great Read! (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite) I will post it on Bob "THE BEAR" Hite Official Facebook Page,

Dave Tohill, Brandon, UK

* * * *

Hello Tim, thank you so much for letting a huge Canned Heat fan check out this
interview with the Bear. I really enjoyed it.

Best regards,

Rick Caldwell, Fairfield, Ohio

* * * *

I knew Bob Hite in the 60's. Canned Heat played at our high school prom 1966 Rexford High. The Family Dog, Chet Helms, Skip Taylor.

Max Kalik, Los Angeles, CA

Dear Tim,

I just discovered you from an email I received from Preston Smith disclosing his next event. I wanted to tap into his website Prestonsmithmusic but it would not link from your site for some reason. I have to say Preston really is a genius and I met him in Glendale at a jazz club about three years ago, after a fatal accident. By chance, I was invited to spend time hanging out with Preston and some friends after his gig. He is everything you say and I will never forget his amazing creativity and his positive influence in my life.

Janelle, Palm Springs, CA

Love the article! (on Lowell George) Lowell was my father.

Forrest George, Warren, Vermont

This Bob Hite interview is the most interesting thing I have read concerning Canned Heat. I have Fito's book, but I always was interested in learning more about Bob Hite. You did it here my friend...great interview!!!!!

Tony Musto - Pittston, PA

Hey Tim, Great article on Preston! I really enjoyed it and you did your homework. I'll probably catch PS this weekend.

Best,

Dave - Northridge, CA

* * * *

Hello, what a great article on Preston Smith! I actually met Preston one evening after an Acoustic set of my own at the Prestigeous Carlton Hotel here in Atascadero, Ca. We were loading up and he happened to be walking down the sidewalk and stop to say hello. I must say that he is a truly interesting and talented man that NEVER forgets to let me know when he is playing around the Central Coast where I live. It was so fun to read about who he truly is...(as if you don't know him the first time you meet him)! My adventures have only just begun as I recently returned from Nashville recording my self titled debut EP. I can only hope that my adventures down the road are as enlightening as Preston's and that I have the honor of a great writer such as yourself to share them with the world. Thank you for doing just that, sharing "Preston Smith" with the world.

Sincerely,

Amy Estrada - Atascadero, CA

Hi Tim,

My name is Bert, I'm from Italy and I'm a blues harmonica player...I read your article and it reminded me of the two trips I made in the Delta, in 2008 and 2009. I love Frank's music and I think it's a shame people don't really know his work. It's important that people like you write about him. Thank you! In the Delta I was only a "stupid" tourist, but it was a great, unique experience I consider one of the most important in my life: driving on the highways, Listening to the blues everywhere, jamming in places like Red's and ground Zero in Clarksdale or the Blues Bar in Greenville... are priceless things, something I will keep in my heart for the rest of my life. I met a beautiful, lovely woman there too (named Hope), but I behaved like a stupid kid and I lost her... Alas! I will never forget that days and the chance I had to find happiness...Well, I also wrote something about Frank on a website, but it's in Italian... I give you the link of the first part (the second will be published in the next weeks) anyway if you know some Italian or somebody who can understand it... Even if I'm thinking of making a translation ...www.bluessummit.com

Cheers,

Bert - Pavia, Italy

I wanna be Tim!

Brent, Seattle, WA

* * *

Those pictures give you an idea of what the Rockin' Pneumonia actually looks like and it looks BAD! But the man can still play! Enjoyed the article - give us more TRAVELING BLUES BOY!

Steve Thomas - NA, INDIANA

* * *

Good Stuff, Tim. Having been a Johnny Winter fan since the first time I heard Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo, it was great hearing his take on some his highlight moments that defined his blues career. His affiliation with Muddy Waters was particularly interesting. Kudos for bringing that out. Thanks to your dedication to covering the blues scene, this "one of a kind" music still lives for servicemen & women around the world. Keep it Up!

Brandon Williams, Moreno Valley, CA

* * *

Impressive! What a legend and how cool that you got so much time with him, Tim.

Don, Louisville, KY

Tim - Great article, enjoyed Little Feat/Lowell George story, really brought me back in time. Did not know he was a fishin' man! Wonder what surfaces out of the abyss of your memory next?

Steve Thomas, New Albany, IN

* * * *

Tim,

I really liked your travel back in time with Lowell and Little Feat. As a long time Feat fan (mostly the stuff with Lowell) it was cool to read. I learned several of their songs back in the day and they still stand up today when played live. Another singer I really liked from back then is TimBuckley. Thanks for the article.

Chet Hogoboom, Arroyo Grande, CA

Loved your last issue of TB, especially the Mayall piece. I want that guy's job!

Brent, Seattle, WA

Tim,

This is a great write up. Has it been printed in any magazines? It's better than a lot of things I read in my guitar magazines, so props for that.

Caejar, Moreno Valley, CA

Tim,

I can tell that you have this passion for jazz. I wonder if you yourself play any instrument. Or are you just a groupie like most of us?

I talked with a mid-aged flute jazz artist a few weeks ago and he lamented that despite his talents (and he is extremely talented) he says that the industry hasn't been kind to him. He said jobs are few and far between. He said the music industry is combating piracy and competition due to technology being readily available to private homes and that they are not as profitable as before. So they are replacing live talent for synthesized or digital instruments.

Do you see the same trend in your relationships with your music network?

Bob, Pasadena, CA



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