O Grande Amor
The Blues Interlude
The Blues was born from slavery. It is more than a little presumptuous for an Italian-American born in New England to write about the blues. With that caveat in mind, I can only write about the feelings that the blues evokes within me. As was the case with many young white people in the 1960’s, I was a big Rolling Stones fan. The Stones revered the great blues artists of this country. In those days there were liner notes and credits on the jacket and record that one could actually read. I would encounter names like Willie Dixon, Jay McShann, Bobby Womack, Bobby Troup, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Elmore James. I wondered who these people were. The Beatles covered songs by The Isley Brothers and Smokey Robinson. So did other British bands like The Yardbirds and John Mayall. The Rolling Stones recorded an instrumental called “2120 South Michigan Avenue” on their “12x5” album. That was the address of Chess records in Chicago and one of the first places that The Stones visited when they came to the USA. The covers of blues artists’ songs by British groups and folk singers in the USA led to a blues revival in the 1960’s. This in turn revitalized the careers of many blues artists previously ignored by the major record labels. “Smokestack Lightning” by Chester Burnett aka Howlin’ Wolf was recorded by many white bands both in the UK and USA. One of this country’s greatest contributions to music went ignored for too long. This country needed a mirror to gaze into in order too see what its black people had created. The British bands and American ones like Paul Butterfield helped to provide the impetus that gave the blues its due on the world stage.
At one point in the 1960’s a friend gave me “Chicago/The Blues/Today!” which was a three record set. Although the recording acoustics were not great, it lead me to Otis Spann and other blues artists that I was not familiar with at the time like James Cotton, Homesick James and Otis Rush.
My preference in blues soon gravitated toward Chicago Blues which is not exclusively guitar driven. It includes piano or organ and horns. To me it is a fuller rounder sound as opposed to a lead guitar out front. This is not to say that I do not appreciate skillful blues guitarists. It is just that I believe they should have their turn leading and then step back for others in the band to solo.