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Chess Blues - Disc 4


1. First Time I Met The Blues – Buddy Guy
(Eurreal Montgomery, Flomont Music Publishing Co., BMI)
Recorded March 2, 1960
George "Buddy" Guy (vocal-guitar)
Jarrett Gibson, Bob Neely (tenor sax)
Donald Hankins (baritone sax)
Little Brother Montgomery (piano)
Jack Meyers (bass)
Fred Below (drums)

Originally Chess single 1753

One of the most under-recorded guitarists of his day was Otis Rush (born near Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1934). A brief stint at Cobra, where he recorded the original of Willie Dixon's "I Can't Quit You, Baby," ended when that label folded, and his next stop, in 1960, was at Chess. "So Many Roads, So Many Trains" is highlighted by Otis' emotional reading, with fine support from Lafayette Leake on piano, Like Rush, guitarist George "Buddy" Guy (born Lettsworth, Louisiana, July 30, 1936) also came to Chess in 1960 after cutting a few sides for another short-lived Chicago label, Artistic. The potent "First Time I Met The Blues" dates from his first Chess session, and has the song's composer, Little Brother Montgomery, on piano. The song's second line, "I was walking through the woods," gave its title to Buddy's most famous Chess LP. Today, of course, Guy is one of the best-known bluesmen in the world, filling stadiums and arenas wherever he appears. He also continues to play at his Chicago club, Buddy Guy's Legends, whenever he's in town.

* * * * *

“I had met Willie Dixon – he was the bluesman at Chess… It was amazing just to be there, Chess studios! I mean, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, all them were there, and there I was right with the great giants of blues. I had done a few things before, but, man, this was Chess!”

– Buddy Guy

* * * * *

2. Too Poor** - Detroit Jr.
(Emery Williams, Jr., Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded May, 1960
Detroit Jr. (Emery Williams, Jr.) (vocal-piano)
Johnny Board (tenor sax)
Unknown (saxes)
Eddie King (guitar)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Fred Below (drums)
Little Mac, Georgia Hinton (background vocals)

Originally Chess single 1772.
Previously unreleased on U.S. album

An interesting and very different outing, Detroit Jr.'s "Too Poor" was cut in May of 1960. Detroit Jr., whose real name was Emery Williams Jr., was a native of Haynes, Arkansas where he was born in 1931; his post-Chess singles for several small Chicago labels continued to appear as late as 1967.

3. Blue Shadows – Lowell Fulson
(Lloyd Glenn, Arc Music Corp/High Society Music, BMI)
Recorded Los Angeles, June 2, 1960
Lowell Fulson (vocal-guitar)
Louis Williams (tenor sax)
Earl Brown (alto sax)
Big Jim Wynn (baritone sax)
Lloyd Glenn (piano)
Billy Hadnott (bass)
Robert Sims (drums)

Originally Checker single 959

4. The Shakedown*** - Lloyd Glenn
(Lloyd Glenn, High Society Music, BMI)
Recorded Los Angeles, July 12, 1960
Lloyd Glenn (piano)
Lowell Fulson (guitar)
Billy Hadnott (bass)
Robert Sims (drums)

Previously unreleased

Lowell Fulson was living in Los Angeles when he rerecorded "Blue Shadows," which he had taken to #1 on the R&B charts for four weeks in 1950 with a Swingtime recording. Fulson's band on the Chess version was headed up by his close friend and frequent musical collaborator Lloyd Glenn on piano, and also featured a number of other well-known L.A. session musicians of the time. Keyboard wizard Glenn, who was born in San Antonio, Texas on November 21, 1909, and died in Los Angeles on May 23, 1985, waxed the previously unissued "The Shakedown," also in L.A. and barely a month later, at his only session as leader for Chess. Fulson and Glenn were longtime recording and performing partners, having shared sessions at LA's Swingtime label (in fact, they each had one side of one release, Swingtime 237) during the late Forties and early Fifties.

5. The Sun Is Shining (Alternate) – Elmore James
(Elmore James, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded April 14, 1960
Elmore James (vocal-guitar)
J.T. Brown, unknown (sax)
Johnny Jones (piano)
Homesick James (guitar)
Henry "Sneaky Joe" Harris (drums)

Originally on Argo LP 4034, "The Blues, Volume Three"

Elmore James cut his second and last Chess session seven years after his first; it produced this alternate take of "The Sun is Shining," which previously appeared on the Argo LP The Blues Volume Three. The original was issued as Chess 1756; the month after this recording was made, the guitarist scored his biggest hit of the Sixties with "The Sky is Crying" on the Fire label.

6. Calling On My Darling (a/k/a "Howl in' For My Darlin"') – Albert King

(Chester Burnett-Willie Dixon, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded St. Louis, March 1, 1961
Albert King (vocal-guitar)
Wilbur Thompson (trumpet)
Hal White (tenor sax)
Freddie Robinette (baritone sax)
Sam Wallace (piano)
Lee Otis (bass)
Theodus Morgan (drums)

Originally on Chess LP 1538, "Door To Door"

Indianola, Mississippi native Albert King came to Chess via the Parrot label, as did J.B. Lenoir and several others. His version of the Chester Burnett song "Howlin' for My Darling (Calling on My Darling)" was recorded in St. Louis and then obtained by Chess. King's highly individual guitar style, which would later make him famous on such songs as "Born Under a Bad Sign" and would influence such younger musicians as England's Eric Clapton, is already evident on this early track. Unissued at the time, it first appeared on 1969's Door to Door, an album shared with Otis Rush.

7. The Red Rooster – Howlin’ Wolf
(Willie Dixon, Hoochie Coochie Music, adm. by Bug, BMI)
Recorded June, 1961
Howlin' Wolf (vocal-guitar)
Johnny Jones (piano)
Hubert Sumlin (guitar)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Sam Lay (drums)

Originally Chess single 1813

8. Nine Below Zero – Sonny Boy Williamson
(Sonny Boy Williamson, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded September 8, 1961
Sonny Boy Williamson (vocal-harmonica)
Otis Spann (piano)
Robert Lockwood, Jr. (guitar)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Fred Below (drums)

Originally Checker single 1003

9. Goin’ Down Slow – Howlin’ Wolf
(James B. Oden, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded December, 1961
Howlin' Wolf (vocal-guitar)
Willie Dixon (spoken vocal/bass)
Henry Gray (piano)
Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers (guitar)
Sam Lay (drums)

Originally Chess single 1813

Howlin' Wolf sang "The Red Rooster" as if it had been written for him, as indeed it was. Songwriter Willie Dixon plays bass and supervised the session, while Sam Lay, who would later become a founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, is heard on drums. The Rolling Stones' cover of the song went to #1 on the U.K. charts in 1964. At the end of 1961 Wolf cut the St. Louis Jimmy Oden classic "Goin' Down Slow," with the omnipresent Dixon handling the spoken verses. This version contains the instrumental intro originally edited out of Chess 1813, but restored on Wolf’s The Chess Box. This record too spawned numerous covers, including those by the Allman Brothers, Johnny Winter and Bobby Bland, who had an R&B hit with the song in 1974.

Sonny Boy Williamson's "Nine Below Zero" features guitarist Robert Lockwood, whose delicacy and innate musicianship contrasts interestingly with Sonny Boy's slightly hoarse, unsophisticated style. Muddy Waters covered this song in his later, post-Chess career, and Sonny Boy himself re-cut it at a 1963 session in Paris.

10. Satisfied** - Little Milton
(Milton Campbell, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded St. Louis, 1961
Milton Campbell (vocal-guitar)
Larry Prothe (trumpet)
James Carr (tenor sax)
Lawrence Taylor, Oliver Sain (alto-baritone sax)
Fontella Bass (piano)
Unknown (bass)
Jerry Walker (drums)

Originally Checker single 1012.
Previously unreleased on U.S. album

Milton Campbell was born in Inverness, Mississippi on September 7, 1934. Like many other Chess artists, he had done some recording for Sam Phillips in Memphis in the early Fifties; Oliver Sain later took over the producer's chair, and cut several sides on him for Bobbin before settling in at Chess. Sain produced "Satisfied" at Milton's second Bobbin session; it features the piano of Fontella Bass, who'd later have the biggest Chess hit of the Sixties with "Rescue Me". "Satisfied," like all three of Milton's Bobbin sessions, was sold to Chess.

11. Something’s Got A Hold On Me – Etta James
(Paul Woods – Leroy Kirkland – Etta James, Longitude Music, BMI)
Recorded December, 1961)
Etta James (vocal)
Possibly John Young (piano)
Matt Murphy (guitar)
Reggie Boyd (bass)
Al Duncan (drums)
Unknown (background vocals and tambourine)

Originally Argo single 5424

The label was always looking for strong women singers, and in Etta James (born January 25, 1938), they struck gold. A real belter, the L.A. native had been discovered by Johnny Otis and was already a recording and touring veteran with several hits to her credit by the time she joined Chess in 1960. When the gospel-tinged, bluesy sounds of “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” hit #4 on the R&B charts in 1962, it was her ninth hit of two years for the label.

Sometime during 1962, Chess records began to be sold in Europe on both the London-American and Pye International labels. Previously Chess material had been available only on expensive and hard-to-find imports on that continent, but once the local record shops started stocking those mysterious little 45s, the popularity of blues in Europe took off in a big way. American blues artists became a big influence on young British musicians, and in fact led directly to the formation of such groups as The Animals, The Rolling Stones, and The Yardbirds, among many others; before long, tours were begin organized to bring Chicago blues musicians to England and the rest of Europe to perform live. Willie Dixon and Memphis Slim led the American Folk Blues Festival caravans across the Atlantic, and they were enormously successful from the late Fifties through the Seventies. Sonny Boy, in fact, like England so well that he stayed there, returning to the States only shortly before his death in 1965; other bluesman, like Champion Jack Dupree, Eddie Boyd and Memphis Slim, also “defected” to Europe during this time.

Eventually this widespread European acceptance for blues music led to the creation of “concept albums,” such as the Super Blues Band album and the London Sessions series, which were specifically aimed at these growing white audiences. Chess had found that the black audience to which the label had first catered was growing older, and the popularity of the blues with white audiences in Europe led him to actively try for a white market in the U.S. as well.


12. Wrinkles – The Big Three Trio
(Lafayette Leake, Hoochie Coochie Music, adm. by Bug, BMI)
Recorded 1962
Lafayette Leake (piano)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Clifton James (drums)

Originally Tuba single 8002

13. Bring It On Home – Sonny Boy Williamson
(Willie Dixon, Hootchie Cootchie Music, adm. by Bug/Arc Music Corp. BMI) Recorded January 11, 1963
Sonny Boy Williamson (vocal-harmonica)
Lafayette Leake or Billy Emerson (organ)
Matt Murphy (guitar)
Milton Rector (bass)
Al Duncan (drums)

Originally Checker single 1134

1962 brought Willie Dixon’s Big Three Trio in for another session, which resulted in this lively instrumental, originally released on the Tuba label. Obviously not the same personnel as the original Big Three Trio, who had disbanded a decade before, this track features Leake replacing Leonard “Baby Doo” Caston on piano and drummer James instead of guitarist Ollie Crawford. From this point on Dixon is heard much less often as bass player on Chess sessions, due largely to the increasing use of the electric bass. He is still very much present, however, in his capacities as songwriter and producer. Early the following year Sonny Boy Williamson laid down Dixon’s “Bring It On Home,” one of several “train songs” Willie delighted in. The lyrics, the chunky guitar-and-drums rhythm track and the mournful harmonica all add to the motif.

Although the influence of American blues recordings
had already started to make itself felt in England, in February of 1964 the winds of change blew four young men from Liverpool across the Atlantic to appear on the Ed Sullivan show in New York. It’s ironic that American bluesmen like Muddy, Wolf and Walter, through their records and later via their tours of Europe, had influenced so many young rock musicians to develop a blues-based brand of rock and roll, because with the advent of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones at the forefront of the British Invasion, whatever chart success American blues and R&B had been enjoying came rapidly to a halt.

14. Good Moanin’ Blues – Walter Horton

(Willie Dixon, Hoochie Coochie Music, adm. by Bug/Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded January 24, 1964
Walter Horton (harmonica)
Willie Dixon (vocal)
Bobby Buster (organ)
Buddy Guy (guitar)
Jack Myers (bass)
Willie Smith (drums)

Originally Argo single 5476

Big Walter "Shakey" Horton was born in Horn Lake, Mississippi on April 6,1917, and died in Chicago on December 8, 1981. A self-taught musician, he was a veteran of Chicago's famed outdoor blues jam sessions on Maxwell Street, and both Little Walter and James Cotton drew inspiration from his musical well. Already noted for some Memphis sessions for Sun and RPM in the early Fifties, he had also worked frequently with Muddy Waters and Johnny Shines. On "Good Moanin' Blues," Willie Dixon oversaw the session and contributes the eerie vocal.

15. Killing Floor – Howlin’ Wolf

(Chester Burnett, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded August, 1964
Howlin' Wolf (vocal-harmonica)
Arnold Rogers (tenor sax)
Donald Hankins (baritone sax)
Lafayette Leake (piano)
Hubert Sumlin, Buddy Guy (guitar)
Andrew McMahon (bass)
Sam Lay (drums)

Originally Chess single 1923

By the time this track was cut, Wolfs vocal menace was a strongly-established influence on those aforementioned English rockers, who were beginning to copy his every growl. Talk about wishful thinking! This powerful performance has produced several "revivals"; The Electric Flag, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin all recorded it, the latter after renaming the song "The Lemon Song" and claiming it as their own.

16. What Kind Of Man Is That?** - Koko Taylor
(Koko Taylor, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded June 30, 1964
Cora (Koko) Taylor (vocal)
Walter Horton (harmonica)
Lafayette Leake (piano)
Buddy Guy, Robert Nighthawk (guitar)
Jack Meyers (bass)
Clifton James (drums)

Originally Checker single 1092.
Previously unreleased on U.S. album

17. We’re Gonna Make It – Little Milton
(Billy Davis-Carl Smith-Raynard Miner-Gene Barge, Chevis Publishing Corp., BMI) Recorded February 16, 1965
Little Milton (vocal-guitar)
David Hines (trumpet)
Unknown (saxes)
Charles Stepney (piano)
Gerald Sims (guitar)
Louis Satterfield (bass)
Maurice White (drums)

Originally Checker single 1105

18. Wang Dang Doodle – Koko Taylor
(Willie Dixon, Hoochie Coochie Music, adm. by Bug, BMI)
Recorded December 7,1965
Koko Taylor (vocal)
Willie Dixon (additional vocal)
Gene Barge, Donald Hankins (saxes)
Lafayette Leake (piano)
Buddy Guy, Johnny "Twist" Williams (guitar)
Jack Meyers (bass)
Fred Below (drums)
Produced by Willie Dixon

Originally Checker single 1135

Cora "Koko" Taylor came to Chess as a protege of Willie Dixon, Prior to her singing career she had worked as a domestic. Her earthy, powerful vocal style was almost a feminine counterpart of the Wolf's, and also bore a strong resemblance to Dixon's own; he growled right along on some of her early sides. "What Kind of Man" dates from her very first session for Chess, with a stellar lineup Dixon assembled for her that reads like a Who's Who of the blues. It became one-half of Koko's first single on Checker. She was back in the studio at the end of the following year, cutting her mentor Dixon's raucous anthem "Wang Dang Doodle," which was originally recorded by Wolf in 1960. With Dixon's own vocal cheerleading, this recording became a #4 R&B chart hit, the last full-fledged Chess blues that reached such prominence.

1965 also found Little Milton back in the studio cutting "We're Gonna Make It," his first and all-time biggest hit. Milton would stay with the label on into the Seventies; he was one of Chess' strongest selling artists of the era, scoring five Top Ten R&B hits before moving on. He enjoyed further chart success in the Seventies for Stax, and revitalized his career yet again with a move to Jackson, Mississippi-based Malaco Records in the Eighties.

As THE SIXTIES drew to a close, blues singles were becoming a thing of the past. Albums, whether unwieldy "concept" albums or merely compilations of an artist's old singles, were taking over the marketplace thanks largely to "Album Oriented Radio" and the emerging rock audiences' preference for the LP format. Leonard Chess, never one to ignore the writing on the accounting department wall, bowed to the inevitable and took that same road, with decidedly mixed results that were certainly to the detriment of the blues single.

19. Dirty Work Goin’ On* - Little Joe Blue
(Ferdinand "Fats" Washington, Chevis Publishing Corp., BMI)
Recorded Los Angeles, March 22, 1966
Joe Valery (vocal)
Larry Green (guitar)
Curtis Tillman (bass)
Unknown (saxes, piano)
Chuck Thomas (drums)

Originally Movin' single 132.
Previously unreleased on album

Little Joe Blue, whose real name was Joe Valery, recorded "Dirty Work Goin' On" at a Los Angeles session using local musicians. OriginaIly issued on Movin', a tiny L.A. label, the song then found its way to Chess and was re-released as Checker 1141. Cut at a time when many singer/guitarists were imitating B.B. King, this Texas/West Coast bluesman's performance here was no exception. Nevertheless, even after two and a half decades the song stands up well enough to make it clear why Chess picked him up, though he lasted barely a year with the label.

20. One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer – John Lee Hooker

(John Lee Hooker, Conrad Music, a division of Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded May, 1966
John Lee Hooker (vocal-guitar),
Lafayette Leake (piano)
Eddie Burns (guitar)
Unknown (bass and tambourine),
Fred Below (drums)

Originally on Chess LP 1508, "The Real Folk Blues"

21. Jinglin’ Baby**** - Eddie Burns
(Eddie Burns, Flat Out Gold, BMI)
Recorded May, 1966
Eddie Burns (vocal-guitar)
Lafayette Leake (piano)
Unknown (bass)
Fred Below (drums)

Previously unreleased

When John Lee Hooker recorded his version of this Amos Milburn classic for his Real Folk Blues album, he completely took the song over, and was credited when George Thorogood covered the song in the Seventies. The second guitar player here is Hooker's friend and contemporary from his Detroit days, Eddie Burns, with whom he had recorded as early as 1949. Burns was born in Belzoni, Mississippi on February 8, 1928, and like Hooker he migrated north to Detroit in search of work. Often unfairly obscured by his friend's extraordinary success, Burns nevertheless is a smooth-voiced singer and fine guitarist in his own right. "Jinglin' Baby" is a real treat; previously unissued, it comes from a session done within days of Hooker's "One Bourbon".

22. That’s Why I Don’t Mind*** - Muddy Waters
(McKinley Morganfield, Watertoons Music, adm. by Bug, Inc.)
Recorded June 22, 1966
Muddy Waters (vocal-guitar)
James Cotton (harmonica)
Otis Spann (piano)
James "Pee Wee" Madison, Sam Lawhorn (guitar)
Calvin Jones (bass)
Willie Smith (drums)

Previously unreleased

Muddy reportedly once said, ''I'll be with Chess as long as there's a Chess in the company," and he meant it; he remained unswervingly loyal to them until the label was sold out of the family, despite several ill-advised attempts on their part to modernize his sound. One such "concept" album was Muddy, Brass and The Blues, evidently an attempt to cash in on the then-current chart success of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and similar horn-heavy ensembles. "That's Why I Don't Mind" was recorded on the same day as the original sessions for that album, but since it was left unmixed in the can the horns were never added. Muddy's unmistakable slide guitar opens the track, which features fine ensemble playing throughout, but the rather off-the-mark lyrics and the occasionally mumbled vocal were the probable reasons this track has never seen issue in any form before.

23. Keep It To Myself – Buddy Guy

(Sonny Boy Williamson, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded August, 1966
Buddy Guy (vocal-guitar)
Gene Barge (tenor sax)
Unknown (saxes, trumpet, piano)
Matt Murphy (guitar)
Phil Upchurch (bass)
Charles Stepney (drums)

Originally Chess single 2022

Between sessions as a sideman, Buddy Guy was still very much in demand as a leader; he recorded his version of this Sonny Boy Williamson original with what had become the core of the latter-day Gene Barge-led Chess studio unit. The raucous blues-funk wail would later become Buddy's signature sound.

* * * * *

“Leonard [Chess], he would always call me M.F. – I didn’t know my name was Buddy Guy for seven years ‘cause he always called me M.F.”

– Buddy Guy

* * * * *

24. Sitting Here Alone – Hound Dog Taylor
(Theodore "Hound Dog" Taylor, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded circa September, 1967
Hound Dog Taylor (vocal-guitar)
Walter Horton (harmonica)
Lafayette Leake (piano)
Lee Jackson (bass)
Robert Whitehead (drums)

Originally on Chess LP2-92519, "Chess Blues Rarities"

Slide guitarist Theodore Roosevelt "Hound Dog" Taylor (1915-1975) laid down some of his raw, exceptionally exciting blues at one singular session for Chess in 1967. "Sitting Here Alone" finds Hound Dog's trademark grunge-guitar licks alternating with classic Big Walter and Lafayette Leake lines. The whole track has a time-warp feeling of being out of place, sounding far more like a Chess track from the memorable Fifties than a late Sixties effort. Hound Dog's "career," such as it was, got it's only real impetus when he was re-discovered and recorded by Bruce Iglauer's Chicago-based Alligator Records label in the early Seventies. This heightened visibility brought him club and concert dates and a few tours near the end of his life; sadly, he didn't live long enough to really benefit from it.

25. I’d Rather Go Blind – Etta James

(Ellington Jordan-Billy Foster, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded Muscle Shoals, AL, August 23,1967
Etta James (vocal)
Gene "Bowlegs" Miller (trumpet)
Charles Chalmers, Aaron Varnell, Floyd Newman (saxes)
Carl Banks (organ)
Dewey Oldham (organ, piano)
Jimmy Ray Johnson, Albert Lowe, Jr. (guitar)
David Hood (bass)
Roger Dawkins (drums).

Originally Cadet single 5578

Meanwhile, a session at almost the same time in Muscle Shoals, Alabama produced the final track on this set, and a tour-de-force it is. Using the brilliant Muscle Shoals rhythm section under the direction of Barry Beckett and Jimmy Johnson, Etta tears it up, giving one of her strongest recorded performances, and creating a blues standard that would spawn covers decades later. This was one of the earliest singles issued on the Chess brothers' then-recently formed Cadet subsidiary.

* - Previously Unreleased on Album
** - Previously Unreleased on U.S. Album
*** - Previously Unreleased
**** - Previously Unreleased in U.S.

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