Sunday, March 19, 2017

Remembering James and Chuck

I was reading Holger Petersen's wonderful collection of interviews of blues and roots musicians, Talking Music 2," and Steve Miller remembered recording backing Chuck at the Fillmore in San Francisco, a recording that I once owned when it came out. Then later on Facebook I saw the posts about Chuck having passed away on Saturday March 18. This was sad news, especially after coming so shortly after blues harmonica legend James Cotton passing away as well.

I had the pleasure of seeing James Cotton a number of times over the decades, first seeing him in Cleveland in 1967around the time of The James Cotton Blues Band album on Verve Forecast. It was probably the first live blues performance I saw. Over the years I saw him at clubs (The Belle Star outside of Buffalo and the Maryland venues Twist & Shout and Tornado Alley) and festivals such as the Western Maryland Blues Festival and several times at the Pocono Blues Festival. Even after Cotton had surgery that limited his singing, he always had terrific bands and front men as singers. He was also such a warm person as well. Mr. SuperHarp will be missed.

I only had the pleasure to see Chuck Berry once at a music festival held only once at the Kennedy Center where he was backed by local DC area musicians led by Daryl Davis, who was his East Coast pianist of choice.  Others will have written about Berry's legacy but songs like "Johnny B. Goode," "The Promised Land," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Back in the U.S.A." and "Roll Over Beethoven" will forever be part of the soundtrack of our lives.

Here is a playlist of a few songs by each starting with Chuck Berry with "Johnny B. Goode."



Now a bit from James Cotton doing the Creeper which he first recorded on the album Pure Cotton, an album that in my humble opinion belongs in the Blues Hall of Fame, if it isn't already.


One of my favorite Chuck Berry recordings is "The Promised Land," which also was known from Elvis' cover as well as the cajun cover from Johnnie Allen. Here is Chuck doing it live.


James Cotton was an important member of Muddy Waters Band for many years and hear he is backing Muddy at the Newport Jazz Festival on "Got My Mojo Working."


Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" was one of numerous numbers that influenced the folks over in Great Britain.



James Cotton seen on Playboy after Dark in 1968/69 with Luther Tucker and apparently Rod Piazza is in this cip


Finally I close with Chuck Berry's "Sweet Sixteen" that the Beach Boys would be influenced by. The performance is from 2014 when Cotton received the Polar Music Prize, the Nobel Prize of the Music World.


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