In 1965 Bob Koester and Delmark Records recorded Junior Wells debut album, the legendary “Hoodoo Man Blues.” Featuring Junior Wells on harmonica and vocals and Buddy Guy (billed as “Friendly Chap”) on guitar and vocals, with the rhythm section of Jack Myers playing bass, and Bill Warren on drums, “Hoodoo Man Blues” is considered one of the greatest blues records ever.
In a recent interview Bob Koester, credited as producer for the album, shared his secret for recording the blues:
“Junior just lead the band. When I record a musician, the musician is in total charge. It’s as if we went on location. I’m not a producer, I’m a documentarian. I don’t call myself that, but that’s really what it comes down to. I don’t tell people how to play or anything, I just document what they do.”
The recordings were very efficient, resulting in 12 tracks on the original album (and 2 alternate takes later issued on CD):
“We got Hoodoo Man in about 7 hours of studio time. It was 2-track, you don’t mix 2-track unless you’re doing mono. Almost the whole session was a single take. There might have been more than one, I doubt there were more than two. When there are more than one or two takes, they would usually be short… Hey wait a minute, we didn’t get that right! We left it all up to the artists. I would just make sure the engineer didn’t get in the way.”
This recording approach was possible because the band had been playing together and was well rehearsed from performing before Chicago audiences. As Bob told me, it was pretty much a standard set that they had worked out when they came in to record Hoodoo Man Blues:
“They played all the time in the clubs, they didn’t need to rehearse. They had their shit totally together. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at Theresa’s. Little Walter would join them on Monday. It’s a four day gig they had.”
Two of those songs, “Good Morning Schoolgirl,” and “You Don’t Love Me,” would later be covered by the Allman Brothers Band.