Billy Boy Arnold – Part 3: On John Lee Curtis “Sonny Boy” Williamson, the Importance of Originality, and Making Good Use of Studio Time

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I recently interviewed Billy Boy Arnold following a show at New York City’s City Winery. This is the third and final part of that interview (see part 1 and part 2.) As a solo artist Billy Boy recorded “I Wish You Would” and “I Ain’t Got You” which were famously covered by the Yardbirds. (Bo Diddley’s “She’s Fine, She’s Mine” with Billy Boy blowing his harp was the first recording of the song that became “You Don’t Love Me,” recorded as an extended jam by the Allman Brothers and forming the entire second side of “At Fillmore East.” That story will be in the book The Unbroken Circle.)

Early blues musicians frequently recycled music and “floating verses.” That began to change in the 1920’s when record companies began recording the blues and valued originality. Billy Boy Arnold learned from some of the greatest blues artists ever, and in a recent conversation he talked about his influences and originality in the blues.

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Five Minutes Turns Into Thirty With Butch Trucks

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Friday night I caught up with Butch Trucks after his show with his Freight Train Band, at the Tarrytown Music Hall an hour north of the famed Beacon Theater. Butch and the band started the show, as he often does, with the Allman Brothers instrumental “Hot ‘Lanta,” and continued the two hour set with fan favorites including “Trouble No More,” “Jessica,” “Dreams,” and many others. The audience immediately recognized the rumbling bass line when the band returned for an encore that began with a thunderous “Whipping Post” before segueing into “Mountain Jam” and back to conclude the evening. Butch didn’t just play Allman Brothers material though, playing original material from keyboard player Bruce Katz, and treating the audience to a cover of “Highway 61 Revisited.” Butch isn’t known as a singer, but as he said “it’s a Bob Dylan song, so I don’t give a shit!”   After playing “Statesboro Blues,” Butch took a minute out to quiz the audience on the authorship of the song (Blind Willie McTell) and making sure that the audience knew that Jesse Ed Davis (playing for Taj Mahal) was the first to play slide guitar on the song that became the Allman Brothers signature song. Continue reading

Billy Boy Arnold – Part 2: How Ellas McDaniel Became Bo Diddley

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I recently interviewed Billy Boy Arnold following a show at New York City’s City Winery. This is the second part of that interview. As a solo artist Billy Boy recorded “I Wish You Would” and “I Ain’t Got You” which were famously covered by the Yardbirds.  (Bo Diddley’s “She’s Fine, She’s Mine” with Billy Boy blowing his harp was the first recording of the song that became “You Don’t Love Me,” recorded as an extended jam by the Allman Brothers and forming the entire second side of “At Fillmore East.”  That story will be in the book The Unbroken Circle.)

There have been many stories told about how Ellas McDaniel became Bo Diddley, including theories that the name derives from the Diddley Bow (essentially a one string guitar, typically a single wire attached to the side of a sharecroppers cabin in the Mississippi Delta.)

Billy Boy was there on the south side of Chicago, and he is very clear on the origins of the name Bo Diddley: Continue reading

The Blues and Jazz Side of Dickey Betts, and Other Early Influences of The Allman Brothers Band as Told by Second Coming Member Richard Price

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Dickey Betts is usually associated with the country influences on the Allman Brothers Band, and with songwriting contributions such as “Rambling Man” and “Jessica” it is clear that Dickey brought country to the band. Less frequently acknowledged are his blues and jazz influences.

I spoke with Richard Price, bass player for the The Load, and later for Second Coming (the band that contributed both Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley to the Allman Brothers Band), who talked about the early musical influences of the Allman Brothers Band and some of the “Jacksonville Jams” that gave birth to the band.

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Billy Boy Arnold – Part 1: “I Wish You Would,” “I Ain’t Got You,” and Billy Boy’s Relationship with Leonard Chess

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A few weeks ago I was at the City Winery in New York City, watching Phil and Dave Alvin perform a set of acoustic blues, when they brought out Chicago harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold, harmonica player for Bo Diddley.  As a solo artist Billy Boy recorded “I Wish You Would” and “I Ain’t Got You” which were famously covered by the Yardbirds.  (Bo Diddley’s “She’s Fine, She’s Mine” with Billy Boy blowing his harp was the first recording of the song that became “You Don’t Love Me,” recorded as an extended jam by the Allman Brothers and forming the entire second side of “At Fillmore East.”  That story will be in the book The Unbroken Circle.)

After the show I caught up with Billy, who has clear memories of his recordings in the 1950’s, just as the blues and R&B were giving birth to rock and roll.  Billy has a lot of great memories; today’s post will focus on Billy’s most influential recordings and his relationship with Leonard Chess.

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Bob Koester Talks About the Legendary “Hoodoo Man Blues”

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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:

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How David Goldflies Became the “Rook”

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I had the opportunity to catch up recently with David “Rook” Goldflies, bass player for the Allman Brothers Band from 1978-1982 (appearing on Enlightened Rogues, Reach for the Sky, and Brothers of the Road.) David shared the story of how he joined Dickey Bett’s “Great Southern” and got the nickname “Rook”:

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Words of Wisdom from Blues Legend Taj Mahal

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I was about to board a ferry boat for a family vacation when my cell phone rang. I wasn’t expecting a call, but I answered.

“Hey man, this is Taj!”

Yes, it was the one and only legendary Taj Mahal, winner of multiple Grammy awards, member of the Blues Hall of Fame, and the man who introduced Duane Allman to a song that would become the Allman Brothers’s signature song, “Statesboro Blues” (the song on which Duane learned to play slide guitar.)

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