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Junior Wells’ Chicago Blues Band – Hoodoo Man Blues – KXCI Classic Pick

November 13, 2015
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Hoodoo Man Blues

JUNIOR WELLS’ CHICAGO BLUES BAND – HOODOO MAN BLUES

Released 1965* – 50 years ago

Wells’ debut is widely regarded as his best release and essential listening for lovers of Chicago blues. Featuring Buddy Guy on electric guitar and Wells’ scorching harmonica work, it’s considered one of the very first studio recordings to capture the sultry ambiance of a Chicago blues club, and often is cited as one of the best blues albums ever released.

*The original release date is listed as simply 1965, but we know that this album was recorded in September of 1965, so it was likely released sometime in late October, November, or early December of 1965

The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4pm M-F on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4pm Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3FM and kxci.org.

Interesting Info:

Hoodoo Man Blues is typically considered one of the first true Chicago Blues albums recorded in a studio. Most prior releases were live recordings. Chicago blues it typically associated with urban blues developing after the Great Depression. While centering around Chicago, artists from St. Louis and other Upper Midwest and Northeast urban centers more-or-less fit within this genera. Chicago Blues is distinguished from other blues styles that are more rurally and/or Southern influenced such as delta blues, Louisiana blues, Memphis blues and country blues. These styles often, but not always, tend to be more acoustic. Texas blues, like Chicago blues, usually is centered on the electric guitar, but has more of country influence.

Though his debut album, Junior Wells was a seasoned 31 year-old veteran when he finally recorded Hoodoo Man Blues. He was an active perform from the 1950s until his death in the late 90s. Born in Memphis, he moved to Chicago when he was twelve. Playing clubs throughout Chicago in his 20s, he was well known for his blistering harmonica and appeared live with other famous Chicago musicians like Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon.

Buddy Guy was born in Louisiana; he didn’t venture to Chicago until 1957 when he was 21. Soon after his arrival, he struck up friendships with some of the city’s best blues artists, including Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Freddie King and Magic Sam. He soon landed a steady club gig where he became known as a talent to watch. In 1959 he was signed to Chess Records, the same label as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Etta James. He released his first single in 1960, however most of his early work was as a session and/or touring guitarist for acts like Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, and Howlin’ Wolf.

Hoodoo Man Blues was also Guy’s debut album, although he didn’t receive official credit at first. Wells’ was signed to the Delmark label, however Guy was on the Chess. Chess approved Guy’s participation, but refused to allow Guy’s name be listed in the credits. He was originally listed as “Friendly Chap”… with the explanation that “a buddy is a friend, and a guy is a chap.”

Bob Koester, the founder of Delmark Records, served as producer for Hoodoo Man Blues. Delmark was one of the most successful independent jazz & blues labels of the 50s & 60s. Originally called Delmar Records for Delmar Avenue in St. Louis where it was founded, Koester eventually moved the label to Chicago in the late 1950s.

Koester liked Wells’ music enough to give him considerable freedom in spite of concerns for commercial validity. The end innovative result became Delmark’s best selling release and established Wells’ career. Hoodoo Man Blues has been touted by Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and many other publications as one of the greatest blues albums ever released.

Wells and Guy collaborated on over a dozen other releases.

Wells died in 1998, but Guy is alive and well. Buddy Guy still tours and has played Tucson several times in the last decade.

Buddy Guy was inducted into Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of fame in 2005, but Junior Wells’ has never been inducted.

JUNIOR WELLS’ CHICAGO BLUES BAND – HOODOO MAN BLUES

  1. Snatch It Back and Hold It – 2:54
  2. Ships on the Ocean – 4:09
  3. Good Morning Schoolgirl – 3:56
  4. Hound Dog – 2:09
  5. In the Wee Wee Hours – 3:47
  6. Hey Lawdy Mama – 3:15
  7. Hoodoo Man Blues – 2:08
  8. Early in the Morning – 4:48
  9. We’re Ready (instrumental) – 3:41
  10. You Don’t Love Me, Baby – 2:25
  11. Chitlins Con Carne (instrumental) – 2:14
  12. Yonder Wall – 4:11

1965 – Delmark Records

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