Posts Tagged ‘Blues’

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Shake Your Hips” by Slim Harpo

SOTD-1slimharposhakeyourhips

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Shake Your Hips” by Slim Harpo

This record’s got it all! An insinuating groove that doesn’t quit…otherworldly vocals that spook and caress at the same time…laid bare stripped down production, and the stellar harp playing that gave Slim Harpo his surname. There’s good reason why ‘60s British Invasion groups like The Who, The Yardbirds, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones borrowed so heavily from him.

Today’s Song of the Day is the version of “Shake Your Hips” that The Rolling Stones carbon copied for the Exile on Main Street album. The following year, ZZ Top revisited the track to form the basis of their first break-out hit “La Grange.” Although this is not surprising since the whole nature of the blues tradition is to pass down music from one generation to the next, it does amaze how many artists borrowed from Slim Harpo.

The Slim Harpo songbook provided numerous sixties rockers with material to record including “Got Love If You Want It,” which was repurposed by The Who as “I’m The Face,” and then also covered by The Kinks on their debut album. Meanwhile, Harpo’s classic “I’m A King Bee,” was covered by the likes of Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones.

Slim Harpo was born James Moore in Lobdell Louisiana where he taught himself to play guitar and harmonica (using a neck rack) as a child. When he was in tenth grade his mother and father both died, and he left school to support his family working as a dockhand, while sitting in on local gigs under the name “Harmonica Slim.”

He was signed to the Nashville based Excello Records by Jay Miller who paired him as an accompanist to Lightnin’ Hopkins on several singles until recording and producing him on his own. A name change was required when Miller found out there was another performer known as Harmonica Slim.

Not only was Slim a great songwriter, composing classics that would be covered by a who’s who of performers, but he possessed a singing style that borrowed from urban blues and rural country and western. He possessed a plaintive ethereal voice that appealed to both pop and R&B audiences, ensuring that many of his records crossed over to both charts.

Slim’s first single release was the double-sided hit, “I’m A King Bee” backed with “Rainin’ In My Heart” on the flip. While the A-side fared well on the R&B charts, the flip crossed over into the top 40 of the Billboard pop charts in 1961.

His biggest hit came in 1966 with “Baby Scratch My Back” which climbed into the top 20 of the Billboard pop charts while topping the R&B charts. The huge success of “Baby Scratch My Back” found Harpo performing in a group with Lightnin’ Slim on the festival circuit during the late ‘60s, playing to predominantly rock audiences.

He flew to England in January of 1970 to begin his first European tour when he died suddenly of a heart attack while taking part in a pre-tour recording session.

 

Edited: February 18th, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/30/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Shake Your Hips” by Slim Harpo

This record’s got it all! An insinuating groove that doesn’t quit…otherworldly vocals that spook and caress at the same time…laid bare stripped down production, and the stellar harp playing that gave Slim Harpo his surname. There’s good reason why ‘60s British Invasion groups like The Who, the Yardbirds, the Kinks and the Rolling Stones borrowed so heavily from him.

Today’s Song Of The Day is the version of “Shake Your Hips” that The Rolling Stones carbon copied for their Exile On Main Street album. The following year, ZZ Top revisited the track to form the basis of their first break-out hit “La Grange.” Although this is not surprising since the whole nature of the blues tradition is to pass down music from one generation to the next, it does amaze how many artists borrowed from Slim Harpo.

The Slim Harpo songbook provided numerous sixties rockers with material to record including “Got Love If You Want It,” which was repurposed by The Who as “I’m The Face,” and then also covered by The Kinks on their debut album. Meanwhile, Harpo’s classic “I’m A King Bee,” was covered by the likes of Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones.

Slim Harpo was born James Moore in Lobdell Louisiana where he taught himself to play guitar and harmonica (using a neck rack) as a child. When he was in tenth grade his mother and father both died, and he left school to support his family working as a dockhand, while sitting in on local gigs under the name “Harmonica Slim.”

He was signed to the Nashville based Excello Records by Jay Miller who paired him as an accompanist to Lightnin’ Hopkins on several singles until recording and producing him on his own. A name change was required when Miller found out there was another performer known as Harmonica Slim.

Not only was Slim a great songwriter, composing classics that would be covered by a who’s who of performers, but he possessed a singing style that borrowed from urban blues and rural country and western. He possessed a plaintive ethereal voice that appealed to both pop and R&B audiences, ensuring that many of his records crossed over to both charts.

Slim’s first single release was the double-sided hit, “I’m A King Bee” backed with “Rainin’ In My Heart” on the flip. While the A-side fared well on the R&B charts, the flip crossed over into the top 40 of the Billboard pop charts in 1961.

His biggest hit came in 1966 with “Baby Scratch My Back” which climbed into the top 20 of the Billboard pop charts while topping the R&B charts. The huge success of “Baby Scratch My Back” found Harpo performing in a group with Lightnin’ Slim on the festival circuit during the late ‘60s, playing to predominantly rock audiences.

He flew to England in January of 1970 to begin his first European tour when he died suddenly of a heart attack while taking part in a pre-tour recording session.

 

Edited: July 29th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/1/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Take A Giant Step” by Taj Mahal

There is no rhyme or reason as to how I come up with the songs I choose to write about every day. They usually spring out of something I’ve been listening to or something I’ve read. So, if you regularly follow this column, you’ll get a pretty good idea of some of the stuff I listen to on a daily basis.

For instance, today’s Song Of The Day came about after reading a review of the first of three Rolling Stones concerts in Chicago this week. Now, I’m not planning on attending any of their shows here in town as I believe they’ve not only totally priced themselves out of the concert market, but have also priced themselves out of this world. And besides, I’ve seen them several times in the past when they were much younger and probably much better.

But the astronomical price of their tickets hasn’t diffused my interest in what their set list looks like and how people say they sounded. Each show on the tour so far has had Mick Taylor as a special guest coming out to play “Midnight Rambler,” but there’s usually a “surprise” guest at every show as well. While some markets have lucked out by getting guests like Tom Waits to take a star turn with the Stones, others have seen the likes of Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani “grace” the stage.

So far, Chicago is one of the luckier markets on the tour because blues legend, Taj Mahal was the Stones’ guest for their show the other night, and together they played “Six Days On The Road.” The song was one that Mahal originally cut for his 1969 double album Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home.

This led me to pull out my copy of the record which I haven’t listened to in many years. The title track of the album is a radically revised version of the Carole King/Gerry Goffin classic “Take A Giant Step,” which most people know by The Monkees’ recording of the song from their 1966 debut album.

Henry Saint Clair Fredericks took the name Taj Mahal, which came to him in a dream, while in college studying agriculture and animal husbandry in 1959. As a child, he was as passionate about farming as he was about music, and there was a time when he considered following his interests in farming over music. Fortunately, he chose music but his love of farming has led him to perform at numerous Farm Aid concerts over the years.

Mahal relocated to the West Coast in the early 1960s and established a name for himself playing solo blues in clubs. He soon met Ry Cooder, and along with Jesse Lee Kinkaid formed the group, The Rising Sons. The Rising Sons recorded for Columbia in 1964 resulting in the release of a single. The group cut an album’s worth of material for the label, but Columbia didn’t know what to do with an interracial group in the early 1960s, so the record languished in the vaults unreleased until 1993.

Between the Rising Sons debacle and Mahal’s self-titled first studio album for Columbia in 1968, he worked with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Muddy Waters. He also played on sessions (along with Ry Cooder) for the Rolling Stones and even appeared in The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus. (Hence, the reason he was the special guest at their show the other night.)

Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home is Taj Mahal’s third Columbia release from 1969. The double album is half electric and half acoustic and it features a freewheelin’ and eclectic selection of originals, traditional blues tunes and pop covers.

The electric half features Mahal backed by Jessie Ed Davis on guitar and keyboards, Gary Gilmore on bass and Chuck Blackwell on drums. Together they create a beautiful noise as they run through a selection of blues-flavored covers including today’s Song Of The Day, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little School Girl,” Dave Dudley’s “Six Days On The Road,” Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Farther On Up The Road,” Leadbelly’s “Keep Your Hands Off Her” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond.” The album’s final track is “Bacon Fat” which is attributed to Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson, but more likely stems from pen of Andre Williams’ who scored a #9 R&B chart hit with the song in 1956.

The stripped down rural acoustic blues of De Ole Folks At Home features solo performances by Mahal on vocals, guitar, harmonica and banjo performing a mix of his own songs like “Light Rain Blues,” “Blind Boy Rag,” “A Little Soulful Tune,” “Cajun Tune” and “Country Blues #1,” and covers of “Candy Man,” “Stagger Lee” and “Linin’ Track.”

All in all, Mahal recorded 12 albums for Columbia through 1976, and then moved on to Warner Bros. for three more. He also wrote the score for the films Sounder and Brothers.

Later years found him moving to Hawaii, forming the Hula Blues Band and recording numerous records for Gramavision and the Private Music record label that incorporated his love of West African and Caribbean music, Americana, Blues, Zydeco, Rock and R&B. He’s also recorded several popular children’s records. His album, Señor Blues won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 1997, and he won another one in 2000 for his album Shoutin’ in Key.

Edited: May 31st, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/5/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Burn In Hell” by Junior Kimbrough

Like his good friend R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough hailed from northern Mississippi and didn’t find fame until relatively late in the game. Kimbrough recorded sessions in the 1960s and 1970s that went mostly unreleased. It wasn’t until music critic Robert Palmer produced his first record for the Fat Possum label in 1992 that Kimbrough attained national attention. Kimbrough opened a club in Mississippi after the release of the record called Junior’s Place where he and R.L. Burnside regularly performed for such musical luminaries as Keith Richards, Tom Waits and Bono amongst the common folk. Kimbrough’s window of fame was a scant six years coming to an end when he died of a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 67 following a stroke. This song comes from his last album before his death “Most Things Haven’t Worked Out.” You can hear Kimbrough’s influence today in the music of The Black Keys and Jack White.

Edited: June 4th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/9/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Snake Drive” by R.L. Burnside

Along with fellow musician Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside didn’t see any fame until he was well into his ’70s. He spent much of his life living in poverty playing the blues in his native Holly Springs, Mississippi. It wasn’t until he was signed to the Mississippi independent Fat Possum record label in the early 1990s that Burnside got any recognition on a national level. He recorded several albums backed by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion including the album “A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey” where this song was culled. Burnside took to the road during the latter part of his life either backed by Spencer or with his grandson, Cedric Burnside on drums. I caught him live several times in the early 1990s at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia and then again towards the end of his life at the Chicago Blues Festival. Burnside died in 2005 after suffering complications from heart surgery.

Edited: April 8th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/6/12

 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Had You Told It Like It Was (It Wouldn’t Be Like It Is)” by Albert King

Like Jimi Hendrix after him, Albert King had a unique guitar sound due to his playing of a right handed guitar upside down with his left hand. In King’s world, he was pushing up on the strings a righty would normally push down on. His style was an inspiration to the likes of Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton. While he’s best known for his late ’60s STAX Records classics like “Born Under A Bad Sign,” “Cross Cut Saw” and “Laundromat Blues,” this song is from much earlier in his career. He began recording under his own name for the Bobbin Record label whose recordings were leased to King Records for release. In 1962, King released the album “The Big Blues” that featured this R’n’B classic. While sales were meager and the hits were slim, his recordings from this period are every bit as good as the ones he cut for STAX.

Edited: February 6th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 11/14/11

Song Of The Day – “I Got Love If You Want It” by Slim Harpo

This record’s got it all! Insinuating groove that doesn’t quit…otherworldly vocals that spook and caress at the same time…laid bare stripped down production and that stellar harp playing that gave Slim his surname. There’s good reason why ‘60s British Invasion groups like The Who, the Yardbirds, the Kinks and the Rolling Stones borrowed so heavily from him.

Edited: November 14th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 10/25/11

Song Of the Day – “Bring It To Jerome” by Bo Diddley

To think that Ellas Otha Bates (aka Bo Diddley) started out studying classical violin is kind of mind blowing when you consider his contribution to the annals of Rock history. Thank goodness someone gave him a guitar! The “Jerome” in this 1955 classic is Jerome Green who played maracas on numerous Chess records including many of Bo Diddley’s finest.

Edited: October 25th, 2011