Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 254 #297)

Sugar Mama!!!

B1 is full of Sonny Boy I fans and Joe's serving it up for them!

John Lee Sonny Boy Williamson I recorded from 1937 to 1948. He laid down this killer tune, Sugar Mama, as part of a two-sided "single" along with Good Morning Schoolgirl at the Leland Hotel in Aurora, IL on May 5, 1937.

John Lee definitely put blues harmonica on the map, legitimizing it and defining a style that was important to emulate for other players like Billy Boy Arnold, Walter Horton, Little Walter, Junior Wells, James Cotton and many more. This was a time when 'having your own style' was not valued and it was more important to be able to play like Sonny Boy did because his record popularized that sound. It's clear Little Walter was embodying the spirit of John Lee on the Jimmy Rogers and Muddy Waters sideman work he did. And it was obviously so important to mimic for commercial reasons that Rice Miller even felt it necessary to borrow the name Sonny Boy!

Joe points out that John Lee never recorded an instrumental tune - vocals rule! And don't forget to study his sideman work - he recorded 80-90 cuts as a sideman and Joe particularly recommends his playing with Big Joe Williams.

Sugar Mama demonstrates John Lee's use of the blues scale (and inhale notes) leaving him to exhale tastefully on the three, four and six holes. He is also an incredible master of sophisticated hand technique and textures when playing melodies.

Are you into lowdown blues? Are you playing without an amp? Sonny Boy I is an essential study!

Sonny Boy II Footage!!!

- Tom Ball on Harp-L recently shared this news:

"Previously unknown footage of Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) with Robert Junior Lockwood on guitar. Sadly there is no sound, but this is clearly the earliest footage of him to surface yet. Color home-movies from c. 1942 (and the latter part c.1952.) Amazing the stuff that still keeps popping up!

Philip Glass Interview!!!

Chicago's own NPR celebrity, Ira Glass of This American Life, interviewed his cousin, composer Philip Glass in 1999, and it re-aired recently. We're sharing this because Glass speaks eloquently about developing a personal musical style. Skip the text excerpts and be sure to listen to him speak!

The Trumpet Call!!!

If harmonica history and collecting are your thing, be sure to get on the mailing list for The Trumpet Call. This is a terrific quarterly color print publication that is: "...dedicated to the collection, preservation and sharing of information for the harmonica collector. Email Harlan Crain to subscribe.

Class Notes

  • Joe is renewing the call for the Bring A Song concept. If you have a song you're working on or would like professional help with, bring it to class so Joe, Shoji and Rickey can help you understand it. We'll discuss the harp playing but also give you a solid understanding of what the other instruments are doing, what the groove is and how you might arrange the tune for yourself. No harp on the tune? All the better. Let's talk about what you might play on it.
  • Just a quick note that we're thinking of our buddy Paul Krueger who is bouncing back from his bicycling accident. He visited B1 a month or two back and it was great to see him - shoot him a note or give him a call and keep him in your thoughts. He loves to hear from folks!


The 52nd Annual University of Chicago Folkfest is this weekend, February 10-12, 2012. Highlights include:
  • Billy Boy Arnold
  • Joe Filisko and Zoe Savage teaching beginner harmonica workshop
  • Billy Flynn teaching a blues workshop
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew