Dear Friends,

Life continues fast and furious at Alligator World. We’re have all kinds of wonderful response to SAFFIRE–THE UPPITY BLUES WOMEN, whose debut album we released just a few weeks ago. Already, they’ve been featured on National Public Radio, Entertainment Tonight, and in a batch of newspaper and magazine stories. Radio that normally wouldn’t touch a hard-core blues record has taken to these three feisty middle-aged women in a big way. There’s just nobody else quite like them. You know Alligator has always been an electric blues label, so if we signed an acoustic group, we must be mighty impressed by them!

Meanwhile, the sales of our new Charlie Musselwhite album, ACE OF HARPS (love them harp puns!) are surpassing our best expectations. Of course Charlie is an acknowledged harp master (as well as being one of the most deeply rooted of the first generation of “white blues” guys—boy, do I hate that term!), but I didn’t realize so many fans out there were so hungry both for Charlie’s music and for new harp records in general. Lucky we had planned a lot of harp albums for this year! In fact, by the time you read this, we’ll have reissued the hard-to-find Raful Neal album, LOUISIANA LEGEND (formerly on Kingsnake). Raful’s laid back South Louisiana style is a treat. Along with Raful, we’re releasing the second ’gator by The Paladins, San Diego’s hard-rocking roots band. I know these guys aren’t a “pure” blues band but wait until you hear them tear up Otis Rush’s “Keep On Lovin’ Me, Baby.” Then tell me The Paladins aren’t a great blues group! The album’s called LET’S BUZZ!

I just finished mixing Koko Taylor’s new album, JUMP FOR JOY (out in April) and a “live” Lonnie Mack album (out in May). Tell you about those next time.

Now, more about the creation of the LIVING CHICAGO BLUES series–last time I told you about the nights of grueling talent scouting in the blues bars, trying to decide which of the best “unrecorded or underrecorded” artists in Chicago was best qualified to fill the coveted last four slots in the series.

I finally chose a couple of great piano veterans, Pinetop Perkins (who had rarely recorded as a leader) and Johnny “Big Moose” Walker (who played such pounding piano on the Eddie Shaw session I just HAD to do more with him.)

Along with Pinetop and Moose, I picked my old pal Carey Bell, still one of the most underrated harp men in town, and a new band that didn’t even have a name yet. They were Billy Branch, just beginning to earn his reputation as a young harp giant, Bombay Carter (who quit the band during rehearsals) and the teenage Lurrie Bell on guitars, Freddie Dixon (Willie’s son) on bass and Jeff Ruffin on drums. We rehearsed them in Billy’s basement, where I taught Lurrie the words to “Have You Ever Loved A Woman?,” (which he had never heard) and Billy came up with the name “Sons Of Blues” because there were two sons of bluesmen in the band, and besides, the name could be shortened to be the “S.O.B.s,” which tickled all of us. Billy has kept that name ever since, and the Sons of Blues reappeared on our NEW BLUEBLOODS anthology, plus Billy became one of my first choices as a studio harp player. In fact, he plays on two cuts on Koko’s new album.

More next time,

Bruce Iglauer