By the time you read this, our hot new Guitar Shorty CD, Watch Your Back and our disc of never-before-released Hound Dog Taylor gems, Release The Hound, will both be in the stores (and at www.alligator.com). For all of you who like your blues with raw, unvarnished intensity and power, both these discs are guaranteed to satisfy! And if you like your blues with a touch of soul, you’ll be happy to know that the Godfather of Austin Blues, W.C. Clark, is back in the studio. He’s working on a new collection of tunes that features Texas blues and shuffles, classic-style soul and his own chilling R&B ballads. We’re planning a late June release.
The last few months have been tough ones for me and for the blues. You lost three vital members of the blues community, and I lost three old friends. A.C. Reed, one of the blues’ premier saxophonists, songwriters and a beloved, larger-than-life personality died of cancer at the age of 77. Bob Greenlee, the creator and guiding light of Kingsnake Records and Studios, producer and champion of artists like Kenny Neal, Lucky Peterson, Rufus Thomas, Noble Watts, Ace Moreland, Ernie Lancaster and dozens more, was lost to cancer. He was 59. And, back in November, Lois Ulrey, longtime Chicago blues fan and publisher of the short-lived but fine magazine Magic Blues, succumbed to heart failure at the age of 58.
A.C. was one of the first bluesmen I met when I came to Chicago. He was already a fixture on the scene then, having cut his own local hit singles (many of them cleverly written originals) and played with everyone in town, including a long stint with Buddy Guy & Junior Wells. His wry, dry sense of humor made him a great guy to hang out with, and his big, warm and ‘less is more’ solos marked him as a true bluesman. In 1977, when I (very) suddenly needed a player to join Son Seals on a European tour, I called A.C. There was literally no time for rehearsal, and A.C. learned all the songs and horn arrangements from a tape while on the plane. He and Son walked onto the bandstand in Paris (opening for B.B. King) and A.C. played the songs perfectly; he was that much of a professional. A.C. stuck with Son for a couple of years, including an appearance on Son’s Live And Burning album. And he was part of that disastrous train wreck in Norway in 1978 when the band and I were forced to become the rescue party. A.C. stood for almost an hour chest-deep in freezing cold water, helping complete strangers to safety. He wasn’t only a good musician; he was a good man.
When Albert Collins signed with Alligator at the end of the 70’s, I ‘matchmade’ the two of them and A.C. joined the Iceman for half a dozen years, as a featured soloist and show opener. He played on four of Albert’s classic albums. After leaving Albert, A.C. struck out on his own, leading the Spark Plugs and producing his own albums featuring his excellent songwriting, full of his self-deprecating humor. Alligator released I’m In The Wrong Business! (nothing could have been further from the truth) back in 1987. A.C. was a great musician, a great guy, and an irreplaceable member of the blues community.
Lois Ulrey was one of those blues fans that hung out at the Jazz Record Mart in my early Chicago days. She was a fan, a photographer, a writer, and one of those dedicated people who would go anywhere, at anytime, in any neighborhood (no matter how dangerous) to hear a good blues band. In the early 90’s, she founded Magic Blues. It never got much distribution, but the quality of writing was really good, and she gave her beloved Chicago blues excellent coverage. I hadn’t seen her in years, but she was one of many blues fans who truly gave back to the musicians.
There’s so much to say about Bob Greenlee —producer, musician, songwriter, label owner, friend— that it will have to wait for next time.