Blues Music Birthdays: December 10th – 16th!
This week’s blues birthdays feature music legends Guitar Slim, John Hammond II, Billy Gibbons, Dicky Betts, and powerhouse blues vocalist Big Mama Thornton!
Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones: December 10, 1926
Delta Blues Guitarist Eddie Jones was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. He started to play blues clubs around New Orleans after returning from the military during World War II. He became known as Guitar Slim and was soon one of the wildest and colorful entertainers of the ’50s. During his performances, the electric bluesman would often wear white shoes, brightly colored suits and dyed his hair to match. His swampy blues and R&B sound earned him a massive hit in 1954 with his stunning single “The Things That I Used to Do”. Slim is also remembered as a pioneer of guitar distortion, as well as leaving a lasting influence on many iconic musicians such as Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix.
Big Mama Thornton: December 11, 1926
Powerhouse blues vocalist Willie Mae Thornton was born in a rural town outside of Montgomery, Alabama. She started singing in church and taught herself how to play harmonica and the drums, later touring throughout the south before moving to Houston to start her recording career. Her robust voice and confident stage presence earned her the nickname “Big Mama”. In 1952, she scored her the highlight of her career with a 12-bar blues song titled “Hound Dog”. The hit topped the R&B Chart for seven weeks. Although Big Mama was the first to record the song, Elvis Presley also struck a monster hit with his version. She was also the first to sing “Ball and Chain”, later made famous by Janis Joplin.
Dicky Betts: December 12, 1943
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Forrest Richard Betts was born in West Palm Beach, Fl. A founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, Bett’s is one of the greatest guitarists of all time and recognized for his melodic twin guitar harmonies with Duane Allman. Bett’s wrote two of The Allman Brothers biggest hits, “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica” which was inspired by his daughter who shares the songs name. After a fallout with The Allman Brothers in 2000, Betts reformed the Dickey Betts & Great Southern band and has released 11 solo albums.
John Henry Hammond II: December 15, 1910
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee John Hammond played a significant role in 20th-century popular music as a producer, civil rights activist, and music critic. As a teenager, he became fascinated with black jazz performers and spent much of his time exploring Harlem’s clubs and theaters. He dropped out of Yale University to pursue a career in music and by 1933 he took a job as the American recording director for Columbia Records. Hammond helped to racially integrate the American music industry by organizing shows that would bring black musicians to a mainstream spotlight, such as his sold out ‘From Spirituals to Swing’ concert at Carnegie Hall in the late 30’s which featured performances by Count Basie, Big Bill Broonzy, Big Joe Turner and many other swing bands. Hammond also contributed to the reissues of Delta Blues musician Robert Johnson’s music after convincing Columbia Records to release the album King of the Delta Blues Singers. As a talent scout, Hammond played a fundamental part in the careers of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Bessie Smith, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many others.
Billy Gibbons – December 16, 1949
Blues and boogie rock musician William Frederick Gibbons was born in Houston, Texas. As a teenager, he played guitar in the psychedelic band Moving Sidewalks, in 1968 they opened four dates for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Gibbons is best known as the bearded leader for southern blues-rock band ZZ Top, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and are among the top selling groups of all time with record sales exceeding 25 million. His great tone, melodious solos, and unbeatable feel can be heard on some of his Texas blues classics like “Just Got Paid”, “La Grange”, and “Blue Jean Blues”. Gibbons has played the blues for more than half a century and gives guitar freaks much to aspire to.
Joe Williams – December 12, 1918: American jazz and blues singer known for his Grammy award winning album Nothin’ But the Blues (1984)
Lonesome Sundown – December 12, 1928: Swamp blues musician known for his work with Excello Records in the 1950s and 1960s.
Lucky Peterson – December 13, 1964: Contemporary blues singer, guitarist, and keyboardist who’s been actively releasing records since 1969. His style fuses soul, gospel, rock, and R&B.
Andrew Odom – December 15, 1936: Chicago blues singer who recorded three solo albums, he has worked with Albert King, Johnny Williams, Earl Hooker, Pinetop Perkins, and Carey Bell.
Golden “Big” Wheeler – Dec. 15, 1929: Chicago blues singer and harmonicist who released two albums and is best known for his songs “Damn Good Mojo” and “Bone Orchard”.
Sugar Blue – December 16, 1949: Blues harmonica player who played on Rolling Stones single “Miss You”
Robben Ford – December 16, 1951: American blues, jazz, and rock guitarist was a member of the L.A. Express and has collaborated with Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Larry Carlton, George Harrison, and Kiss.
Devon Ebersold for Keeping the Blues Alive
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