Wax Wonders :: Chicago Blues Finds Its Soul

Chicago style blues is a sound rooted in the deep South. Many bluesmen moved north to escape Jim Crow and to make a living working in the steel mills of Chicago and northwest Indiana; the music followed and when Muddy Waters took his Mississippi roots and electrified them in the late 1940's, a whole new thing was born.

While electric blues remained a popular club attraction into the early '60s, soul music and civil rights practically worked hand in hand to become an incredibly important social upheaval. Blues, rooted in 'the country' was viewed by some as a style that was too deeply connected to a world that the black community was doing their best to escape from. Soul rhythms and a more polished, 'uptown' feel began to infiltrate the music of the great Chicago bluesmen in the early '60s, yet this music was practically ignored by radio and for the most part and sold very little until a whole new (white) audience began discovering this amazing music by the middle of the decade.

Probably my favorite of all the '60s Chicago sides is this double sided (double headed) monster from Junior Wells. Released in 1966, "Shake It Baby!" b/w "(I Got A) Stomach Ache" once again finds Wells working with Buddy Guy on guitar and as a songwriting collaborator; a duo that came together for the previous years' incredible LP, Hoodoo Man Blues (an album that is regarded by many as the greatest electric blues LP ever recorded). "Shake It Baby" is the sound of a wild night at a west side bar, one of those magic moments where the energy and unchained atmosphere is somehow captured in the studio. The band cuts a deep groove and swings hard, with Buddy Guy answering Junior's powerful vocal as a wild call and response between lyrics and guitar. The flip side, with Junior scat-singing the intro, captures the 3 AM vibe of the club, when everyone's gotten woozy but the band's still cookin' and we ain't ready to go home yet. Junior Wells moved from Arkansas to Chicago around age 14, and by the age of 18 he was playing harmonica with Muddy Waters. Buddy Guy moved from Louisiana to Chicago at age 21, and immediately cut a presence in the city with his razor sharp guitar playing.

Junior Wells :: Shake It Baby
Junior Wells :: I Got A Stomach Ache

Magic Sam's immense talent was cut short in 1969 when died of a heart attack at 32 years of age. Sam released two incredible LP's that epitomized his soulful blues style (West Side Soul and Black's Magic both on Delmark Records). There's no telling what this man could have done musically had he lived. Sam (Maghett) moved to Chicago in 1950 at age 13 from Mississippi, and he spent a whole lot of time with fellow Mississippi-to-Chicago transplant Syl Johnson carving out their musical styles during this time. Sam cut many 45's for various labels before signing to Delmark in 1967, and this 1966 single is a haunting track that retains the raw, earthy energy of blues and mates it with a deep soulful ballad yielding glorious results.

Magic Sam :: She Belongs To Me

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