Monday, 26 March 2012
A compilation of tracks from Rea's '80s albums, “New Light Through Old Windows”, was released in 1988 and sold well in the U.K. and Europe and charted in the U.S. Rea followed it up with the critically acclaimed “The Road to Hell”, which many regarded as his best album. It and its follow-up, “Auberge”, went to the top of the U.K. album charts, but did not prove as successful in the U.S., where he has failed to chart with his subsequent releases.
After being diagnosed with pancreatitis, Rea underwent an operation called a Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy), with a predicted 50% chance of survival. In 2001, Rea promised himself that if he recovered, he would be returning to his blues roots. This near brush with death was the catalyst for a change in musical direction and motivation.
In 2005 he released “Blue Guitars”, an eleven CD collection of 137 blues-inspired tracks recorded in eighteen months, complete with his own paintings as album covers. It is seen by himself as his finest work to date.
The fun “The Return of the Fabulous Hofner Blue Notes” appeared in 2008, and he released “The Santo Spirito Blues” in 2011.
Monday, 19 March 2012
Danny Overbea, came out of the Chicago R&B scene, and was one of the earliest pioneers of rock 'n' roll.
He began his musical career in 1946 and first recorded in 1950 as a vocalist on an Eddie Chamblee track.
He formed a vocal-instrumental trio called the Three Earls
Overbea joined Chess Records in 1952, producing his best-known songs, "Train Train Train" and "40 Cups Of Coffee", the following year. Both were essentially rock 'n' roll songs before the concept of "rock 'n' roll" had even emerged.
In the pop market, "Train Train Train" was covered by Buddy Morrow and "40 Cups Of Coffee" by Ella Mae Morse. By 1955, when rock 'n' roll was making its breakthrough on the pop charts, Bill Haley And His Comets recorded "40 Cups Of Coffee", which, even though it did not chart, proved to be one of their better efforts.
By now Overbea was gaining a name as a writer of songs as well as a performer
Famed disc jockey Alan Freed featured Overbea many times in his early rock 'n' roll revues in Ohio and New York; his acrobatic back-bend to the floor while playing the guitar behind his head was always a highlight of the shows.
The first recorded Overbea work in 1954 was the strangely named "Ebony Chant" and the flip was "Stomp And Whistle". This record did not do anywhere near as well as the first two releases.
Overbea was also a talented ballad singer (in the mode of Billy Eckstine), having most success with "You're Mine" (also recorded by the Flamingos) and "A Toast To Lovers".
Overbea made his last records in 1959 and retired from the music business in 1976.
Monday, 12 March 2012
John Adam Estes (January 25, 1899 or 1904 – June 5, 1977)
Big Bill Broonzy called John Estes' style of singing "crying" the blues because of its overt emotional quality. Actually, his vocal style harks back to his tenure as a work-gang leader for a railroad maintenance crew, where his vocal improvisations and keen, cutting voice set the pace for work activities
Estes made his debut as a recording artist in Memphis, Tennessee in 1929, at a session organized by Ralph Peer for Victor Records. His partnership with Nixon was first documented on songs such as "Drop Down Mama" and "Someday Baby Blues" in 1935; later sides replaced the harmonica player with the guitarists Son Bonds or Charlie Pickett.He later recorded for the Decca and Bluebird labels, with his last pre-war recording session taking place in 1941.
Some accounts attribute his nickname "Sleepy" to a blood pressure disorder and/or narcolepsy. Others, such as blues historian Bob Koester, claim he simply had a "tendency to withdraw from his surroundings into drowsiness whenever life was too cruel or too boring to warrant full attention"
Many of Estes' original songs were based on events in his own life or on people he knew from his home town of Brownsville, Tennessee, such as the local lawyer ("Lawyer Clark Blues"), local auto mechanic ("Vassie Williams' Blues"), or an amorously inclined teenage girl ("Little Laura Blues")
He also dispensed advice on agricultural matters ("Working Man Blues") and chronicled his own attempt to reach a recording studio for a session by hopping a freight train ("Special Agent (Railroad Police Blues)"). His lyrics combined keen observation with an ability to turn an effective phrase.
Estes suffered a stroke while preparing for a European tour, and died on June 5, 1977, at his home of 17 years in Brownsville, Tennessee
Monday, 5 March 2012
Ma Rainey (April 26, 1886? – December 22, 1939)
Ma Rainey wasn't the first blues singer to make records, but by all rights she probably should have been. In an era when women were the marquee names in blues, Rainey was once the most celebrated of all; the "Mother of the Blues" had been singing the music for more than 20 years before she made her recording debut (Paramount, 1923). With the advent of blues records, she became even more influential, immortalizing such songs as "See See Rider," "Bo-Weavil Blues," and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Like the other classic blues divas, she had a repertoire of pop and minstrel songs as well as blues, but she maintained a heavier, tougher vocal delivery than the cabaret blues singers who followed. Rainey's records featured her with jug bands, guitar duos, and bluesmen such as Tampa Red and Blind Blake, in addition to the more customary horns-and-piano jazz-band accompaniment (occasionally including such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Fletcher Henderson).
Born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, Ma Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett) began singing professionally when she was a teenager, performing with a number of minstrel and medicine shows. In 1904, she married William "Pa" Rainey and she changed her name to “Ma” Rainey. The couple performed as "Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues" and toured throughout the south, performing with several minstrel shows, circuses, and tent shows. According to legend, she gave a young Bessie Smith vocal lessons during this time. By the early '20s, Rainey had become a featured performer on the Theater Owners' Booking Association circuit.
In 1923, Rainey signed a contract with Paramount Records. Although her recording career lasted only a mere six years -- her final sessions were in 1928 -- she recorded over 100 songs and many of them, including "C.C. Rider" and "Bo Weavil Blues," became genuine blues classics. During these sessions, she was supported by some of the most talented blues and jazz musicians of her era, including Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey and Lovie Austin.
Rainey's recordings and performances were extremely popular among black audiences, particularly in the south. After reaching the height of her popularity in the late '20s, Rainey's career faded away by the early '30s as female blues singing became less popular with the blues audience. She retired from performing in 1933, settling down in her hometown of Columbus. In 1939, Rainey died of a heart attack. She left behind an immense recorded legacy, which continued to move and influence successive generations of blues, country, and rock & roll musicians. In 1983, Rainey was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame; seven years later, she was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.