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1. Snatch It Back and Hold It (2:50) (Amos Blakemore, Bluesharp Publ., BMI)
2. Ships on the Ocean (4:05) (Amos Blakemore, Bluesharp Publ., BMI)
3. Good Morning Schoolgirl (3:52) (John Lee Williamson, P.D.)
4. Hound Dog (2:06) (Leiber/Stoller, Sony/ATV Songs LLC, BMI)
5. In the Wee Wee Hours (3:43) (Amos Blakemore, Bluesharp Publ., BMI)
6. Hey Lawdy Mama (3:11) (Cleve Reed, Universal Music Corp., ASCAP)
7. Hoodoo Man Blues (2:04) (Sonny Boy Wiliamson, P.D.)
8. Early in the Morning (4:45) (Traditional, P.D.)
9. We're Ready (3:37) (Amos Blakemore, Bluesharp Publ., BMI)
10. You Don't Love Me, Baby (2:21) (W. Cobb, Embassy Music Corp./Katrina Music Co., BMI)
11. Chittlins Con Carne (2:10) (Kenny Burrell, Sephra Music, ASCAP)
12. Yonder Wall (4:07) (Traditional, P.D.)
Junior Wells, Harmonica/Vocals
Buddy Guy, Guitar
Jack Myers, Bass
Billy Warren, Drums
Recorded September 22, 23, 1965
at Sound Studios, Chicago
Hoodoo Man Blues is not only Junior Wells' initial LP appearance, it is damn near the first LP by a Chicago blues band. Chess and a few other labels had reissued 45s by Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, etc. but virtually no one had tried to capture the Chicago blues sound free of the limitations of juke-box/airplay promotion. Delmark is proud of the part Hoodoo Man Blues played in the popularization of the real Chicago blues and of Junior Wells. But the credit belongs to Junior, Buddy, Jack and Billy - they made the music. We just sat and dug it.
I was a regular client at Theresa's, usually every Saturday night and always every Monday night for the Blue Monday session when Little Walter and other singers would drop by.
The band on the album was the group Junior used in the club. I saw no reason to mess with a good band working under the leadership of a guy who was not only a wonderful vocalist (my main criteria when it comes to blues) but an excellent harp-blower and, like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, an especially good bandleader. (I always left the "producing" to the leader on our sessions, jazz or blues.)
I didn't realize that this would be the first time a working Chicago blues band recorded in a studio for LP release with no 45 rpm singles planned and the artists given full freedom as to running time of the tracks. I have to say "in the studio" because Chess issued their Muddy Waters At Newport from '63 USIA tapes. This didn't dawn on me for maybe twenty years.
Junior showed up ten minutes late for the first session so I asked him to please be on time for the next one. (He got there before I did the next day.) The whole album took seven hours of studio time. No additional time was required to mix because it was two-track and engineer Stu Black and Junior Wells did the automatic mix. What ever happened to Stu Black? He went to Chess but disappeared when its studio closed. I'd really like to know.
During the session there was a problem with Buddy Guy's guitar amp. Stu knew that a moving session shouldn't be interrupted so he wired Buddy into the Hammond B-3 Leslie speaker for several tracks. The first seven thousand pressings of this album bore the pseudonym Friendly Chap for Buddy because we thought he was under contract to Chess. A British kid named Peter Brown worked at the Jazz Record Mart and attended the session. I told him he could pick the pseudonym.
"Well, a buddy is a friend and a guy is a chap. How abut Friendly Chap?"
Junior didn't go under contract to Delmark because he wanted to cut a single for a local label. Good decision! He cut "Up In Here" for Four Brothers label and wound up under contract to Mercury. But not before Sam Charters, after hearing Hoodoo Man, talked Vanguard into doing a 3-LP series, Chicago The Blues Today,
Vanguard's contract gave them an option for one LP a year for three years.
When the Mercury contract was up, Junior didn't have to ask to do another album, which turned out to be Junior Wells' Blues Jam (Delmark 628) with Buddy and, surprise, Otis Spann. I think it's as good as Hoodoo Man.
Then Junior signed with Atlantic who only issued one album in their three-year deal, after which Junior recorded Junior Wells On Tap (Delmark 635) which some folks didn't like because of the horns. Needless to say, I do.
Tracks from Hoodoo Man have used in several motion pictures and TV commercials. The album has been Delmark's best-seller since its release, closing on a half-million copies as I write this. It received a Grammy a few years ago and a Handy Award as a classic blues record. I am proud of all this but the credit goes to Junior.
-Bob Koester May, 2011
The release of this album marks Delmark's tenth year of blues recording. Previous albums have presented the music of bluesmen who learned and practiced their art in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940's, but who now perform primarily for white audiences in folk clubs, college concerts and European tours. This album presents the blues of today - a music that continues the tradition of Blind Lemon and Charlie Patton as well as relatively modern bluesmen such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Little Walter, and contemporary influences such as B.B. King and James Brown. Like jazz, the blues have their traditions, but undergo constant change as new emotional needs arise for both singer and audience. However, lyric and melody, subject matter and emotional content link the present with the past and future.
Chicago has been the major blues recording center since the early 1920s, when literally hundreds of blues singers and instrumentalists were brought in for recording sessions for the revered vintage labels: Okeh, Vocalion and Paramount. Thus the ghetto has been the breeding ground for the exchange of ideas and the formulation of new styles. By the mid-30s the electric guitar came into use. The electric bass appeared in the late 40s and early 50s, to be followed in a few years by the electric piano.
Junior Wells usually accompanies himself by blowing, spitting, choking a harmonica into an inexpensive, hand-held public-address microphone. His style is based on first-hand knowledge of the entire preceding generation of harp-blowers: Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Walter Horton, etc. yet his style is a blend rather than a collage or a patchwork quilt.
Amos Wells, Jr. was born in John Gaston hospital in Memphis, Tenn., December 9, 1934. His parents farmed near Marion, Arkansas. The Memphis area was a good place to hear the blues during Wells' youth. Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Little Buddy Doyle, Big Walter and others were there. Little Junior Parker lived across the street from Junior and gave him some early lessons after Wells' parents separated. A wild and rebellious Junior Wells followed his mother to Chicago in 1946. He had already discovered that music would be the most important thing in his life.
"I went to this pawnshop downtown and the man had a harmonica priced at $2.00. I got a job on a soda truck . . .played hookey from school . . .worked all week and on Saturday the man gave me a dollar and a half. A dollar and a half! For a whole week of work. I went to the pawnshop and the man said the price was two dollars. I told him I had to have that harp. He walked away from the counter - left the harp there. So I laid my dollar and a half on the counter and picked up the harp. When my trial came up, the judge asked me why I did it. I told him I had to have that harp. The judge asked me to play it and when I did he gave the man the 50 cents and hollered 'Case dismissed!'"
This happened in 1948, the year that Junior snuck into the C & T Lounge at 22nd and Prairie where Tampa Red and Johnny Jones were working. "Tampa was worried because I was too young but Johnny said 'go ahead and let him play' so I did. The owner put me out so I played in front of the place with my amplifier. The cop on the beat said I better get inside the tavern and play."
The youngster won quick, if begrudging, acceptance on the blues scene where talent is harshly judged but where "anyone can sit in - one time." Junior was welcomed back and was soon working with Tampa, Jones, Big Maceo, and Sunnyland Slim whenever he could get inside.
When his sister was dating a policeman a year or two later, Junior inveigled the couple into taking him to Sam Evans' Ebony Lounge on Chicago Avenue where Muddy Waters' great band featured Little Walter and singer-guitarist Jimmy Rogers.
"I went up to Muddy and told him I played harp. He asked me could I play time. Muddy said he'd let me try. Little Walter said: 'That little shrimp.' They stood me on a coke box to reach the mike and I made $45.00 in tips. Walter asked me if I ever played sax before.""
(Today Little Walter and the "little shrimp" are close friends - as anyone regularly attending the Blue Monday sessions at Theresa's at 48th and Indiana can testify.)
When Little Walter left Muddy to capitalize on "Juke", Junior Wells was already being featured as an added attraction on some of Muddy's jobs so it was only natural for him to take Walter's place. During this time he made his first recordings for the States label but his career was interrupted by the draft board so one of the sessions was recorded while Junior was AWOL. (Those old 78s feature Muddy, Elmore James, Fred Below and Louis Myers and are valuable collector's items today.)
Junior married Zearline McBeck when he returned from the army in 1955, began his family and tried to re-establish himself on the music scene. Willie Dixon introduced him to Mel London, for whom Junior recorded some of his best-selling sides on the Chief and Profile labels, including, "Messing With the Kid", "Come On In This House" and "Little By Little".
Last year (1965), the Junior Wells band did a two-week stint at Big John's, on Old Town nightclub where the blues are enthusiastically welcomed by whites who have only begun to discover the many inexpensive wonders of South and West side blues clubs. An appearance at the Swarthmore College Folk Festival followed and the incomparable team of Buddy Guy and Junior Wells will move into Big John's when Guy returns from Europe.
Music is Junior Wells' life, and the blues are his music. Listen to him on a typical night, good-naturedly jiving his audience:
"I don't care who you all came down to listen to. I'm gonna play the blues, just the dirty old blues, and if you don't like 'em, you better get on out of here."
We feel similarly about this record, if you do like the blues, we think you'll like this LP.
I wish to thank Don Kent and Blues Unlimited for use of Don's article as a starting point for the above notes.
- Bob Koester 1966
In the early 70s Buddy Guy's name appeared on the packaging for the first time. Prior to that Buddy was identified as Friendly Chap because it was thought he was under contract to Chess. At the same time five new paragraphs were added to the liner note. The following is the last five paragraphs of the 1970s version of the liner which still appears on the current LP liner.
Junior's music was first heard in concert presentation at the 1962 University of Chicago Folk Festival, an event which proved premature for both Junior and an audience unused to Chicago's electric blues. Folk critics then present hailed Junior's imitators a few years later but were not equipped to handle such intensity and the old prejudices against amplification still prevailed. By the Fall of 1965, however, Paul Butterfield's first album had appeared, and Junior began to establish himself with the white blues audience in appearances at clubs and colleges in the Chicago area and at the Swarthmore College Folk Festival. In 1966 he toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival.
One of Junior's biggest 45s also happened that year, and he began his booking relationship with Dick Waterman's Avalon Productions. The 45, "Up In Here", eventually landed him a Mercury recording deal, was in the #1 spot on Chicago's leading soul stations and rejuvenated his career at home - he sometimes played four clubs a night and a record hop in the afternoon. (The expression "Up In Here" stil remains a part of the language today.) Later, Junior had similar success with his 45, "Tuff Enuff".
Waterman, a blues enthusiast of long-standing who had been booking rural singers Son House, Skip James, Sleepy John Estes, Mississippi John Hurt, etc., keeps Junior busy on the road at folk and rock festivals, clubs and ballrooms. He's been everywhere: the two Fillmore's, Matrix, Avalon, Scene, Electric Theater, as well as the smaller clubs such as Ash Grove, Riverboat, New Orleans House, Mother Blues, Ungano's There were even State Department tours of Africa and Asia - where the blues were never heard before.
But when Junior comes in off the road he can usually be found at the little step-down-and-into club at 48th and Indiana. Theresa's looks much like any other neighborhood tavern but its special feature - raw Chicago blues - has made it a mecca for blues fans. If Junior (and frequently Buddy Buy) isn't on hand, someone else worth hearing usually is: Hound Dog Taylor, Louis Myers, Sam Lawhorn. If it's a weekend and Junior isn't there, he isn't in town.
Album Production and Supervision: Robert G. Koester
CD Production and Mastering: Steve Wagner
Recorded by Stu Black, Sound Studios, 230 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Cover Design: Z. Jastrzebski
Photos: Greg Roberts
CD Package Design: Kate Moss, Moonshine Design
Special thanks to Sue Koester, Bob Koester Jr., Frank Corpus and Kevin Johnson
CP 2011 Delmark Records
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