Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry Dies at 90

Chuck Berry, the singer-songwriter and guitarist who was one of the architects of rock 'n' roll, died Saturday, March 18, 2017. He was 90. Berry was found unresponsive on Saturday afternoon in St. Charles County, Missouri. Born Oct. 18, 1926, Berry wrote and performed some of the great classics of the early rock 'n' roll era – "Johnny B. Goode," "Maybellene," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Rock and Roll Music," "Sweet Little Sixteen" and many more. In 1953, he began performing with Johnnie Johnson, who would become Berry's frequent collaborator. Berry got a kick out of experimenting with combining the blues he regularly played with the country music he heard white audiences requesting. The combination caught on, and more and more people began attending his concerts. He caught the attention of famed bluesman Muddy Waters, who sent him to audition for Chess Records. Founder Leonard Chess liked what he heard, recorded and released "Maybellene," and a legend was born. Berry churned out hits throughout the 1950s, and after a prison stint in the early 1960s, he was back on the charts with hot singles including "No Particular Place To Go," "Nadine" and "You Never Can Tell." He topped the R&B chart over and over, and while he frequently had songs in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, only one of his singles ever saw the No. 1 spot there – the novelty song "My Ding-a-Ling." He continued to play and tour well into his 80s.

Berry's influence is seen all over rock 'n' roll, and his music is widely considered some of the greatest rock music ever recorded. He was the very first inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His "Johnny B. Goode" ranked No 1 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time," and it's just one of many of his songs to find a place on such lists. John Lennon notably said of Berry, "If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry.'" Berry is survived by his wife, Thelma Suggs, and his children, Ingrid Berry Clay, Chuck Berry Jr., Aloha Isa Lei Berry and Melody Exes Berry. 

Below are some of my favorite performances.

Friday, March 17, 2017

James Cotton "Mr. Superharp" Dead at 81

James Cotton, the Grammy Award-winning blues harmonica player who backed some of the greatest blues artists of his time, died Thursday, March 16, 2017, according to multiple news sources. Cotton was 81.
James Henry Cotton, was born July 1, 1935, in Tunica, Mississippi. He started his music career in the early 1950s as the harmonica player for Howlin' Wolf's band. He recorded some of his first songs in Sam Phillips' Sun Records studio in Memphis, where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and other music legends also recorded.
In 1955, Cotton came to Chicago at the urging of another blues great, Muddy Waters. Cotton became the band leader, and he remained with Waters until 1965. That year, Cotton launched his own band, the Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet, featuring the blues pianist Otis Spann, to perform whenever Waters' band was on hiatus. Cotton eventually went full-time with his group and never looked back. He would later return to play harmonica with Waters for the latter's 1977 album, "Hard Again." The album, produced by Johnny Winter, won a Grammy Award.
In the 1980s, Cotton began recording for Chicago's Alligator Records label. In 2010, he returned to the Alligator fold.
Some of Cotton's best work came during the 1980s and '90s. His James Cotton Blues Band was nominated for a Grammy in 1984 for "Live From Chicago: Mr. Superharp Himself!" on the Alligator label. Three years later, the band received a second Grammy nomination for the album "Take Me Back," on the Blind Pig Records label. Cotton won a Grammy for best traditional blues album for 1996's "Deep in the Blues."
In 2006, Cotton was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.