Tributes to Etta James, Hubert Sumlin and Johnny Otis
We've said it before and we'll say it again! We HATE tribute shows! We want our legends to stay forever! But we must pay tribute to Etta, Hubert and Johhny Otis this week on Time for the Blues (2/19/12) and we hope you'll join us!
John and I have seen so many blues legends pass in the past year--from Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith to Gary Moore and now Miss Etta James, guitarist Hubert Sumlin and bandleader extraordinaire Johnny Otis--all three passing within weeks of each other. The one bright note here is that we have so much of their music to treasure in the years to come!
The career of Etta James is way too expansive to cover here, but there were notable milestones along the way--from her early days singing gospel to her girl-goup The Creolettes to her ground breaking recordings with Chess Records ("At Last", for one), her jazz recordings in the 1990s and even to 2011--still making us smile with her last release "The Dreamer". We'll enjoy cuts from her Chess days and "The Dreamer", along with a live performance from perhaps our favorite Etta album, 1963's "Etta James Rocks the House!" The band is hot, her vocals are smokin' and there's even a pic of the engineer recording the event somewhere on the back cover that still makes us laugh--click on "more photos" above! As music writer Bill Dahl says: "Simply one of the greatest live blues albums ever captured on tape."
Hubert Sumlin was another of our favorites--as Howlin' Wolf's right hand man for many years, Hubert was a unique guitarist in his own right with a chunky, scattershot approach that you'll hear on our featured version of "Killing Floor" from Howlin's Chess studio recordings. We'll also feature Hubert with Howlin' at the American Folk Blues Festival from Europe in the early 60's as well as his 90's collaboration with Jimmy Rogers and "Big" Bill Hickey and even some of his own solo tracks! Check out this video where Hubert talks about Howlin' firing him below.
Johhny Otis wore so many hats we don't have space to list them here. Musician, producer, bandleader, singer...that's just a few. Bet you didn't know it was Johnny Otis that first worked with 14-year-old Etta James's group The Creolettes and got them signed to Modern Records and even (as the story goes) gave her the name change from Jamesetta Hawkins to Etta James! But it was his ability to do just about everyhting involved with music that made Johnny Otis special! We're going to feature tracks from the Johnny Otis and his Orchestra recordings in the early 1950's with the Mercury label that featured the smooth vocals of Mel Walker--you'll love "Call Operator 210!"
So grab a nap, put on your jammies and stay up late with us and enjoy these late great talents...and remember them fondly! Time for the Blues with John Porter and Henry Cook airs Sunday at 1:00 AM.
Don't forget--next week (2/26/12) we're Throwin' the Blues all over the studio and on March 4th we're replaying our Gary Moore Tribute that many of you missed when we had the transmitter outage a couple of weeks ago! Let us know who you'd like to hear on upcoming shows!