Blues At The Crossroads
BLUES AT THE CROSSROADS 2: Muddy & The Wolf
Fabulous Thunderbirds featuring Kim Wilson
After a sucessful tour with the Robert Johnson Centennial Concerts, BLUES AT THE CROSSROADS returns to celebrate the two ledgends, MUDDY WATERS and HOWLIN' WOLF. Both musiciansvie for the homor of the "father of modern Chicago Blues" and both are considered the key bluesmen inspiring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, John Mayall, Eric Clapton and others who brought about the 1960's British blues explosion.Though friends, Muddy & The Wolf were rivals for the top slot, and this spurred on both to top the other and create classics of the genre, including "Spoonful," "Mannish Boy," "Rolling Stone," and "Smokestack Lightning." THE FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS join Blues At The Corssroads 2 as the core band backing greats JAMES COTTON, BOB MARGOLIN, JJ GREY, and JODY WILLIAMS.
From the beginning, 30 years ago, the FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS have been led by one of a kind vocalist / harmonica player, Kim Wilson. The group's distinctive and powerful sound mixes Texas blues and southern rock with harmonica laced swamp blues and R&B.
Because of their peerless musicianship and unique vocals, they have a huge worldwide fan base and have always been favorites of top musicians, leading to world tours with The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.
"TUFF ENUFF" [and]"WRAP IT UP" were Top 10 hits and many of their songs have been used in movies and commercials.
The musical pedigree of JAMES "SUPERHARP" COTTON consists of a veritable who’s who in the world of the Blues. He’s a Grammy winner, an inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame, the Smithsonian Institute, and a recipient of countless W.C. Handy Blues Awards. The year 2011 has begun with four coveted nominations. GIANT, his current CD on Alligator Records, has a Grammy nomination for Traditional Blues Album and the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards have nominated GIANT in the same category along with Cotton in both the Traditional Male Artist and Instrumentalist - Harmonica categories.
An orphan at the age of nine, he was raised in Mississippi by his mentor, Sonny Boy Williamson, who remains famous for his many unique songs and innovative Delta Blues harmonica style. As a young teenager Cotton befriended Howlin’ Wolf and joined forces with him playing Mississippi and Arkansas juke joints for two years. During that time Cotton hosted his own afternoon radio show in West Memphis, AR and also recorded “Cotton Crop Blues” and three other songs on Sun Records in Memphis. In 1954 when Muddy Waters needed a harmonica player, he found Cotton playing a club in Arkansas and took him to Chicago. Cotton remained a member of Waters band for 12 years not only playing shows but also recording with him on Chess Records. One of the highlights of that period came when Cotton arranged the ever-popular anthem of the blues, “Got My Mojo Workin’, “ which was played for the first time by the Muddy Waters Band at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1961.
In 1966 Cotton formed the James Cotton Blues Band. His 1974 album, 100% Cotton, began the crossover funk, rock-oriented sound that is the contemporary Chicago Blues. The band continues to showcase his immense talent which is defined by his signature unmatched harmonica tone combined with a drummer’s acute sense of time and rhythm. At age 75 he is still a force to be reckoned with. He’s one of the most sought-after, harddriving, seminal blues musicians touring the world today.
He has shared the stage with B.B. King, Santana, Steve Miller, Johnny Winter, the Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Sam and Dave, the Grateful Dead, ad infinitum. He is the only musician alive today who has played with Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters.
Cotton passionately explains, ”My audience always tells me how I’m doing. If I look out there and don’t like what I see, I work harder.” After all these years he feels his audience has become part of his family, still standing, and enjoying his performances as much as he does. You will have a memorable evening with an international treasure and a true Living Legend of the Blues.
His current Alligator Records CD, GIANT, is a ferocious blast of brash power blues from Cotton and his touring band.
2011 is Cotton’s 67th year in the entertainment business. What an amazing adventure “Superharp” is experiencing with his little harmonica.
Southern blues-rocker TINSLEY ELLIS may speak no evil, but he sings and plays with the conviction of, as Billboard wrote, “...a man possessed.” Over the course of 11 albums and literally thousands of live performances, Ellis easily ranks as one of today’s most electrifying blues-rock guitarists and vocalists. He attacks his music with rock power and blues feeling, in the same tradition as his Deep South musical heroes Duane Allman and Freddie King and his old friends Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. Atlanta Magazine declared Ellis “the most significant blues artist to emerge from Atlanta since Blind Willie McTell.”
Since first hitting the national scene with his Alligator Records debut Georgia Blue in 1988, Ellis has toured non-stop and continued to release one critically acclaimed album after another. Tinsley’s hometown paper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calls his music “a potent, amazing trip through electric blues-rock.” Rolling Stone says he plays “feral blues guitar...non-stop gigging has sharpened his six-string to a razor’s edge...his eloquence dazzles...he achieves pyrotechnics that rival early Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.”
And now, following up on the success of his 2007 CD, Moment Of Truth, Ellis returns with Speak No Evil. Produced by Ellis, Speak No Evil is the most guitar-driven album of his career. It features his fiercest, most brutally honest and hard-hitting original songs to date. The soulfulness and expressiveness of his guitar playing are ferocious and relentless, but when the mood calls for it, can be gentle and melodic. The depth of Ellis’ songwriting, while not unexpected, is certainly beyond anything he’s done before. Ellis seems to be pouring his soul into each and every performance with unguarded, raw emotion. With rip-roaring songs that are both poignant and humorous, Speak No Evil is as wide-ranging and inspired a recording as Ellis has ever made, and one of the most satisfying Southern blues-rock albums in ages.
Tinsley Ellis wears his Southern roots proudly. Born in Atlanta in 1957, he grew up in southern Florida and first played guitar at age eight. He found the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream, and The Rolling Stones. He especially loved the Kings — Freddie, B.B. and Albert — and spent hours immersing himself in their music. His love for the blues solidified when he was 14. At a B.B. King performance, Tinsley sat mesmerized in the front row. When B.B. broke a string on Lucille, he changed it without missing a beat, and handed the broken string to Ellis. After the show, B.B. came out and talked with fans, further impressing Tinsley with his warmt and down-to-earth attitude. By now Tinsley’s fate was sealed; he had to become a blues guitarist. And yes, he still has that string.
Already an accomplished teenaged musician, Ellis left Florida and returned to Atlanta in 1975. He soon joined the Alley Cats, a gritty blues band that included Preston Hubbard (of Fabulous Thunderbirds fame). In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become Atlanta’s top-drawing blues band. Upon hearing Live At The Moonshadow (Landslide), the band’s second release, The Washington Post declared, “Tinsley Ellis is a legitimate guitar hero.” After cutting two more Heartfixers albums for Landslide, Cool On It (featuring Tinsley’s vocal debut) and Tore Up (with vocals by blues shouter Nappy Brown), Ellis was ready to head out on his own. Ellis sent a copy of the master tape for his solo debut to Bruce Iglauer at Alligator Records. “I had heard Cool On It,” recalls Iglauer, “and I was amazed. I hadn’t heard Tinsley before, but he played like the guys with huge international reputations. It wasn’t just his raw power; it was his taste and maturity that got to me. It had the power of rock but felt like the blues. I knew I wanted to hear more of this guy.”
Georgia Blue, Tinsley’s first Alligator release, hit an unprepared public by surprise in 1988. Critics and fans quickly agreed that a new and original guitar hero had emerged. “It’s hard to overstate the raw power of his music,” raved The Chicago Sun-Times. Before long, Alligator arranged to reissue Cool On It and Tore Up, thus exposing Tinsley’s blistering earlier music to a growing fan base.
Tinsley’s subsequent releases — 1989’s Fanning The Flames, 1992’s Trouble Time, 1994’s Storm Warning, and 1997’s Fire It Up — further expanded the guitarist’s hero status. By now his talents as a songwriter equaled his guitar prowess. Guitar World said, “Ellis stands alongside Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter, and that ain’t just hype.” Guests like Peter Buck (R.E.M.), guitarist Derek Trucks and keyboardist Chuck Leavell (The Rolling Stones) joined him in the studio. Producers Eddy Offord (John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Yes) and even the legendary Tom Dowd (The Allman Brothers, Ray Charles) helped Ellis hone his studio sound. Features and reviews ran in Rolling Stone, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and in many other national and regional publications. His largest audience by far came when NBC Sports ran a feature on Atlanta’s best blues guitarist during their 1996 Summer Olympic coverage, viewed by millions of people all over the world.
A move to Capricorn Records in 2000 saw Ellis revisiting his Southern roots with Kingpin. Unfortunately, the label folded soon after the CD’s release. In 2002, he joined the Telarc label, producing two well-received albums of soul-drenched blues-rock, Hell Or High Water and The Hard Way. All the while, Ellis never stopped touring. “A musician never got famous staying home,” he’s quick to note.
Ellis’ 2005 return to Alligator, the searing guitar-fueled Live-Highwayman, was the live recording his fans had been demanding for years. Recorded at a packed club just outside Chicago, the CD took Ellis’ extended soloing and heartfelt vocals to staggering heights. The Chicago Tribune said, “incendiary live performances, inspired, original and funky.” His return to the studio in 2007 produced Moment Of Truth, an album The Chicago Tribune called “incendiary.”
Averaging over 150 live shows a year, Ellis has played in all 50 states, as well as Canada, Europe, Australia and South America. He has shared stages with almost every major blues star, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and many others. Whether he’s out with his own band or sharing stages with major artists like Buddy Guy, The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule or Widespread Panic, he always digs deep and plays, as Guitar Player says, “…as if his life depended on it.” With Speak No Evil and continued non-stop touring, Ellis will bring his monumental guitar work and intensely powerful vocals to rock and blues fans all over the world, letting his songs and his guitar do the talking.
"The first great stringbender on the Chicago blues scene, Williams provided the stylistic bridge between B.B. King and T-Bone Walker and young firebrands Otis Rush and Buddy Guy, both of whom wholeheartedly absorbed his innovations" - Bill Dahl
"Williams comes back armed with a tone and a style that'll turn your head around." - Guitar Player Magazine
The term "legend" is bandied about generously these days. It seems like the mere act of living to a ripe old age is enough to earn this handle all by itself.
In the case of blues guitarist JODY WILLIAMS, however, the "legendary" mantle is entirely and gloriously justified. As the first great string bender on the Chicago blues scene, he provided the stylistic bridge between B.B. King and T-Bone Walker (two of his principle influences) and young firebrands Otis Rush and Buddy Guy, both of whom wholeheartedly absorbed his innovations and licks as they modernized the idiom.
As a key Chicago session-guitarist during the 50's whose singular tone, imaginative chord changes, and boundless creativity set him well apart from his peers, Jody added the essential guitar fire to some of the era's greatest blues recordings: Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love, Howlin' Wolf's Forty Four, Billy Boy Arnold's I Wish You Would, and his own shimmering minor key instrumental Lucky Lou. You can hear echoes of Jody in Carlos Santana and Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green, and his impact extends to a legion of contemporary bluesmen on the scene.
Jody was a prolific studio musician during the mid-to-late 1950's. He invigorated Bo Diddley's voodoo-laced 1956 Checker smash Who Do You Love with a barrage of scalding fretwork. Williams' slashing axe graced sessions with Jimmy Rogers (One Kiss), Floyd Dixon (Alarm Clock Blues), Jimmy Witherspoon (Ain't Nobody's Business), Otis Rush (Groaning The Blues), and Billy Boy Arnold (I Ain't Got You).
Williams' studio debut as a leader came at the end of 1955 with two authoritative upbeat vocals, Lookin' For My Baby and Easy Lovin' for Chicago deejay Al Benson's Blue Lake logo with Willie Dixon slapping the bass. At the top of 1957, Williams cut his two-sided classic Lucky Lou b/w You May for Chess' Argo label. Lucky Lou's startling melody line was the inspiration for the blazing intro to Otis Rush's classic All Your Love (I Miss Loving), cut the following year for Cobra Records. Jody kept busy during the early 1960's but by the late 60's he was tired of getting short changed on recognition and financial rewards, and he had a family to support. He stopped playing the guitar, stopped going to clubs, stopped listening to music. In a strange twist of irony, Williams the guitarist that everyone copied, took a job as an engineer for the Xerox Corporation.
In 2002 he emerged from retirement with the Dick Shurman produced album Return of A Legend which became the vehicle to re-launch his career. Legend received a 2003 WC Handy Award for Comeback Album of the Year, and Williams was heralded by Living Blues readers and critics as "Best Guitarist" for that year.
In 2004 he released "You Left Me In The Dark." Williams once again teamed up with producer Dick Shurman to record material that continues to show his strength as a songwriter and a master of the Chicago Blues guitar style. Living Blues voted Jody Williams "Best Guitarist" and "You Left Me In The Dark" as "Best Contemporary Blues" recording in the 2005 Critics poll.
BOB MARGOLIN is a Blues guitar player and vocalist, a recording artist who tours worldwide both leading his own band and The Bob Margolin All-Star Blues Jam. He won a Blues Music Award for Guitar in 2008, known as the W.C. Handy Award in 2005 when he won that year, and played guitar in Muddy Waters’ Band from 1973-’80.
He can be seen with Muddy Waters and The Band in The Last Waltz, the classic music documentary. His most recent album is The Bob Margolin All-Star Blues Jam for Telarc Records, which features many of today’s surviving Chicago Blues legends. Since the ‘90s, he has also recorded albums for the Powerhouse, Alligator, and Blind Pig labels. He writes a regular column for Blues Revue magazine and contributes to BluesWax.com online magazine.
Bob also has played on, produced or consulted on, and written liner notes for four reissues of Muddy Waters’ albums on the Sony/Legacy label. He appears on the Muddy Waters Classic Concerts DVD, playing in 1977 with Muddy and writing liner notes for the DVD.
In today’s Blues music scene, Bob Margolin is carrying on the tradition with a full schedule of festivals, concerts, and club appearances. For more details and depth, visit the other links on this website.