Earl Hooker

Earl Zebedee Hooker (January 15, 1930 – April 21, 1970)[1] was a Chicago blues guitarist known for his slide guitar playing. Considered a "musician's musician",[2] he performed with blues artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Junior Wells, and John Lee Hooker and fronted his own bands. An early player of the electric guitar, Hooker was influenced by the modern urban styles of T-Bone Walker and Robert Nighthawk. He recorded several singles and albums as a bandleader and with other well-known artists. His "Blue Guitar", a slide guitar instrumental single, was popular in the Chicago area and was later overdubbed with vocals by Muddy Waters as "You Shook Me".

In the late 1960s, Hooker began performing on the college and concert circuit and had several recording contracts. Just as his career was on an upswing, he died in 1970, at age 40, after a lifelong struggle with tuberculosis. His guitar playing has been acknowledged by many of his peers, including B.B. King, who commented, "to me he is the best of modern guitarists. Period. With the slide he was the best. It was nobody else like him, he was just one of a kind".[3]

Earl Hooker
EarlHooker
Background information
Birth nameEarl Zebedee Hooker
BornJanuary 15, 1930
Quitman County, Mississippi
DiedApril 21, 1970 (aged 40)
Chicago, Illinois
GenresBlues
Occupation(s)Musician
InstrumentsGuitar
Years active1940s–1970
LabelsCuca, Chief/Profile/Age, Arhoolie, Bluesway

Early life

Hooker was born in rural Quitman County, Mississippi,[1] outside of Clarksdale. In 1930, his parents moved the family to Chicago, during the Great Migration of blacks out of the rural South in the early 20th century.

His family was musically inclined (John Lee Hooker was a cousin), and Earl heard music played at home at an early age. About age ten, he started playing the guitar. He was self-taught and picked up what he could from those around him. He developed proficiency on the guitar but showed no interest in singing. He had pronounced stuttering, which afflicted him all his life.[4] Hooker contracted tuberculosis when he was young. The disease did not become critical until the mid-1950s, but it required periodic hospitalizations, beginning at an early age.

By 1942, when he was 13, Hooker was performing on Chicago street corners with childhood friends, including Bo Diddley. From the beginning, the blues was Hooker's favorite music. In this period, country-influenced blues was giving way to swing-influenced and jump blues styles, which often featured the electric guitar. In 1942, the popular guitarist T-Bone Walker began a three-month stint at the Rhumboogie Club in Chicago. He had considerable impact on Hooker, with both his playing and his showmanship.[5] Walker's swing-influenced blues guitar, including "the jazzy way he would sometimes run the blues scales"[4] and intricate chording, appealed to Hooker. Walker's stage dynamics, which included playing the guitar behind his neck and with his teeth, influenced Hooker's later stage act.

Around this time, Hooker became friends with Robert Nighthawk, one of the first guitarists in Chicago to play the electric guitar. Nighthawk taught Hooker slide guitar techniques, including various tunings and his highly articulated approach, and was a lasting influence on Hooker's playing. Also around this time, Hooker met Junior Wells, another important figure in his career. The two were frequent street performers, and sometimes, to avoid foul weather (or truancy officers), they played in streetcars, riding from one line to another across Chicago.

Early career and recordings

Around 1946, Hooker traveled to Helena, Arkansas, where he performed with Robert Nighthawk. When he was not booked with Nighthawk, he performed with Sonny Boy Williamson II, sometimes on Williamson's popular radio program, King Biscuit Time, on station KFFA, in Helena.[6] Hooker toured the South as a member of Nighthawk's band for the next couple of years. This was his introduction to life as an itinerant blues musician (although he had earlier run away from home and spent time in the Mississippi Delta). In 1949, Hooker tried to establish himself in the music scene in Memphis, Tennessee, but was soon back on the road, fronting his own band. By the early 1950s he had returned to Chicago and was performing regularly in clubs. This set the pattern that he repeated for most of his life: extensive touring with various musicians interspersed with establishing himself in various cities before returning to the Chicago club scene.[6] During this time, he formed a band with the blues drummer and vocalist Kansas City Red.[7]

In 1952, Hooker began recording for several independent record companies. His early singles were often credited to the vocalist he recorded with, although some instrumentals (and his occasional vocal) were issued in Hooker's name. Songs by Hooker and blues and R&B artists, including Johnny O'Neal, Little Sam Davis, Boyd Gilmore, Pinetop Perkins, the Dells, Arbee Stidham, Lorenzo Smith, and Harold Tidwell, were recorded for King, Rockin', Sun, Argo, Vee-Jay, States, United, and C.J. (several of these recordings, including all of the Sun sessions, were unissued at the time). The harmonica player Little Arthur Duncan often accompanied Hooker during this period.[8]

Among these early singles was Hooker's first recorded vocal performance, an interpretation of the blues classic "Black Angel Blues". His vocals were more than adequate but lacked the power usually associated with blues singers.[9] Hooker's "Sweet Angel" (1953, Rockin' 513) was based on Nighthawk's "Black Angel Blues" (1949) and showed that "Hooker had by now transcended his teacher".[10] (B.B. King later had a hit with his interpretation, "Sweet Little Angel", in 1956.) One of Hooker's most successful singles during this period was "Frog Hop", recorded in 1956 (Argo 5265), an upbeat instrumental in which the influence of T-Bone Walker's swing blues and chording techniques can be heard, but Hooker's own style is also apparent.[11]

Chief, Profile, and Age recordings

Despite a major attack of tuberculosis in 1956, which required hospitalization, Hooker returned to performing in Chicago clubs and touring the South. By late 1959, Junior Wells had brought Hooker to the Chief–Profile–Age group of labels, with which he began one of the most fruitful periods of his recording career. Their first recording together, "Little by Little" (Profile 4011), was a hit the following year, reaching number 23 on the Billboard Hot R&B Sides chart.[12] With this success and his rapport with Chief owner and producer Mel London, Hooker became Chief's house guitarist. From 1959 to 1963, he appeared on about forty Chief recordings, including singles for Wells, Lillian Offitt, Magic Sam, A.C. Reed, Ricky Allen, Reggie "Guitar" Boyd, Johnny "Big Moose" Walker, and Jackie Brenston, as well as singles on which Hooker was the featured artist. He performed for nearly all of Wells's releases, including "Come On in This House", "Messin' with the Kid", and "It Hurts Me Too", which remained in Wells's repertoire for the rest of his career. Hooker regularly performed with Wells for the latter part of 1960 and most of 1961.

Hooker released several instrumentals for the Chief labels, including the slow blues "Calling All Blues" (Chief 7020) in 1960, which featured his slide guitar playing, and "Blues in D Natural" (Chief 7016), also in 1960, in which he switched between fretted and slide guitar. A chance taping before a recording session captured perhaps Hooker's best-known composition (although by a different title). During the warm-up preceding a session in May 1961, Hooker and his band played an impromptu slow blues featuring his slide guitar. The tune was played once, and Hooker was apparently not aware that it was being recorded.[13] Producer Mel London saved the tape and, when looking for material to release the following spring, issued it as "Blue Guitar" (Age 29106). "Earl's song sold unusually well for an instrumental blues side",[14] and Chicago-area bluesmen included it in their sets.

Sensing greater commercial potential for Hooker's "Blue Guitar", Leonard Chess approached London about using it for the next Muddy Waters record. An agreement was reached, and in July 1962 Waters overdubbed a vocal (with lyrics by Willie Dixon) on Hooker's single. The song, renamed "You Shook Me", was successful, and Chess hired Hooker to record three more instrumentals for Waters to overdub. One of the songs, "You Need Love", again with lyrics by Dixon, was also a success and "sold better than Muddy's early sixties recordings".[15] The rock band Led Zeppelin later achieved greater success with their adaptations of Hooker's and Waters's "You Shook Me" and "You Need Love".

During his time with Chief, Hooker recorded singles as a sideman for Bobby Saxton and Betty Everett and in his own name for the Bea & Baby, C.J., and Checker labels. By 1964, the last of the Chief labels went out of business, ending his longest association with a record label. For some, his recordings for the Chief–Profile–Age group are his best work.[16]

Cuca and Arhoolie recordings

Hooker continued touring and began recording for Cuca Records, Jim-Ko, C.J., Duplex, and Globe. Several songs recorded for Cuca between 1964 and 1967 were released on his first album, The Genius of Earl Hooker. The album was composed of instrumentals, including the slow blues "The End of the Blues" and some tunes incorporating recent popular music trends, such as the early funk-influenced "Two Bugs in a Rug" (an allusion to his tuberculosis, or TB). Hooker experienced a major tuberculosis attack in late summer 1967 and was hospitalized for nearly a year.

When Hooker was released from the hospital in 1968, he assembled a new band and began performing in Chicago clubs and touring, against his doctor's advice. The band, with the pianist Pinetop Perkins, the harmonica player Carey Bell, the bassist Geno Skaggs, the vocalist Andrew Odom, and the steel guitar player Freddie Roulette, was "widely acclaimed" and "considered one of the best Earl had ever carried with him".[17] On the basis of a recommendation from Buddy Guy, Arhoolie Records recorded an album, Two Bugs and a Roach, by Hooker and his new band.[2] The album, released in the spring of 1969, included a mix of instrumentals and songs with vocals by Odom, Bell, and Hooker. For one of his vocals, Hooker chose "Anna Lee", a song based on Robert Nighthawk's "Annie Lee Blues" (1949). As he had done earlier with "Sweet Angel", Hooker acknowledged his mentor's influence but went beyond Nighthawk's version to create his own interpretation. The "brilliant bebop[-influenced]" instrumental "Off the Hook" showed his jazz leanings.[18] Two Bugs and a Roach was "extremely well-received by critics and the public"[2] and "stands today as [part of] Hooker's finest musical legacy."[19]

Blue Thumb and Bluesway recordings

The year 1969 was an important one in Hooker's career. He again teamed with Junior Wells, performing at higher-paying college dates and concerts, including Chicago's Kinetic Playground. This pairing did not last long, and in May 1969, after assembling new players, Hooker recorded material that was later released as Funk: Last of the Late Great Earl Hooker. Also in May, after being recommended by Ike Turner (with whom he first toured in 1952), Hooker went to Los Angeles to record the album Sweet Black Angel for Blue Thumb Records, with arrangements and piano accompaniment by Turner.[20] The album included Hooker's interpretations of several blues standards, such as "Sweet Home Chicago" (with Hooker on vocal), "Drivin' Wheel", "Cross Cut Saw", "Catfish Blues", and the title track. While in Los Angeles, Hooker visited clubs and sat in with Albert Collins at the Ash Grove several times and jammed with others, including Jimi Hendrix.[21]

After the Blue Thumb recording session, Hooker and his band backed his cousin John Lee Hooker on a series of club dates in California, after which John Lee used them for a recording session for Bluesway Records. The resulting album, John Lee Hooker Featuring Earl Hooker – If You Miss 'Im ... I Got 'Im, was Earl Hooker's introduction to the Bluesway label, a subsidiary of ABC and home to B.B. King. He recorded six more albums for Bluesway in 1969: his own Don't Have to Worry and albums by Andrew Odom, Johnny "Big Moose" Walker, Charles Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry.[20]

Hooker's Don't Have to Worry included vocal performances by him and by Walker and Odom, along with instrumental selections. The session had a "coherence and consistency" that helped to make the album another part of Hooker's "finest musical legacy".[19] Touring with his band in California took Hooker to the San Francisco Bay area in July 1969, where he played club and college dates and rock venues, such as The Matrix and the Fillmore West. In Berkeley, he and his band, billed as Earl Hooker and His Chicago Blues Band, performed at a club, Mandrake's, for two weeks as he recorded a second album for Arhoolie. The album, Hooker and Steve, was recorded with Louis Myers on harmonica, Steve Miller on keyboards, Geno Skaggs on bass, and Bobby Robinson on drums. Hooker shared the vocals with Miller and Skaggs.[22]

Last performances

After his California sojourn, Hooker returned to Chicago and performed regularly around the city. He appeared at the first Chicago Blues Festival on August 30, 1969, which attracted about 10,000 people. In October 1969, Hooker toured Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival, playing twenty concerts in twenty-three days in nine countries. His sets were well received and garnered favorable reviews.[23][24] "The journey overseas was a sort of apotheosis for Hooker, who regarded it, along with his recording trips to California, as the climax of his career."[25] The tour exhausted him, and "his friends noticed a severe deterioration of his health upon his return."[25] Hooker played a few dates around Chicago (including some with Junior Wells) from November to early December 1969, after which he was hospitalized.

Hooker died on April 21, 1970, at age 40, of complications due to tuberculosis. He is interred in Restvale Cemetery, in the Chicago suburb of Alsip.[26]

Playing style and recognition

Unlike his contemporaries Elmore James and Muddy Waters, Hooker used standard tuning on his guitar for slide playing. He used a short steel slide, which allowed him to switch between slide and fretted playing during a song with greater ease. Part of his slide sound has been attributed to his light touch, a technique he learned from Robert Nighthawk. "Instead of using full-chord glissando effects, he preferred the more subtle single-note runs inherited from others who played slide in standard tuning, [such as] Tampa Red, Houston Stackhouse, and his mentor Robert Nighthawk."[27] In addition to his mastery of slide guitar, Hooker was also a highly developed standard-guitar soloist and rhythm player.[28] At a time when many blues guitarists were emulating B.B. King, Hooker maintained his own course.[29] Although he was a bluesman at heart, he was adept at several musical styles, which he incorporated into his playing as it suited him. Depending on his mood and audience reaction, a Hooker performance could include blues, boogie-woogie, R&B, soul, be-bop, pop, and even a country-western favorite.[30]

Hooker was a flamboyant showman in the style of T-Bone Walker and predated others with a similar approach, such as Guitar Slim and Johnny "Guitar" Watson. He wore flashy clothes and picked the guitar with his teeth or his feet or played it behind his neck or between his legs.[31] He also played a double-neck guitar, at first a six-string guitar and four-string bass combination and later a twelve- and six-string combination. After his 1967 tuberculosis attack left him weakened, he sometimes played while seated and used a lighter single-neck guitar. In a genre that typically shunned gadgetry, Hooker was an exception. He experimented with amplification and used echo and tape delay, including "double-tracking his playing during a song, [so] he could pick simultaneously two solos in harmony".[32] He began using a wah-wah pedal in 1968 to add a vocal-like quality to some of his solos.[17]

Hooker did not receive as much public recognition as some of his contemporaries, but he was highly regarded by musicians. Many consider him to be one of the greatest modern blues guitarists, including[20][33] Wayne Bennett, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Albert Collins, Willie Dixon, Ronnie Earl, Tinsley Ellis, Guitar Shorty, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Albert King, B.B. King, Little Milton, Louis Myers, Lucky Peterson, Otis Rush, Joe Louis Walker, and Junior Wells. In 2013, Hooker was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame, which noted that "Earl Hooker was the 'blues guitarists' guitarist,' the most respected six-string wizard in Chicago blues musicians' circles during the 1950s and '60s."[34]

Partial album discography

The following lists the albums Hooker released during his career and currently available compilations.

Year Title Label Comments
1968 The Genius of Earl Hooker Cuca Recorded in Sauk City, WIsconsin, 1964–67
1969 Two Bugs and a Roach Arhoolie Recorded in Chicago, 1968
1969 Don't Have to Worry Bluesway Recorded in Los Angeles, 1969
1969 Sweet Black Angel Blue Thumb Recorded in Los Angeles, 1969
1970 Hooker and Steve Arhoolie Recorded in Berkeley, 1969
1972 Funk: The Last of the Great Earl Hooker Blues on Blues Recorded in Chicago, 1969
1972 His First and Last Recordings Arhoolie Sun and Arhoolie recordings, 1953, 1968–69
1972 There's a Fungus Amung Us Red Lightning Cuca recordings, 1964–67 (reissue of the 1968 album The Genius of Earl Hooker)
1985 Play Your Guitar, Mr. Hooker! Black Magic Cuca recordings, 1964–68
1993 Play Your Guitar, Mr. Hooker! Black Top Cuca recordings, 1964–68 (reissue of the 1985 album on Black Magic)
1998 The Moon Is Rising Arhoolie Arhoolie, live recordings, 1968–69
1999 Simply the Best: Earl Hooker Collection MCA Chess, Blue Thumb and Bluesway recordings, 1956–69
2003 Blue Guitar: The Chief and Age Sessions 1959–63 P-Vine Chief, Profile and Age recordings, 1959–63
2006 An Introduction to Earl Hooker Fuel Chief and Age recordings, 1959–62

Notes

  1. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 198. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  2. ^ a b c Strachwitz 1998, p. 1.
  3. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 101.
  4. ^ a b Danchin 2001, p. 13.
  5. ^ Danchin 2001, pp. 12–13.
  6. ^ a b Grigg 1999, p. 4.
  7. ^ Harris 2004, pp. 559–560.
  8. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Little Arthur Duncan". AllMusic.com. Retrieved December 14, 2011.
  9. ^ Danchin 2001, pp. 55, 168–169.
  10. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 56.
  11. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 105.
  12. ^ Whitburn 1988, p. 438.
  13. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 171.
  14. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 139.
  15. ^ Danchin 2002, p. 140.
  16. ^ Dahl 1996, p. 115.
  17. ^ a b Danchin 2001, p. 251.
  18. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 256.
  19. ^ a b Danchin 2001, p. 281.
  20. ^ a b c Grigg 1999, p. 7.
  21. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 277.
  22. ^ Strachwitz 1998, p. 4.
  23. ^ Danchin 2001, pp. 305–306.
  24. ^ Strachwitz 1998, p. 2.
  25. ^ a b Danchin 2001, p. 309.
  26. ^ "Earl Zebedee Hooker". Findagrave.com. 2000. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  27. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 168.
  28. ^ Grigg 1999, p. 6.
  29. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 66.
  30. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 165.
  31. ^ Danchin (2001). p. 161.
  32. ^ Danchin 2001, p. 164.
  33. ^ Danchin 2001, pp. 101, 325.
  34. ^ "Performer 2013 Blues Hall of Fame Inductees – Earl Hooker". Blues Hall of Fame Inductees Winners. Blues Foundation. 2013. Archived from the original on December 18, 2015. Retrieved March 6, 2013.

References

  • Dahl, Bill. "Earl Hooker: Biography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  • Dahl, Bill (1996). "Earl Hooker". In Erlewine, Michael, ed. All Music Guide to the Blues. Miller Freeman Books. ISBN 0-87930-424-3.CS1 maint: Extra text: editors list (link)
  • Danchin, Sebastian (2001). Earl Hooker: Blues Master. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-306-X.
  • Grigg, Andy (1999). Earl Hooker: Simply the Best (album liner notes). MCA Records. MCAD-11811.
  • Harris, Jeff (2005). "Kansas City Red". In Komara, Edward. Encyclopedia of the Blues. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-92699-7.
  • Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "Earl Hooker". Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
  • Strachwitz, Chris (1998). The Moon Is Rising (album liner notes). Arhoolie Records. CD 468.
  • Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  • Wirz, Stefan (November 11, 2009). "Earl Hooker Illustrated Discography". American Music. Wirz.de. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
Black Angel Blues

"Black Angel Blues", also known as "Sweet Black Angel" or "Sweet Little Angel", is a blues standard that has been recorded by numerous blues and other artists. The song was first recorded in 1930 by Lucille Bogan, one of the classic female blues singers. Bogan recorded it as a mid-tempo, twelve-bar blues, featuring her vocal with piano accompaniment.

In 1934, Tampa Red recorded "Black Angel Blues" for Vocalion Records. The song was performed at a slower tempo and featured prominent slide-guitar lines by Tampa Red. These early songs were released before Billboard or a similar reliable service began tracking such releases, so it is difficult to gauge which version was more popular, although subsequent versions showed Tampa Red's influence. Robert Nighthawk recorded "Black Angel Blues" in 1949 accompanying Nighthawk on vocal and electric slide guitar were bassist Willie Dixon, and pianist Ernest Lane (the single, with its flip side "Annie Lee Blues", listed the performers as "The Nighthawks"). The following year Tampa Red recorded an updated version of the song, substituting a lyric and calling it "Sweet Little Angel"; in 1953, Earl Hooker recorded it as "Sweet Angel".In 1956, B.B. King recorded "Sweet Little Angel" (RPM Records 468). According to King, "I got the idea for 'Sweet Little Angel' from Robert Nighthawk's 'Sweet Black Angel', though I later discovered that the song had been recorded by someone before Nighthawk. At the time 'black' was not a popular word, as it is now. Instead of using the old title, I changed it to 'Sweet Little Angel'—and that was a pretty big record for me". King's version, which included a horn section, was a stylistic shift for the song and it became a hit, reaching number eight on the Billboard R&B chart. In 1957, he re-recorded "Sweet Little Angel" for his first album Singin' the Blues. Both versions prominently feature B.B. King's guitar work, with his note-bends "sounding almost like a lap steel in places."After B.B. King's success, many blues and other artists recorded their versions of "Sweet Little Angel". Robert Nighthawk's "Black Angel Blues" was inducted in 2007 into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame "Classics of Blues Recordings" category and B.B. King's "Sweet Little Angel" is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll".

Carey Bell

Carey Bell Harrington (November 14, 1936 – May 6, 2007) was an American blues musician who played harmonica in the Chicago blues style. Bell played harmonica and bass guitar for other blues musicians from the late 1950s to the early 1970s before embarking on a solo career. Besides his own albums, he recorded as an accompanist or duo artist with Earl Hooker, Robert Nighthawk, Lowell Fulson, Eddie Taylor, Louisiana Red and Jimmy Dawkins and was a frequent partner with his son, the guitarist Lurrie Bell. Blues Revue called Bell "one of Chicago’s finest harpists." The Chicago Tribune said Bell was "a terrific talent in the tradition of Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter."

Chief Records

Chief Records, together with its Profile and Age subsidiaries, was an independent record label that operated from 1957 to 1964. Best known for its recordings of Chicago blues artists Elmore James, Junior Wells, Magic Sam, and Earl Hooker, the label had a diverse roster and included R&B artists Lillian Offitt and Ricky Allen.

Chief Records was founded in Chicago in 1957 by Mel London, a 25-year-old R&B entrepreneur. London served as producer and wrote several of the label's best-known songs. Earl Hooker, one of the most well-regarded blues guitarists of his era, was an important contributor to the label. He worked closely with London and "was involved in over a dozen recording sessions, and his playing was featured on some forty titles and twenty-five singles, a dozen of which were released under his own name, the rest being ascribed to Junior Wells, A.C. Reed, Lillian Offitt, and Ricky Allen". Among Hooker's recordings are several slide-guitar instrumentals, including the 1961 Age single "Blue Guitar", on which Muddy Waters would later overdub a vocal and call it "You Shook Me".

"Little by Little", written by Mel London, was a hit for Junior Wells, reaching number 23 in the Billboard R&B chart in 1960. Wells would continue to perform and record several of his Chief and Profile songs ("Messin' with the Kid", "Come on in This House", and "It Hurts Me Too") during his career. "Cut You Loose", another London composition, was a hit for Ricky Allen; the song reached number 20 in 1963. Next to Wells, Allen had the most singles on the label (all on Age).

As with many independent blues labels in the early 1960s, Chief was plagued by financial problems. First to be discontinued were the Chief and Profile labels; finally the Age label was discontinued in 1964 and the company went out of business. During its seven years of operation, Chief/Profile/Age released about eighty singles (including reissues) from approximately thirty-seven artists. Later, various singles (including reissues) by Chief artists would be released by All-Points Records, Mel/Mel-Lon Records, Bright Star Records, and Starville Records, but none had the impact of the originals.

Cuca Records

Cuca Records of Sauk City, Wisconsin, was founded by James Kirchstein in 1959 and actively produced LP and 45 rpm recordings until the early 1970s. During this period, Cuca recorded and released primarily polka and ethnic music on LP but also issued other musical styles, including pop, rhythm and blues, folk, and traditional jazz. Most musicians recorded by Cuca were from Wisconsin or adjacent states. Consequently, Cuca's recorded documents represent a focused view of Wisconsin musical performance during these years.

The Cuca studios recorded performers for commercial release on other popular record labels, as well. Its recording of "Mule Skinner Blues" by The Fendermen (Cuca 1003, rereleased as a 45 rpm on the Soma label) rose to number five on the Billboard charts in 1960 and sold over a million copies, and its recording of Birdlegs and Pauline's tune, "Spring" (Cuca 1125, rereleased on the Vee-Jay label) rose to number 18 on the rhythm and blues charts. Other musicians recorded by Cuca include bluesman Earl Hooker, the pop group Corporation, country music legend, Pee Wee King, and jazz musician, Doc DeHaven. Cuca, which adopted the slogan "World's Largest Line of Old Time Music," is widely known for the host of polka and ethnic musicians it recorded including Alvin Styczynski, Verne Meisner, Syl Liebl, the Goose Island Ramblers, John Check, Jerry Goetsch, Roger Bright, and the Edelweiss Stars, to name a few.

Citation Records was founded as a division of Cuca. It signed Paul Stefen and the Royal Lancers, who achieved local success with many of their singles, including their cover of The Crickets' "I Fought the Law".

The Cuca Record Collection forms part of the Wisconsin Music Archives, a non-circulating special collection in the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Denny Bruce

Denny Bruce (born October 4, 1944 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania) is an American record producer and artist manager.

Bruce started a career in artist management and record production with his first management signee, Lisa Kindred. He later became A&R consultant to the Blue Thumb Records label, working with such artists as Ike and Tina Turner, Albert Collins, John Hiatt, Albert Lee and Earl Hooker. While working for Vanguard Records he started producing John Fahey and through him, he began his management and producer's relationship with Leo Kottke. He produced all seven albums for Kottke on Capitol Records. He later joined with Chrysalis Records to purchase Fahey's Takoma Records label. He signed The Fabulous Thunderbirds, T-Bone Burnett and George Winston to the new Takoma label.He served as pop music consultant to UCLA's Department of Fine Arts as well as at the Austin Performing Arts Center in Austin, Texas.

Denny is now co-owner and CEO of Benchmark Recordings, which distributes albums by The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Mike Bloomfield.

Doug Hammond

Doug Hammond (born December 26, 1942) is an American free funk/avant-garde jazz drummer, composer, poet, producer, and professor. His first major release was Reflections in the Sea of Nurnen on Tribe Records in 1975.

He has worked with musicians including Earl Hooker, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Sammy Price, Donald Byrd, Wolfgang Dauner, Ornette Coleman, Steve Coleman, Nina Simone, Betty Carter, Marion Williams, Paquito D'Rivera, Arnett Cobb, James Blood Ulmer and Arthur Blythe.

In 2010 Doug Hammond wrote and conducted "Acknowledgement Suite" with Dwight Adams, Jean Toussaint, Roman Filiú, Howard Curtis, Wendell Harrison, Dick Griffin, Stéphane Payen, Kirk Lightsey and Arron James.

He lives and works in Linz, Austria. He was a professor at the Anton Bruckner Private University for Music, Drama, and Dance in Linz.

His work has been filmed in a documentary Sparkle of Inspiration by the Austrian director Dieter Strauch released during the Crossing Europe Film Festival in Linz in 2016.

Freddie Roulette

Frederick Martin "Freddie" Roulette (born May 3, 1939) is an American electric blues lap steel guitarist and singer. He is best known as an exponent of the lap steel guitar. He is a member of the band Daphne Blue and has collaborated with Earl Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, Henry Kaiser, and Harvey Mandel. He has also released several solo albums. One commentator described Roulette as an "excellent musician".A short documentary of Freddie Roulette appears on the video-sharing site YouTube that chronicles Roulette's time with the Daphne Blue Band. The online Blues encyclopedia, "All About Blues Music," describes Roulette's long tenure with the Daphne Blue Band and notes: "Freddie has also released an album, ‘Daphne Blue: Legendary Blues Instrumentals’ which contains 15 excellent tracks, which [Freddie] considers to be among his finest works."

Johnny "Big Moose" Walker

Johnny "Big Moose" Walker (June 27, 1927 – November 27, 1999) was an American Chicago blues and electric blues pianist and organist. He worked with many blues musicians, including Ike Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Lowell Fulson, Choker Campbell, Elmore James, Earl Hooker, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Dawkins and Son Seals.Walker was primarily a piano player but was also proficient on the electronic organ and the bass guitar (he played the bass guitar when backing Muddy Waters). He recorded solo albums and accompanied other musicians in concert and on recordings.

Johnny Mars

Johnny Mars (born December 7, 1942) is an American electric blues harmonica player, singer, and songwriter. Over a long career, he has worked with Magic Sam, Earl Hooker, B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Fuller, Spencer Davis, Ian Gillan, Do-Re-Mi, Bananarama and Michael Roach.

Junior Wells

Junior Wells (born Amos Wells Blakemore Jr., December 9, 1934 – January 15, 1998) was an American Chicago blues vocalist, harmonica player, and recording artist. He was one of the pioneers of the amplified blues harp-style associated with Chicago. Wells is best known for his signature song "Messin' with the Kid" and his 1965 album Hoodoo Man Blues, described by the critic Bill Dahl as "one of the truly classic blues albums of the 1960s".Wells performed and recorded with Various notable blues musicians, including Muddy Waters, Earl Hooker, and Buddy Guy. He remained a fixture on the blues scene throughout his career and also crossed over to rock audiences while touring with the Rolling Stones. Not long before Wells died, the blues historian Gerard Herzhaft called him "one of the rare active survivors of the 'golden age of the blues'".

Kansas City Red

Arthur Lee Stevenson (May 7, 1926 – May 7, 1991), known as Kansas City Red, was an American blues drummer and vocalist who played a major role in the development of urban blues. He performed and recorded with many notable blues artists, such as David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Robert Nighthawk, Sunnyland Slim, and Walter Horton.

Little Arthur Duncan

Little Arthur Duncan (February 5, 1934 – August 20, 2008) was an American Chicago blues and electric blues harmonica player, singer, and songwriter. He was a member of the Backscratchers and over his career was associated with Earl Hooker, Twist Turner, Illinois Slim and Rick Kreher.

Mel London

Mel London (April 9, 1932 – May 16, 1975) was a songwriter, record producer, and record label owner. He was active in the Chicago blues and R&B scenes in the 1950s and 1960s. London is best known for his compositions for Chicago blues artists Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Junior Wells as well as being the record producer and owner of Chief Records (and its Profile Records and Age Records subsidiaries).

In 1954, Mel London wrote the first of several hit songs for the blues and R&B markets. His "Poison Ivy" was recorded by Willie Mabon and reached #7 in the Billboard R&B chart in 1954. In 1955, three hits written by London followed: "Who Will Be Next" by Howlin' Wolf and two by Muddy Waters - "Sugar Sweet" and "Manish Boy." Not content with just songwriting, in 1957 he started his own record label, Chief Records. Chief's first single, the London-penned "Man from the Island," featured London's solo outing as a lead vocalist. Subsequent Chief releases were produced (and sometimes written) by London and featured Chicago blues artists, such as Elmore James, Junior Wells, Magic Sam, Earl Hooker, and A.C. Reed. London's "Little by Little" was a hit for Junior Wells in 1960, reaching #23 in the Billboard R&B chart. London also wrote several R&B songs that were recorded by Chief artists, including "Cut You A-Loose" by Ricky Allen, which reached #20 in 1963.Chief/Profile/Age experienced financial difficulties in the early 1960s and went out of business in 1964. Later, Mel London was associated with a number of small record labels, including All-Points, Mel/Mel-Lon, Bright Star, and Starville, but none had the impact of his earlier labels. In 1975, London died at age forty-three. During his career, he wrote (or cowrote) forty-three songs and produced about eighty singles by approximately thirty-seven artists.

Messin' with the Kid

"Messin' with the Kid" is a rhythm and blues-influenced blues song originally recorded by Junior Wells in 1960. Chief Records owner/songwriter/producer Mel London is credited as the songwriter. Considered a blues standard, it is Junior Wells's best-known song. "Messin' with the Kid" was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and has been recorded by a variety of blues and other artists.

Never Get Out of These Blues Alive

Never Get Out of These Blues Alive is a studio album by American blues musician John Lee Hooker, released in 1972 by ABC Records and recorded from September 28 through September 29, 1971. The album features Van Morrison, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, and Steve Miller. The album was re-released in 1987 by See For Miles Records with four additional tracks from the same session, including two with Hooker's cousin Earl Hooker on slide guitar.

Roosevelt Wardell

Roosevelt Wardell (1933 – April 29, 1999) was an American jazz and rhythm and blues pianist, singer, and composer.

Slide guitar

Slide guitar is a particular technique for playing the guitar that is often used in blues-style music. The technique involves placing an object against the strings while playing to create glissando effects and deep vibratos that make the music emotionally expressive. It typically involves playing the guitar in the traditional position (flat against the body) with the use of a tubular "slide" fitted on one of the guitarist's fingers. The slide may be a metal or glass tube like the neck of a bottle. The term "bottleneck" was historically used to describe this type of playing. The strings are typically plucked while the slide is moved over the strings to change the pitch. The guitar may also be placed on the player's lap and played with a hand-held bar and is then referred to as "lap slide guitar" or "lap steel guitar".

Creating music with a slide of some type has been traced back to primitive stringed instruments in African culture and also to the origin of the steel guitar in Hawaii. Near the beginning of the twentieth century, blues musicians in the Mississippi Delta popularized the bottleneck slide guitar style, and the first recording of slide guitar was by Sylvester Weaver in 1923. Since the 1930s, performers including Robert Nighthawk, Earl Hooker, Elmore James and Muddy Waters popularized slide guitar in the electric blues genre and influenced later slide guitarists in the rock genre including the Rolling Stones, Duane Allman and Ry Cooder. Lap slide guitar pioneers include Oscar "Buddy" Woods, "Black Ace" Turner and Freddie Roulette.

Theresa Needham

Theresa McLaurin Needham (April 17, 1912 - October 16, 1992) was an American tavern owner who became known as "the Godmother of the Chicago blues". She was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001.

Born Theresa McLaurin in Meridian, Mississippi, she married Robert Needham and moved to Chicago in the 1940s. In December 1949 she opened a basement club, Theresa's Lounge (sometimes also called T’s Basement), in an apartment building on South Indiana Avenue on the South Side of Chicago. This attracted a predominantly black audience from the surrounding neighbourhood, but its appeal reached global proportions as a result of the calibre of music offered. It featured live entertainment with Junior Wells and Buddy Guy in the house band, and attracted touring musicians such as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Otis Spann, Little Walter, Otis Rush, Earl Hooker and Howlin' Wolf.

The club relocated in 1983 when the landlord refused to renew the lease, and closed permanently in 1986. Theresa Needham died in Chicago in 1992. In 2010 The Black Ensemble theater in Chicago produced a play based on Theresa's Lounge written by Joe Plummer called "Nothing But The Blues"

You Shook Me

"You Shook Me" is a 1962 blues song recorded by Chicago blues artist Muddy Waters. It features his vocal in unison with a slide-guitar melody by Earl Hooker. "You Shook Me" became one of Muddy Waters' most successful early-1960s singles and has been interpreted by several blues and rock artists.

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