Children of the Blues

Children of the Blues

by Art Tipaldi

Backbeat Books

If you were to cut the tree of the blues in half to count the rings, you would see evidence of all the various stages of this musical form. From Charley Patton and Robert Johnson in the Delta, to the rowdy hitmakers of Chicago such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Willie Dixon and on through the “white boy” blues of Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield, and Stevie Ray Vaughn, the blues has survived for hundreds of years — flourished at times, ebbed at others, but never losing its emotional appeal. This book focuses on those musicians who keep the fires burning today. Some are truly “children” of the blues — Johnny Copeland’s daughter Shemekia or Luther Allison’s son Bernard, while others are adopted offspring, learning at the feet of the masters, and going out in new and invigorating ways. Tipaldi ably illustrates the great tradition blues music has for reinvention and growth. Charlie Musselwhite tells of learning harp on the streets of Chicago from Little Walter, Bob Margolin relates how a young white kid got picked to play lead guitar for Muddy Waters, and what the experience taught him.

This book also documents the careers of some of the more influential, but lesser known, blues artists such as the legendary Hollywood Fats, whose West Coast jump style blues in the 1970s and ’80s wowed anyone within earshot, but never received the public acclaim it deserved. The section with Tommy Shannon, best known as the bassist in Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Double Trouble, recounts his days with SRV — a heady time of drugs and booze, and how he struggled to make a life for himself when both the pills and Stevie were gone. Stories like this are the blues — and why this deceptively simple sounding music will always survive.

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