Blues Calendar Blues - Luther AllisonThe first Sunday of the month came so far into the month I almost forgot about the Blues Calendar Blues. Fortunately not, though, because this month’s featured bluesman rocks.
I’ll admit my painful ignorance when I first opened this calendar and realized that, due to some gap in my education, I was pretty much unfamiliar with probably half of the artists. So I look forward to each month when I get to research, listen, and learn a little. If there’s just one other person who can say the same, I can go to bed happy tonight.
Luther Allison, this month’s musician, is a prime example. How did I not know about this guy? It’s not like he was some obscure musician: No less an authority than Guitar Player magazine called Allison “a master storyteller with the elegance of B.B. King, the elasticity of Buddy Guy, and the big sting of Albert King.”
Here are the notes from my calendar:
Not even 10 years old, Luther Allison (1939-1997) roved from his home in Arkansas to black churches all over the South, singing with a gospel group called The Southern Travellers. On moving to Chicago he taught himself to play the bass and performed in bands led by his brothers (he was one of 15 children). Living on the West Side, in the same neighborhood as showy guitarists like Magic Sam and Freddy King, who soon became his models, Allison created an aggressive style and, in the late '60s, became a sensation at festivals where blues mingled with rock.The suggested disks are Love Me Papa (Evidence, 1977); Soul Fixin’ Man (Alligator, 1994); and Live in Chicago (Alligator, 1999).
He liked to wander deep into ecstatic crowds, spinning out 10-minute-long solos on his Gibson Les Paul. A contract with Motown – rare for a bluesman – did little for his career, and Allison found his popularity in Europe waxing while his audiences thinned in the United States. Like many American jazz musicians before him, he moved to Europe, where he was much beloved in France and Germany. A recording contract with Alligator Records marked the renaissance of his American career, and in his 50s, Allison was much in demand. The year after his death, Allison received five WC Handy Awards; he had already won eight.
I don’t have and couldn’t find those recordings, but I did manage to gather a couple of things that I think fairly represent the sonic blues of Luther Allison. “Watching You,” I believe, is also known as “Cherry Red Wine,” and comes from his 1995 release Blue Streak. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is of course the classic Stones song – it comes the 1997 tribute disk Paint It Blue: Songs of the Rolling Stones; and “The Sky is Crying” is the old Elmore James song, made popular by Stevie Ray Vaughan. This version comes from Allison’s Where Have You Been? Live In Montreux 1976-1994, which was also released in ‘97.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones cover).mp3
The Sky is Crying.mp3