Jerry Wexler described Solomon Burke as "the" soul singer and the news came hard yesterday that the Bishop had died while travelling to his next gig in Holland to promote a new album he's recorded with Dutch band deDijk. Our STAR BLUES show last night remembered him with a pair of tracks, one from each end of his career. As a sixteen year-old, he recorded for Apollo in 1956 and we uncovered one of those sides and did a selection off this year's "Nothings Impossible" album, produced by legendary Willie Mitchell (who passed in January). I left the playing of his really well-known sides on Atlantic to the other shows who will remark on this great talent but we had chance to recall a couple of his entrepreneurial activities.
The rest of the show moved to the 1980s for the choice of albums in the second of four specials looking back over 40 years of blues. In that decade many afro-Americans felt pushed out of soul and blues music by white rockers and disco fans so there was a sense of holding ground with only pockets of artists trying new things. The blues market had moved towards albums and the mainstream labels had no real interest in our music. Z. Z. Hill bucked the trend with a ground breaking album on Malaco that opened up a "soul-blues" genre aimed squarely at the Southern States' chitlin circuit. Bobby Bland also moved to Malaco after parent-label MCA didn't know what to do with him or his music - he was persuaded to cut a Larry Addison song "Members Only" that gave a real kick start to his career.
Muddy Waters was enjoying an Indian Summer in fortunes too by dint of Johnny Winters production and help on four great albums: "King Bee" proved to be his last in 1981 but it was chosen by Living Blues for the 1980s list and onto our show. Winter also did some sessions with Sonny Terry and Willie Dixon for his own Mad Albino label that saw wider distribution via Alligator. Bruce Iglauer maintained the quality with offerings from Koko Taylor, Son Seals, the final Professor Longhair project and the debut of Lil' Ed Williams and his Rough Housin' Blues Imperials. Jimmy Johnson is 82 now, is still gigging and his "North South" on Delmark was featured - Magic Slim is up there in years too and is the bedrock for the current Chicago club scene, we had a track from his "Grand Slam" album. According to LB he is a national treasure and you wouldn't find any argument here.
Next Sunday our review turns to the 1990s and I hope you'll be able to come along, I'll bring the music if you bring your best ears. Until Sunday 17th at 10pm (BST) take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you