Blues Bytes

March 2001

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... or order Jimmy Rogers' classic Chicago recordings, Chicago Bound (the blues doesn't get any better than this!)




Jimmy Rogers
Blue Bird
Analogue Productions Originals

Jimmy Rogers - Blue BirdWhen Jimmy Rogers passed away in December 1997, there was little notice except among the more knowledgeable blues fans, which is a pity. Not only was Rogers the last living link to the incredible first band of Muddy Waters, he was instrumental in the actual formation of it, having brought both Little Walter Jacobs and Otis Spann into the fold. Rogers, who was a fine harmonica player himself, was the man who initially helped Jacobs learn how to play his instrument of choice within a band setting. He was also the steadying force in the band with his rhythm guitar work and a wonderful solo act himself during the '50s with his smooth, pleasant vocals. His work for Chess in the 1950s was consistently solid and several of his songs have become standards (“Walking By Myself,” “That’s All Right” and “Sloppy Drunk”). Rogers gave up the blues in the '60s and ran a clothing store in Chicago that was destroyed during the riots shortly after Dr. Martin Luther King’s death.

Rogers recorded sporadically from 1972 until his death, with results ranging from good to excellent. But one of his finest releases came out of nowhere. In 1994, Analogue Productions Originals released Blue Bird to mixed reviews, but it stands as one of Rogers’ best post-Chess recordings, mainly because it recaptures the sounds of his earlier work. Featuring an exciting line-up of supporting players (Carey Bell, Johnnie Johnson, Dave Myers, Ted Harvey, and Rogers’ son James D. Lane on lead guitar) and excellent production by John Koenig, this CD is comprised mainly of old standards that have been done many times before. This was the complaint heard from several blues publications when this CD was originally issued. However, with Rogers in front (and a band who had probably played most of these songs a million times over the years), these songs sound as fresh and alive as they did when they were first released. Rogers had lost very little of his vocal prowess over the years and, hey, with this group behind him, the music had to sound great. Lane’s lead guitar work is particularly good and appropriately subtle, avoiding the blues/rock influences that have sometimes crept into his solo releases, and Johnson is also on the money at the keys.

Rogers would only release one more CD, the posthumous Blues Blues Blues in 1999. It featured most of the same musicians as this release, but was loaded down with so many guest stars that Rogers often was lost in the shuffle. Of course, Rogers’ Chess output is the best place for a beginner to start sampling his considerable gifts, but Blue Bird is an excellent post-Chess display of his talent. It’s truly unfortunate that, despite his contributions, Jimmy Rogers never received the adulation he really deserved as one of the founders of the Chicago Blues.

--- Graham Clarke

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