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October/November 2004

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Boogie Boy!

This Is U.P. Wilson


Good Bad Blues


Texas Blues Guitar Summit


U.P. Wilson

Boogie Boy! The Texas Guitar Tornado Returns
This Is U. P. Wilson
The Good, The Bad, The Blues
Texas Blues Guitar Summit

JSP Records

U.P. WilsonU. P. Wilson, better known as the Texas Guitar Tornado, passed away at 70 on September 22, 2004 in Paris. He had lived in France for the past several years. Although largely unheard of outside of Texas for most of his career, he influenced countless guitarist in the Dallas/Fort Worth area over the past several decades, such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and legendary session guitarist Cornell Dupree, with his stinging, metallic tone. Wilson‘s two-man band with the late singer/drummer Robert Ealey, Boogie Chillun, was the stuff of legend in northern Texas, particularly Wilson‘s stage show, which featured him playing with one hand, smoking a cigarette, taking a drink, or even shaking hands with fans with the other, but playing as well with one hand as most guitarist play with two. Wilson had only recorded a couple of albums in the ’80s, neither of which received much exposure, when he landed with England’s JSP Records for a productive five-album stint that lasted from 1994 until 1999. This month’s Flashback will look at those albums in tribute to one of the unsung heroes of the blues.

Wilson’s debut for JSP, Boogie Boy! The Texas Guitar Tornado Returns, burst onto the scene in 1994. It made quite an impression, as Wilson’s mad guitar skills were finally on display for a wider audience. Wilson played scorching guitar on Boogie Boy, and even contributed some pretty good vocals, though several of the vocals were ably handled by soulful Alanda Williams, who subsequently recorded for JSP also. It was a great introduction to Wilson’s guitar, especially the instrumentals “Half Step” and “Soul King Shuffle,” along with the slow blues “T For Texas.”

U.P. WilsonWilson’s sophomore effort for JSP in 1995, This Is U. P. Wilson, had the loose feel of a jam session, as Wilson invited some of his friends into the studio, opened a bottle of their favorite beverage, and turned the tape on. Wilson handled all the vocals on this one, and his thin falsetto works well with his guitar style. It’s obvious from the get-go that these guys have played together for years because they mesh so well together. Some highlights include “Bad Luck and Trouble,” “Hold Me,” “Peaches,” and “Boots and Shoes.” This would be my most-played U. P. Wilson disc if it weren’t for.......

......Whirlwind. Wilson’s third JSP, recorded with JSP artist Jordan Patterson and the D.C. Hurricane in 1996, is arguably his best. It features some of his best, most imaginative guitar in a wide variety of settings. “Walk That Walk” sounds like it might have come out of the Magic Sam songbook. “Going Round In A Daze” rocks hard, “Juicin’” is as close to jazz as Wilson ever came, and “Deep Down Inside” and “Your Last Chance” are as lowdown as they come. There’s still plenty of that hard rocking boogie sound with “Roll Over” and “Come On Baby, Come On Home With Me.” Whirlwind came at a time when I was considering moving on from the blues because I had grown tired of the stale formulaic rut it, or at least the artists I listened to, had fallen into. When I listened to it for the first time, I was blown away by its originality and its sheer abandon and recklessness. Quite simply, it was the most original thing I had heard in several years, and it holds up well eight years later. Needless to say, I stuck around listening to the blues a little bit longer.

Wilson’s fourth disc, The Good, The Bad, The Blues, was not a bad effort, but it pales in comparison to Whirlwind. Too many of the songs have the same rhythm and even the same guitar riff and it sounds thrown off compared to his previous efforts. Wilson didn’t handle all the vocals this time and, although Ealey does very well on his one vocal appearance, the other vocalists are not that memorable. There are some good tracks though, like “Take It Easy,” with its slow, funky groove, Ealey’s vocal and Wilson and Tone Sommer’s guitar work on “Lonely Guy,” and “Walkin’” is one of those slow burners that Wilson does so well. “Satch Wig” is also a pretty decent instrumental, with some good interplay between Wilson and Sommer, but the guitar riff reappears in a couple of subsequent songs. All in all, not a bad effort, but newcomers should start somewhere else first.

Wilson’s final studio disc for JSP, Bootin’, released in 1999, is made up of tracks recorded but not used during the sessions for Whirlwind. I reviewed this disc in my first ever batch of reviews submitted to Blues Bytes in September 1999. I wrote, “If you’re interested in wild, no-holds-barred Texas guitar, give Booting a shot.” No sense changing that. It’s a fun disc, picking up where Whirlwind left off. It’s a great companion to the earlier disc.

Wilson also appeared on JSP’s Texas Blues Guitar Summit, which was a 1997 compilation of some of the Dallas/Fort Worth area’s best blues guitarist. Wilson appeared on three tracks: “That’s Your Woman, But She Comes To See Me Sometime,” another of his trademark slow burners, “Chankety Chank,” a funky instrumental, and “I Just Can’t Help It,” a duet with Fort Worth guitarist Bobby Gilmore, who plays on a couple of solo tracks himself. Others appearing on the disc include Andrew Jr. Boy Jones, Henry Qualls, J. B. Wynne, and C. B. Scott. This is an excellent overview of the D/FW blues scene.

Following a “greatest hits” release capturing some, but not all, of the highlights from his albums (and a stint in jail for drug possession), 1999 saw the end of Wilson’s run with JSP. He didn’t release any new discs after 1999, but he did get to see his On My Way disc from the 1980s reissued on Fedora, and there is also an excellent live disc from Wolf featuring Wilson and another area guitarist of note, Tutu Jones.

It’s hard to go wrong with any of U. P. Wilson’s releases if you’re just starting out. He was as original at the beginning as he was at the end and, sadly, we may never see another one like him again.

-- Graham Clarke

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