Hoodoo Man Blues
Junior Wells' Hoodoo Man Blues
was the first studio recording to capture a live Chicago blues band
sound. The album was recorded in Chicago on September 22 and 23, 1965.
Now this definitive Chicago blues album has been remastered and
re-released with previously unissued session recordings. It is well
known that Buddy Guy played guitar on these sessions. Yet the first
7,000 pressings of the album contained the pseudonym Friendly Chap for
Guy because producer Bob Koester thought Guy was under contract to Chess
Records. The remaining musicians were Jack Myers on bass and Billy
Warren on drums.
There are glimpses into the guitar prowess Buddy
Guy would become known for when he frenetically plays on “Ships On The
Ocean.” “Good Morning Schoolgirl” is a raw and dirty sounding version
which the British Invasion bands could never replicate. It sounds very
basic yet it’s played with more attitude and grit than you can imagine.
The vocals are very distinct – unlike many of Wells’ live recordings –
and the phrasing is hip. “Hey Lawdy Mama” and “Early In The Morning” are
also definitive versions of songs that have been copied and duplicated
but never completely replicated.
These are just a few reasons why this recording is
so revered among fans, enthusiasts, collectors, and musicologists alike.
Nine years after Elvis did a rock ‘n’ roll version of it and introduced
white kids to blues, Wells turns Big Mama Thornton’s 1953 hit “Hound
Dog” into a harp blowout. Wells may never have been a harp supremo like
Little Walter or Big Walter but his performance on “In The Wee Wee
Hours” is brilliant. It’s loaded with emotion and tones that extracts
the listener to a whole new sanctum away from the turmoil of 1960s
Chicago for black America. The guitar on the title track sounds more
like a synthesizer/organ because Guy played through a Hammond B3 Leslie
speaker. You’ll love the authentic laughing that’s contained within the
vocals. These guys were having a blast.
You can smell the smoke and whiskey when you hear
the animated instrumental “We’re Ready.” This is what Chicago blues
clubs were sounding like at the time. It shows the friendly and
neighborly atmosphere of a 1970s Chicago ghetto blues club being held at
the helm by its commander.
The previously unissued tracks are mostly
disappointing. Seven of the tracks are actually just studio chatter
which only last a few seconds. There are also three alternate takes of
“Yonder Wall.” Well, how many versions of “Yonder Wall” are needed on a
single release? “I Ain’t Stranded” sounds like it was recorded at
another session. The alternate version of “In The Wee Wee Hours” was
previously released as “This Is The Blues” on This Is The Blues
Harmonica. The remaining extras – alternates of the title track and
“Chitlins Con Carne” – do not add anything to the greatness of the
Yet, this is still an all-time classic album. Each
song contains wailing harp from the man who ruled Theresa’s at the time
and obviously ruled these recording sessions. Tracks from Hoodoo Man
Blues have been used in several motion pictures, TV programs and
commercials. The album has been Delmark’s best seller since its 1965
release and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008. Wells
fanatics will want this new reissue regardless of how many previous
copies of the disc they already own. If you don’t own a copy of this
brilliant CD yet, this is the version to get.
--- Tim Holek