So true, Steve. I am remiss in not writing about Hubert Sumlin, the long- time guitarist for Howling Wolf and a favorite of mine. Thinking about Hubert started me thinking about what a devastating year 2011 was for many classic blues musicians.
A partial list:
|Dave "Honeyboy" Edwards|
|Lacy Gibson, right, with Willie Black, left, and Freddie Below, center|
|Big Jack Johnson © Bill Streber|
"Shuffle in G," Top laughed.
In the last year of his long life he won a Grammy for a record he made with Hubert Sumlin.
He loved MacDonald's food and lived to be 97.
|Howard Tate, soul singer extraordinaire|
Howard Tate (August 13, 1939 – December 2, 2011) was blessed with one of the most beautiful voices in the annals of Soul music: swooping falsettos, great mid- range tenor, incredibly passionate. In the late 1960's, he made a record so perfect, so realized that it immediately became a cult staple. If you had this record, then you knew! You just... knew.
Produced by the late Jerry Ragavoy, the record "Get It While You Can" spawned three top 20 hits and one of Janis Joplin's most memorable covers.
Tate never hit like that again.
Despite his great voice, follow- ups filled with inferior material failed to chart or even approach the greatness of that first transcendent recording. Tate turned to drugs in 1980, became homeless for a period and ultimately sought solice in the church, where, in 2001 he was rediscovered by a New Jersey disc jockey.
Numerous live performances followed, he travelled the world, made another pretty good CD with Ragavoy and a live performance DVD for the Shout Factory.
He died at the age of 72 from myeloma and leukemia.
|A Young Hubert Sumlin with the Howling Wolf. Together they played history.|
Sumlin briefly joined Muddy Waters in 1956 after a money- related dispute with Wolf, but rejoined Wolf after getting into a fight with Muddy and Otis Spann. A deceptively sweet man, Hubert was not one to back down from a fight. He had his teeth knocked out by Wolf ("He just backhanded me and teeth went everywhere!") and dodged a motorcycle chain wielded by Otis Spann.
His beautiful guitar tone was partially the result of not using a pick. My particular favorite Sumlin break is the one on "Hidden Charms", after Wolf says, "Git it!" Hubert knocks out one of the truly great recorded guitar solos of all time! He is among a handful of blues guitarists whose sound is identifiable within one or two notes, and some of his licks, like the voicings on "Killing Floor" or the trance- like figure on "Smokestack Lightning" are among the most influential ever recorded.
After Wolf's death, Hubert began recording on his own, often with someone famous like Eric Clapton. His 2010 record with Pinetop Perkins, "Joined at the Hip" won a Grammy and he was a mainstay of Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festivals.
Much respected, much venerated, Hubert died quietly in Wayne, New Jersey of heart failure.