the blues

Somehow, no matter what path I follow it always leads back here.

With the Undercover Blues Band
photo: Christina Florkowski

Like many players my age, my first real exposure to the Blues came courtesy of a bunch of British dudes; The Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds, Cream, and others. But I was an inquisitive kid, and I was one of those peculiar people who paid attention to the names in parentheses under the song titles. I lived in a place with a great library system that had an extensive collection of “folk and traditional” recordings; Smithsonian and Folkways collection, etc. I had a library card and I knew how to use it. Pretty soon I figured out that McKinley Morganfield and Chester Burnett and Elias Bates were the same guys I’d heard mentioned as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Bo Diddley. The first Cream album had me scurrying to learn about Skip James, Willie Dixon, and some guy named Robert Johnson. Pretty soon I was listening to the originals as much as their more popular interpreters. “Who did they learn that from?” became my standard question whenever I heard something new. Cream led to Muddy. Muddy led to Robert Johnson. Robert Johnson led to Son House and Charley Patton.

I was evidently not alone, because in the mid-to-late ‘60s there was a huge Blues revival that not only threw the spotlight back on those original artists, but younger American Blues players as well. Up jump Michael Bloomfield, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Duane Allman, and so many others.

A fun time to be an enthusiast.

So, as a teenaged guitar player in the 1960s, blues-infused rock and roll was what I was all about. Straight out of high school, I headed to Norfolk, VA, to play with a bunch of pals in a band that leaned heavily on Allman Brother covers… and Savoy Brown, and Johnny Winter, and Chuck Berry.