Playing Blog Hooky

ELDER MUSIC: Joe, T-Bone and Otis

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

In 1969, three great blues men got together and recorded an album. This was done in the manner of jazz musicians as it was, essentially. a jam session.

Outside of jazz, these things seldom work but in this case, it was hugely successful - musically, that is, not financially. I imagine I wasn't the only one who bought that album, but I can't be sure.

These three were Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker and Otis Spann. The album was called "Super Black Blues" and I'll be playing two of the tracks today (there were only four, the others are way too long for this column) and featuring some other tunes by these gentlemen.

The album was recorded in 1969, and all three take turns singing, T-Bone plays the guitar and Otis tinkles the ivories and it is one of the two best blues albums I've heard (B.B. King's "Live at the Regal" is the other one).

I waited years, decades even, for it to appear on CD and it finally did a couple of years ago. You'd really have to search for it though.

This picture is taken from my old vinyl album, as the photo didn't appear on the CD. It is T-Bone, Big Joe, Otis and George "Harmonica" Smith.

T-Bone, Joe, Otis, George

I'll kick things off with Here I Am Broken Hearted from that album.

♫ Joe, T-Bone and Otis - Here I Am Broken Hearted

Big Joe Turner

It has been said, indeed I said it myself in a column on Early Rocking and Rolling, that rhythm and blues became rock and roll when Big Joe Turner recorded Shake Rattle and Roll in 1954. The next song was first recorded in 1938 and is yet another contender for the famous "first rock & roll record" trophy.

However, this is a later version from 1956. It was written by Big Joe and his life-long musical companion, Pete Johnson. Early rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis were obviously influenced by the music of these two.

As Pete is prominent on this track it's only fair you know what he looks like.  Here he is.

Pete Johnson

This is Big Joe and Pete with Roll 'Em Pete.

♫ Big Joe Turner - Roll 'Em Pete

Big Joe Turner

Here we have jazz meets R&B meets big band and the inimitable Joe pulls it off wonderfully. Unfortunately, the folks who compiled the album of Big Joe's from which I took this track don't know who's playing on it, except for Pete. Let's just listen to it, Feelin' Happy.

♫ Big Joe Turner - Feelin Happy

Otis Spann

Most of the personnel mentioned on the album of Otis Spann's look strangely familiar. Indeed, the guitarist is, and the quotes in the liner notes are "Dirty Rivers." I have no idea who that could be.

I'd just like to mention that besides his career as a solo artist, Otis was the piano player in Muddy Waters' band until shortly before Otis's death in 1970. Here, Otis has a bit of a boogie with Feelin' Good.

♫ Otis Spann - Feelin' Good

Otis Spann

Otis was born in Jackson, Mississippi. His dad played piano for his own amusement and his mum played guitar for Memphis Minnie, so he had the background to be a fine musician.

He started gigging around Jackson at age 14 where he caught the ear of Big Maceo Merriweather who took him under his wing. Otis moved to Chicago when his mum died and played there until he was noticed by Muddy Waters who grabbed him for his band.

Besides playing with Muddy he also performed with his own group and did session work for such performers as Bo Diddley and Howlin' Wolf. This is Otis with I'm Leaving You.

♫ Otis Spann - I'm Leaving You

T-Bone Walker

T-Bone Walker has made regular appearances in this column and, no doubt, will continue to do so. That's because he was one of the most important guitarists of the 20th century.

His influence on blues, jazz and rock musicians really can't be measured. Both the A.M. (Assistant Musicologist) and I have included him in our respective favorite guitarists columns. We're not alone in our acknowledgements. This is T-Bone Shuffle.

♫ T-Bone Walker - T-Bone Shuffle

T-Bone Walker

T-Bone was a self-taught guitarist but unlike most other similar bluesmen of the time, his talent and virtuosity was such that, in his early days, he toured with a band lead by Les Hite that included such musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Lawrence Brown, Lionel Hampton and others.

T-Bone held his own in this exalted company. In his early days he also accompanied such greats as Ma Rainey, Ida Cox and Blind Lemon Jefferson. He died in 1975 after influencing the best of the rock guitarists. Here he plays Prison Blues.

♫ T-Bone Walker - Prison Blues

To finish off, back to the album that inspired this column and a genuine Blues Jam. This will set your toes a'tapping on this Sunday (or Monday if you live near me) morning.

♫ Joe, T-Bone and Otis - Blues Jam


This type of music doesn't hold a lot of appeal for me; I like it better after it morphed, so to speak, into rock and roll.

However, I'm glad for the education and for the selections you offered.

I didn't listen all the way through to any of them, but at least I've dipped my toe into this particular "muddy water."

Thank you!

I'm the opposite of Suzy; probably speaks to my advanced age. I liked the music better before this period. I loved the blues, but that was when they were soul searching and slow.

You did have my toes tapping again this morning, Peter.

I love that boogey-woogey piano in "roll 'em Pete"

I loved this music then and I love it now. What a delight to hear it on this beautiful Sunday in May.

Thanks again to you and the AM for giving me the opportunity to train my ear to hear the particular nuances of this important era of music.

It's interesting how records that were panned in their day hold up now. One of my guilty pleasures has always been the Super Blues & Super, Super Blues albums that Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley & Little Walter (Howlin' Wolf replacing Walter on Super, Super...) did in the late 60's/early 70's. They won't make anyone's "Essential Blues" lists, but I listened to them over and over again. Love the George Smith harp on the final jam!

The comments to this entry are closed.