$5 Tickets are required for this livestream concert. At Home Chicago Blues is a social impact online learning experience which connects Chicago Blues Masters to Chicago Blues fans globally. One of the most exciting ways we do this is with our Trading 4s livestream concerts. A portion of proceeds goes to The Firehouse Community Arts Center of Chicago.
Learn about Mary Lane here:
Trailer for “I Can Only Be Mary Lane” Documentary about Mary Lane
“Heart of the Blues”
by Joanna Connor
Joanna Connor will be a weekly contributor to bBluesNote with her column “Heart of the Blues.” Joannais a Guitar Instructor with At Home Chicago Blues. To learn more about Joanna visit her website or watch her videos.
To take lessons with Joanna, click here, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello fellow blues lovers,aficionados, and new converts. Thank you for bearing witness, being a participant to this maiden voyage of my reflecting on my musical inner life and my torrid and sometimes perilous love affair with one of America’s most staggeringly important and passionate gifts to the world- the Blues. You can google my name and read fairly accurate sketches of my career in this music. But I am here to fill in the dusty blanks, and perhaps inspire you to begin or continue your own story as a player or a listener of this music that has its hooks in me since I was a small child.
Can I fully understand why Taj Mahal and his landmark recording “ Giant Steps/ The Old Folks At Home “ became my favorite record at the age of 5- not exactly. However I can tell you that every track on that two record set, whether it was the greasy groove of the aptly titled “ Bacon Fat” or the deceptively simple, gentle rolling feel of “Fishing Blues” or Taj’s silky sensual voice , seasoned with a slight sandpaper roughness, all captivated me and took me somewhere that felt warm and magical. And from that age I sang and danced and played air guitar (upside down, I am ambidextrous and probably should have been a left handed guitarist) and performed for many an imaginary audience. Flash forward to Bonn, Germany and Rock Palast TV show in the early 90s- I am backstage about to go on and there he is- one of the paramount influences of my own musical soundtrack – Taj Mahal who knows of me, is a down to earth, intelligent and powerful king like man, comfortable in his skin, radiating and filling the backstage with all kinds of lovely energy. We talk and he jokes that we both escaped central Massachusetts. (apologies to the area we both grew up in! ) And flash to last night-
I performed Saturday night outside in the middle of an Illinois corn field, wind gusting mightily, an orange moon overhead. The music we played was just as wondrous as that setting. It felt so cathartic for me and the small crowd. It was tribal, it was sad, it was sexy, it was angry, it was fiery, it was moist and gentle like a soft rain- it was the Blues. I miss this. I know we will all be more appreciative, more enthralled with this organic life blood music when it once again comes back like it always does. Until next time- stay healthy, play your guitars, sing, play your basses, your harmonicas. Study with the Blues Boot Camp.
Taj Mahal – “Take a Giant Step”
Furry’s Long Road
by bBluesNote Contributor Marty Weil
In 1916, Delta bluesman Furry Lewis nearly died in a train accident on a twenty-mile stretch of track between Du Quoin and Carbondale, Illinois. As a result of the accident, Lewis had to have his leg amputated at the knee. He was fitted with a wooden leg and quickly returned to his life on the road as a traveling blues troubadour.
Furry Lewis, who lived most of his life in Memphis, spent more than 40 years as a professional musician. He played in one of the city’s first jug bands, and he was among the first to bluesmen to record in Memphis. He opened for the Rolling Stones and appeared opposite Burt Reynolds in a Hollywood movie. Lewis also made appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Even with such an impressive resume, Lewis is often overlooked in conversations about early 20th century blues music, which may be due to his relatively small catalog of recordings before the Blues Revival of the 1960s.
Furry Lewis was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, at some point between 1898 and 1910. The exact date of his birth is disputed. What’s not in question is after sparsely recording in the 1920s, Lewis took a job with the City of Memphis as a street sweeper in 1930. In 1959, he was “rediscovered” by musicologist Samuel Charters who was researching a book about the blues.
In the 1960s, Lewis was back in the recording studio, and much of his earlier work was reissued, even as he continued to sweep the streets of Memphis. In the 1970s, he toured and performed throughout the U.S. and overseas. By the late 70s, his health failing and finances dwindling, Lewis was forced to pawn his guitar. He died of cardiac arrest on September 14, 1981. “When I lay my burden down,” a line of Furry’s lyrics is etched on his tombstone.
Furry Lewis – “John Henry”
Marty Weil is the editor of @ChiBluesHistory on Twitter. Marty is a blues researcher, educator, and social media influencer.