“Blues is a tonic for whatever ails you. I could play the blues and then not be blue anymore.” – B. B. King
Saturday December 12, 2020 Volume 1, Issue 34
In Memoriam Featured Photo: Joseph Morganfield by Peter M. Hurley
We lost a friend in the blues on Thursday; Joseph Morganfield, youngest son of Muddy Waters, whose star was on the rise.
“Mojo” had a smile for every occasion and lit up the stage wherever and whenever he and his band “The Mannish Boyz” performed. His Delmark Records “Good To Be King” had only just been released in November and had already reached # 1 on the blues charts. He had a kind word for most everyone and would sign off with a “Thank you, my friend” after any conversation or Facebook post. Joseph’s great passion was keeping the legacy of his father alive and he was determined to join his two older brothers “Mud” and “Big Bill” in the performing ranks to do just that. When Joseph went to the granddaughter of Willie Dixon, the dynamic performing and recording artist Tomiko Dixon for encouragement, Ms. Dixon responded in kind. “You’re the son of Muddy Waters and if you have the will and the talent, it’s time to bear your fruit,” said Ms. Dixon. He appeared with Tomiko and Jeff Stone in his first gig and the great blues circle widened, blessed by the forefathers above. For the next few short years, he carried the blues banner and achieved his dream. Thank you, my friend, for those few short years.
Photo shot outdoors at Chicago History Museum, 2019.
Mr. Hurley is a contributing photographer and writer for Living Blues Magazine and the staff photographer for Chicago Blues Network. His recent book Blues Legacy: Tradition and Innovation in Chicago, in collaboration with Blues historian and author David Whiteis, showcases his work in the field. His passion for blues music began with the Chess Studios’ sound of Bo Diddley and continues to this day. FOR WEBSITE, CLICK HERE.
Gifts and Giving Chicago Blues Masters bring joy, now you can share it!
20% of proceeds from these awesome gifts, which you can find in the Chicago Blues Network store, will keep doing just that! Whether you’re looking for photographs and CDs, the new 2021 Calendar, or giving lessons as a gift—we’ve got you covered.
Join the Holiday Party – Now Until Dec. 22 Firehouse Community Arts Center Holiday Party & Video Concert
Our partner, the Firehouse Community Arts Center, led by Pastor Phil Jackson, is hosting their own virtual holiday party and has invited all of us, to watch the concert, fill out the form on this page: https://thefcac.org/holidayconcert/.
The concert runs from now until Tuesday, December 22nd. Please drop by, say hello, share the joy, and remember, jazz and blues are family.
Click the photo above, featuring one of the performers, for a clip of the concert.
Chicago Blues History Feature “The Backbeat of Chicago Blues” by Marty Weil @ChiBluesHistory
Known as the Dean of American Percussion Teachers, Roy C. Knapp’s long tenure in Chicago dated from 1921. He became well known as a drummer, percussionist, and xylophone soloist, recording and working for the large radio stations. From 1928-1950, he was on the staff of station WLS, playing such shows as The National Barn Dance. In 1938, he started the Roy C. Knapp School of Percussion, which received college accreditation in 1946, allowing it to offer the B.M. degree and the Performer’s Certificate.
One of Knapp’s prized students was Fred Below who is best known for his work with Little Walter and Chess Records in the 1950s. According to music writer Tony Russell, Below was a creator of much of the rhythmic structure of Chicago blues, especially its backbeat. Below thoughts on the Knapp school were captured during a radio interview. Below told an interviewer, “The Knapp school taught everything from the rudiments of drumming to sight-reading and music appreciation.” According to Below, to reinforce his lessons, Knapp invited ex-pupils, who were playing in successful big bands to come back to the school when they were performing in Chicago to show students how the pros did it.
The Knapp School was located on the 6th floor of The Kimball Hall building on South Wabash Avenue. Within a few years of opening, Knapp’s School of Percussion became the most respected music school in the United States. Knapp’s roster of former students also included Gene Krupa, Louie Bellson, Dave Tough, Baby Dodds, and Bobby Christian. Knapp retired from playing in 1960, but continued teaching, running his school and his own drum shop until 1966, when he accepted Maurie Lishon’s invitation to teach at Franks Drum shop, where he continued until his death in 1979.
Fred Below interview about Roy C. Knapp
Marty Weil is the editor of@CHIBLUESHISTORYon Twitter. Marty is a blues researcher, educator, and social media influencer.
“Heart of the Blues” by Joanna Connor
Joanna Connor is 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 Joannavisit her website or watch her videos. To take lessons with Joanna,click here.
Well, this week has me still climbing out of an emotional hole fueled by the passing of my mom and having to pick up the few material things she left. It’s the small things that trigger abundant memories.
A saving grace was doing a private live steam from the Skokie Theater with John Primer, Dave Specter and Harlan Terson on December 4 for a company’s holiday party. Being the musician I am, I have a certain level of proficiency, but am affected by my inner state of being. I can tell you, I hadn’t picked up my guitar in three weeks, due to my mom being in hospice and her passing. I was out of sorts, my playing was raw and rough. I’m hoping it was better than what I was producing at that moment according to my ears. I’m usually my harshest critic. This can serve two opposite purposes: it has pushed me to improve and it has at times been a detriment to me being free to perform optimally. However, this performance opened up my mind to remember…
Sitting next to John Primer and watching Harlan and Dave also triggered the scenes in the chapter that lives somewhere in my brain filed under “Joanna’s Blues University Training Moments”.
John Primer has had a stellar career leading his own band, including a Grammy Nomination and travels around the globe. He is a living link to the Mississippi meets Chicago music tradition. My personal connection is when I sat at the altar of the majestic mountain of a blues man- Magic Slim and John filled the role as back up guitarist and opening vocalist to Slim. John’s rhythm playing was a study in how to tastefully propel a lead guitarist. He was even then a commanding presence musically and visually, in a more subtle and solid way. He was the perfect one-two punch to Magic Slim’s more bombastic and stinging guitar playing and physically and musically towering persona. John was part of the Teardrops, and they never failed to deliver the Chicago blues shuffles or “ lumps” and the slow blues that would ring out every emotion in you. Magic Slim and the Teardrops were a party to be sure, but a virtual lesson in deep Chicago blues that never lost connection to Mississippi.
Harlan Terson was the bass player to anchor a groove in Chicago and still is that man. He was in the house band every Monday for Kingston Mines legendary jam night. The quintessential bassist, Harlan was cooler than cool with a wry sense of humor and an undercurrent of mischief. His playing was utilized by none other than Otis Rush and Lonnie Brooks. Enough said.
Dave Specter was actually a door man at the club BLUES when I first met him. I always supposed he took the job to study first hand the music he loved so. He became Son Seals rhythm guitarist, along with the archetypal Chicago rhythm section of Willie Hayes and Stan Mixon on bass. Any night spent in their company was a night that would leave you slack-jawed at their power and mastery of their instruments. Son was one of my favorites. His songwriting was uniquely his own as well as his signature guitar licks and fiery baritone vocals.
I leave you this week grateful to those that have left us for what they gave to me. I miss them all in a deep way. I am also grateful for the three men I mentioned who are still with us. They are devoted to the blues after a lifetime of playing. They are persevering through an unprecedented time. For their musical gifts and their commitment to their art and keeping the music I alive I say “bravo and thank you!” Until next week…keep your heart and your ears open!