Monday, December 30, 2013

# 16 Pure Muddy, Rare Butter

    Muddy Waters is such an significant figure in the history of American Blues, Chicago Blues of the fifties, and then Rock/Blues of the sixties and seventies. He sets so many benchmarks over the course of his career, there are just too many to cover in this short blog.

    Much of the authentic blues based rock created in the sixties is a result of Butterfield, with his peers in the Chicago Crowd. Unlike their British contemporaries they have real teacher/student contact with the artists who are creating blues, and consequently develop a clearer understanding of the nuances of the music. It is the difference between learning a new language via Skype, and moving in with a family who speak the language everyday. This is important because, blues, like all folk arts has the unwritten rule of serving an apprenticeship on the way to becoming a journeyman, and most of the Chicago Crowd serve their masters.

Muddy in action with Butterfield.
   In the early days, Muddy is one of the few great bluesmen who pays attention to the young white kids showing up in the bars. I have read many interviews with members of the Chicago Crowd where they always compliment Muddy on his regal demeanor, and how graciously he affords time to Butterfield, Gravenites, Bloomfield, Bishop when they approach him. There are other bluesmen who are generous with their knowledge, but Muddy's name seems to come up most often.

   As an example, Muddy Waters doesn't think Butterfield is very good the first time he hears him, but he lets him sit-in with his band anyway. Regardless of whether the audiences are enthralled with the novelty of a white kid playing their music, or that Muddy sees opportunities to lay back, Butterfield's first performances in the South Side clubs are part of his genuine education.

   Over my years of reading about this era in Blues, I have come to the conclusion that Muddy has a deeper affinity for Butterfield than he does for the other young players. I think a lot of it has to do with Muddy's love of the harmonica. He is a harp player himself, and hires only the best, Walter, Cotton and Wells to name only three. Also, Muddy likes his harp players to favour the lower register of the harp, or the  'meat' as he calls it. This may be one reason Butterfield rarely ventures above the 6 hole.

   Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any recordings of the young Butterfield serving his apprenticeship with Muddy Waters. There are written documents, and tales from eye witness', but no recordings. What I have included here, may be the earliest recording of the two.

    Below, you will find a pretty rare recording of Butterfield playing harp with Muddy, at least I think it's rare. I definitely have never heard this performance of Mojo before.. The only information I can offer you is: according to the black marker on the CDR, "Mojo, Fillmore, 1966" If you have any other information, please let me know?


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