THE MUSIC

I’ve tried to have an open mind about music. I could never really get into country music, although some Southern rock/blues/country blends will hold my interest. Early influences came from listening to the radio on vacations early in the 70s, and my teen and college years spanned from the late 70s thorough mid-80s, not exactly a hotbed of classic music. But I listened to a variety of music, from KISS to Devo to disco, to classical and jazz fusion. It wasn’t until I started listening to the blues that I found a particular genre that really spoke to me. That led to building a music library that covered early Delta Blues to Chicago Blues to blues-influenced rock, like Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers. I still have so quirky favorites. I have a bit of an obsession with one-hit wonders, particularly from the early 70s. There’s some disco that I enjoy listening to and even get up and move to (but only when I’m sure I’m completely alone in the house). There are some current artists and bands I will listen to, mostly on recommendations from nephews and nieces who understand my tastes. I have included commentary on my essential artists, along with others that have been influences throughout my listening life. For others, I have included my favorite tracks. I have included a few of my varied playlists, a section on my one-hit wonder fetish, and info on the blues pioneers whose music I follow, and who have influenced other of my favorite artists. I also have a discussion section as part of my blog where I will occasionally comment on music-related topics.

ESSENTIAL ARTISTS

ERIC CLAPTON

There was a time when I was a Blues snob. I had started getting into the music, buying albums, reading about the artists. I wouldn’t listen to anything else. I had followed the path of Eric Clapton, who was once so snobbish on the Blues, that if you had never heard of Robert Johnson, Clapton wouldn’t even give you the time of day. I went to see a Clapton concert when all he played were Blues songs, and scoffed at the fans who left when Clapton wouldn’t play “Cocaine.” But I softened my tone, saw Clapton again a few years later when he played all his standards, and realized that I could find the Blues in all kinds of music, and it was OK to listen to all kinds of music. I still couldn’t get into country, even though a lot of it does derive from the blues. But to me, Clapton still holds a revered place. I understand he isn’t the best singer around, not is he the best songwriter. But when so inspired he can write some beautiful things, although they seem to come at the expense of his heartache, such as his unrequited love for Pattie Boyd that inspired “Layla,” or the death of his young son that led to “Tears in Heaven.” In between there are several middling albums, like “August” and “Behind the Sun.” The truth is, he probably did his best album work when he wasn’t the frontman, whether it was playing with the Yardbirds or Delaney and Bonnie, as part of the supergroup Cream, or in the amalgam that was Derek & the Dominos. But I’ve never really been a Clapton “album” person. Clapton is at his best live, whether it be sitting down with longtime collaborator J.J Cale and stomping out an Elmore James tune, or going off on a 10-minute riff in the middle of “I Shot the Sheriff.” Purists will call Clapton solos nothing more than ramblings. I appreciate the mastery of the instrument. Contrary to the critics say, there IS musicianship that takes place in the jams. There is a beauty to them. I picked up the Clapton album “Live in the 70s” many years back. Now most people don’t normally sit and listen to 15-minute tracks, but this is just Clapton doing what he does best - play the guitar. It’s not the best time of Clapton’s life, dealing with all sorts of addictions and anxieties, but the beauty is still there, and I love it, just as I do listening to the Allman Brothers play for 23 minutes on “Whipping Post” or 33 minutes on ”Mountain Jam.” They are instrumental symphonies. Of course, I still love watching or listening as Clapton puts his own spin on traditional Blues, especially when he brings on fellow guitarists, playing with the likes of BB King, Robert Cray, or more recently, Derek Trucks. There aren’t too many Clapton tracks I skip on a playlist. I’ll listen to “Old Love,” “Wonderful Tonight,” “Lay Down Sally,” and others.

LISTEN

FIRST

CROSSROADS 2: LIVE IN THE SEVENTIES

This is strictly a personal choice. I love the live feel, the long jams that only add to the familiar Clapton tracks. This is what he does best, and here he is at the height of his powers. The four-disc set is the follow-up to the comprehensive Clapton studio compilation covering his entire career. This set is recorded from concerts over a four-year period from 1974-78, when he has come out of his heroin fog and is regaining his confidence onstage. The four discs do vary a bit in quality. The second disc is my favorite, led off by a unique, compact version of “Layla.” The highlights are a pair of solo-driven tracks with “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Badge,” both at more than 10 minutes in length, but both demonstrating Clapton’s playing range. He goes from finger-busting full-volume runs to subtle yet complex soft chords. He has a great band behind him and he doesn't hesitate letting them step up and showcase their talents. The disc concludes with Clapton’s take on Sonny Boy Williamson’s traditional “Eyesight to the Blind.” It’s a similar take as the way he played it in the Who rock opera “Tommy.”  This track, which also showcases Carlos Santana, evolves into “Why Does Love Got to be So Sad?” and ends up lasting 24 minutes.

WHAT'S NEXT

461 OCEAN BOULEVARD / SLOWHAND

These are considered Clapton’s two best solo studio works, and cover a wide spectrum of Clapton’s abilities. “461 Ocean Boulevard” from 1974 is Clapton’s first offering coming out of his three-year heroin addiction. It’s a quieter album, and includes only three original Clapton songs, all introspective. Backed by by his Tulsa-sound band, it is probably the best song-making album of his career.  There are some blues standards, and the reggae cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff,” which is his only U.S. No. 1. In 1977’s “Slowhand” are found three of Clapton’s biggest hits with “Cocaine,” “Wonderful Tonight,” and “Lay Down Sally.” You can sense that after the success of "461 Ocean Boulevard" that he is more confident being a frontman and legend. He doesn't have to prove his musicianship. It's OK to be a  rocker.

FAVORITE

FIVE

TRACKS

SONG                                        ALBUM

Layla                                             Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (Derek & the Dominos)

Old Love                                       Journeyman    

Crossroads                                   Wheels of Fire (Cream)       

I Shot the Sheriff                         461 Ocean Boulevard                  

Badge                                            Goodbye (Cream)

 

LED ZEPPELIN

My road to Led Zeppelin took a bit of a winding route. I basically wandered through different types looking for something that caught my interest. I started getting into blues music in college and followed that path back to Zeppelin and other blues-based rock. Back in high school, I had thought Zeppelin was the music for the stoners and never really paid attention. Of course, it was music for stoners, but it was something much more. By the time I started listening to them, I was past tracks like “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll” and get to what I think is the better stuff, like “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Going to California” and “When the Levee Breaks.” Picking favorite songs from the group is difficult. For me, it needs just the right amount of each of the elements of the band. I don’t want Robert Plant to get too crazy with vocals, and while I want Jimmy Page’s amazing guitar work, it shouldn’t be over-the-top. I’ll take John Bohnam’s unparalleled drums all day long, and I want the underrated genius of John Paul Jones to show. Even that leaves a huge depth of songs to choose from. The Beatles may be considered perhaps the perfect band at the perfect time, but there might not be a better combination of four musicians.

LISTEN

FIRST

LED ZEPPELIN IV

No need even to fool around here. There’s a reason this album is considered the band’s greatest. It just is. You’ve got a first side that is absolute Zeppelin energy for any regular fan with three of their biggest hits in “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll,” and little ditty called “Stairway to Heaven.” The fourth track is “Battle of Evermore,” so even the weakest track ain’t bad. But then you go to the second side. For the Zeppelin purist, the connoisseur, the devotee who appreciates the band’s blues base and the subtleties of all four masters working together, there may not be a better four-song grouping. There’s “Misty Mountain Hop,” the one track I keep going back to as my top Zeppelin single. Then there’s “Going to California,” a beautifully-styled piece that shows the band’s total range. And there’s “When the Levee Breaks,” another on my go-to list, a blues-bending tour-de-force. The fourth track is “Four Sticks.” While it may not be among the critics’ favorites, I love to hear John Bonham just let loose. It certainly has its place on my list.

WHAT'S NEXT

PHYSICAL GRAFFITI

With a band as huge as Led Zeppelin, trying to rate albums and songs is nearly impossible. Critics have their favorites based on certain criteria, and fans have theirs based just on what they like. My choice came down to two albums. I have to give a huge nod to “Led Zeppelin II,” which is just a monster album. It’s got a lot of blues-based, Zeppelin-treated works, which is a big part of why I listen to Zeppelin. It’s a non-stop crush, a grip-it-and-rip-it. The reason I list “Physical Graffiti” a tick ahead is because of the range the band shows throughout the double album. Only “Kashmir” and “Houses of the Holy” stand out as top individual tracks, but the band shows off what it really can do. It has the hard-edged Led Zeppelin sound. It also has the middle eastern and orchestrated “Kashmir,” and a funk style in “Trampled Under Foot.” There are also acoustic tracks, country stylings, and even prog rock. “Physical Graffiti” takes Led Zeppelin from merely great to legendary.

FAVORITE

FIVE

TRACKS

SONG                                        FROM THE ALBUM

Misty Mountain Hop                 Led Zeppelin IV
Going to California                    Led Zeppelin IV
When the Levee Breaks            Led Zeppelin IV
Kashmir                                       Physical Graffiti
Black Dog                                    Led Zeppelin IV

THE BEATLES

Of course I knew about The Beatles growing up and could sing all the songs, but they never made it into my collection until CDs first came out. I picked up Rubber Soul and Revolver and from then on I was a student. There is a library full of books on the group and the songs, and almost as many documentaries, but the one I think best is “The Compleat Beatles” from 1982. It is only out on VHS because Paul McCartney bought the rights for the documentary when he was putting together his own documentary “Beatles Anthology,” which even at six hours is not as good as the 1982 film. As for the Beatles’ music, there’s not much more to comment on that hasn’t been written. Listen to the albums in order and enjoy the eight-year journey of the greatest musical group ever. Picking just five individual singles is difficult. These just happen to be personal favorites. “Eleanor Rigby” has what I consider the most brillliant lyric in modern music, “wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door.” The songs “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday” stand apart as masterpieces. “Strawberry FIelds” is filled with John Lennon’s amazing word imagery, while “Blackbird” is simply a beautiful song. My wife was a high-schooler during the Beatles’ heyday, and I became husband-of-the-year when I got her tickets to see Paul McCartney in Indianapolis. Even at 70 years old, McCartey played for three hours without a break, and it was the best show I’ve ever seen.

LISTEN

FIRST

REVOLVER

I know. You don’t have to tell me. This is supposed to be “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” But picking the best Beatles album is like choosing the the best color on fleet of Rolls Royces. They’re all gonna be great.  Starting with “Rubber Soul,” the music of the Beatles entered a whole new arena of popular music that had never been heard before. They were already a great pop band with a fresh sound. But with “Rubber Soul,” and then “Revolver,” the music was made to be listened to. It was innovative with instrumentation, lyrics, mixing, layering of sounds. The process would reach its zenith with “Sgt. Pepper’s” in terms of polish and concept. It also had the advantage of following the building wave from “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver.” But listening to them side-by-side today, “Revolver” certainly deserves to at least stand side-by-side with “Sgt. Pepper’s.” Harrison’s “Taxman” opens the album, and marks the point where he steps out of the Lennon-McCartney shadow. The sound and style are a decade ahead of their time. That is followed by “Eleanor Rigby,” perhaps the greatest single track by the band (with all due respect to “Hey Jude”), with personally the finest lyrics. The string octet is beautiful, especially the mellow sounds of the cellos and violas. Then comes “I’m Only Sleeping,” which continues Lennon’s sound-as-art concept, fueled by his ever-increasing intake of mind-bending drugs. Two others follow with “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” There’s also “Yellow Submarine.” Who couldn’t like that? If Ringo can sing it, so can you. The second side has a little bit more of a pop feel, but again, songs like “Good Day Sunshine” and “Doctor Robert,” while they seems bit dated now, were years ahead of their time. “Got to Get You Into My Life,” has an R&B/funk feel with its full horn and and organ backing that only adds depth to the album.

WHAT'S NEXT

SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

OK, here it is. The greatest album ever made, in the eyes of just about everyone. from concept to conclusion, it is a masterpiece. Every track has been analyzed by musicologists and lyricists and psychologists, and every kind of “-ists” there are out there. I’m not really concerned about the use of “Lydian mode chord progression,” or “major key double-plagal cadence.” It’s a great album to listen to. You’re brought into the band’s “concert” by the title track, right into Ringo’s charming “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and then to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” filled with its word imagery. The story of the making of “Being for he Benefit of Mr. Kite!” is just as amazing as the song itself, with the work of producer George Martin to create the calliope sound and feel of a country fair. The second side brings two of McCartney’s standards in “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Lovely Rita,” then ends, fittingly, with “A Day in the Life,” which takes the listener through a journey of dream-inducing sound and lyrics, many drawing from local news of the region. From the cover photo, to the range of sound and words, “Sgt. Pepper’s” changed not only music, but considering the time in which it arrived in 1967, changed culture as well. The individualism of each of the band members leading up to this album only increased after, and they inevitably drifted apart. The genius was still there, but the time of working together was over.

FAVORITE

FIVE

TRACKS

SONG                                        FROM THE ALBUM

Eleanor Rigby                               Revolver
Hey Jude                                        (Released as a single)
Yesterday                                      Help!
Strawberry Fields Forever          Magical Mystery Tour
Blackbird                                       The Beatles (White Album)

ALLMAN BROTHERS

The first time I ever heard about Gregg Allman was when he married Cher. Cher’s music was well-known in our house. We watched Sony and Cher’s TV show. The Allman Brothers didn’t get too much radio play, so they were out of my sphere. Like Led Zeppelin and others, I didn’t really start listening to the full band catalog until I started tracking traditional blues back into rock music. They were more traditional than Zeppelin, but nonetheless, just as listenable and just as brilliant in their interpretations of classic blues songs. I was familiar with mainstream singles like “Melissa” and “Midnight Rider,” but I had seen that “Live at the Fillmore East” had been called one of the best albums of all time, so I decided to give it a listen. The long-form live tracks really hooked me. I began learning about connections within the artists at the time, finding out that Duane Allman played with Eric Clapton on “Layla,” and that he had played with just about everyone, and had done it all before his untimely  death at the age of 24.

LISTEN

FIRST

LIVE AT THE FILLMORE EAST

I’m one of those people who love (mostly) live albums. I know there are those who don’t. But with a band like The Allman Brothers, they are at their best in the live setting, where the long jams really can showcase the overall talent of the band, and on this album they are at the top of their game. There are just seven tracks on the double LP. In full disclosure, the bar across the street from the newspaper where I worked had the album in its jukebox, and on Saturday nights after our midnight deadline, we’d go over and play pool and listen to music. You’d get five songs for a buck, and when we played the 23-minute “Whipping Post,” and get our money’s worth, but really tick off anyone else wanting to hear their songs.

WHAT'S NEXT

EAT A PEACH
Almost all the greats are here. The beautiful “Melissa” to the 33-minute “Mountain Jam.” In between are the two terrific covers of “One Way Out,” an Elmore James classi, and “Trouble No More,” from Muddy Waters’ catalog. Then there’s the spectacular “Blue Sky.” Just sit back and listen as Duane Allman and Dickie Betts play off each other, then as Duane takes over solo and then plays off into his own sunset.

FAVORITE

FIVE

TRACKS

SONG                                     FROM THE ALBUM
Southbound                             Brothers and Sisters
One Way Out                            Eat a Peach
Desdemona                              Hittin’ the Note
Trouble No More                      Eat a Peach
Melissa                                       Eat a Peach

AL GREEN

I was never really an R&B or soul fan, with the exception of a few tracks here and there, like Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay,” the Temptations and such. But as I listened to more traditional blues, I also would end up with a few Sam & Dave or Wilson Pickett tunes. As I added these to my collection, I found I was adding quite a few Al Green songs. I just loved his silky smooth soul sound. He’s been prolific for more than 40 years, and he produced some very good gospel soul albums through the 80s. Also in the 80s, he teamed with Annie Lennox on the wonderful “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” for the movie “Scrooged.” The Reverend was still making terrific music into the 21st century.

LISTEN

FIRST

AL GREEN'S GREATEST HITS

I try to avoid the greatest hits albums, preferring to hear individual albums in the way that artists want them put together. But in this case, this 1975 compilation is the exception. His top hits are all here, and it’s a terrific collection.

WHAT'S NEXT

LAY IT DOWN
In his 29th studio album recorded in 2008, Green shows he can still bring it, and this album harkens back to his early days. The silky voice is still there, and he teams with current stars on four of the tracks, the best being  “Take Your Time” with Corinne Bailey Rae and “Stay with Me (By the Sea)” with John Legend.

FAVORITE

FIVE

TRACKS

SONG                                        FROM THE ALBUM

Take Me to the River                   Al Green Explores Your Mind               
Let’s Stay Together                      Let’s Stay Together
Love and Happiness                    I’m Still in Love With You
I’m Still in Love With You             I’m Still in Love With You
Tired of Being Alone                    Al Green Gets Next To You

THE POLICE

The Police were on my radar before they jumped into superstardom with “Synchronicity.” They were already big with “Roxanne,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” “Message in a Bottle,” in heavy rotation, along with “Walking on the Moon,” which featured the beautiful bass line that I’m a sucker for. The “white reggae” of “Regatta de Blanc” just had a sound that was something different. I wore out the album “Ghost in the Machine,” and it’s still close at hand when I’m in the mood for doing full-album playlists. I have probably listened to “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” more than any single song. Of course, “Synchronicity” is filled with hits, and “Every Breath You Take” is strong, and any song that evokes the Loch Ness monster combined with Jungian concept like “Synchronicity II” is worthy of mention. It’s a decent tune, as well. “Synchronicity” is the most polished and professional of the band’s albums, and showcases all their expert musicianship. But by that time, the members of the Police were barely speaking to each other, getting into numerous fights, and recording each of their tracks in different rooms. They really couldn’t stand each other. I think everyone wishes The Police had stuck together after “Synchronicity” to see what else they could do, but they probably got about as much as they could considering they were a band pretty much in name only. Egos and musical styles never really meshed, except when it came to production. I like a bit of the jazzy stuff Sting would go on to produce, but it still doesn’t match the clever rawness of the work the band put down earlier.

LISTEN

FIRST

GHOST IN THE MACHINE

These are three talented musicians, and while they didn’t really get along, they could produce some great music. In the beginning, they built off the raw energy of punk, added in some reggae with mixes of other styles here and there, and added lyrics gleaned from philosophers. It came together best in this album, coming just before the egos took charge and produced the stylish, but hollow, “Synchronicity.” “Ghost in the Machine” features my favorite all-time track, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” It has the great bass line, terrific running piano, an island hop, and Stewart Copeland’s lively beat. “Spirits in the Material World” has a similar feel to it, while “Demolition Man” pushes the tempo when you need it. The Police have many songs about loneliness and isolation and apocalyptic themes. (“So Lonely,” “Message in a Bottle,” “When the World is Running Down …”) My favorite of the bunch is “Omegaman.” A terrific album all the way through, showcasing the best of The Police before they stopped talking to each other.

WHAT'S NEXT

OUTLANDOS d’AMOUR  /  REGATTA de BLANC  /  ZENYATTA MENDATTA

I tried separating these first three albums. I listened over and over, and just couldn’t pick one over the other. All three capture the best of what The Police were. From “Outlandos” came “So Lonely,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” the karaoke-inducing “Roxanne,” and the underrated “Next to You.” “Regatta” produced “Message in a Bottle” and “Walking on the Moon” along with  a brilliant “Bring on the Night” and a really good instrumental title track. “Zenyatta Mondatta” has the hits in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” but also includes a number of underrated tracks — “Driven to Tears,” “When the World is Running Down …,” and “Shadows in the Rain,” along with the fun “Canary in the Coalmine.” So you can understand why I had to include all three albums here.

FAVORITE

FIVE

TRACKS

SONG                                                      FROM THE ALBUM

Every Little Thing She Does is Magic    Ghost in the Machine
Bring On the Night                                  Regatta de Blanc
Omegaman                                               Ghost in the Machine
Shadows in the Rain                                Zenyatta Mondatta
Every Breath You Take                             Synchronicity

DEPECHE MODE

The Police were on my radar before they jumped into superstardom with “Synchronicity.” They were already big with “Roxanne,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” “Message in a Bottle,” in heavy rotation, along with “Walking on the Moon,” which featured the beautiful bass line that I’m a sucker for. The “white reggae” of “Regatta de Blanc” just had a sound that was something different. I wore out the album “Ghost in the Machine,” and it’s still close at hand when I’m in the mood for doing full-album playlists. I have probably listened to “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” more than any single song. Of course, “Synchronicity” is filled with hits, and “Every Breath You Take” is strong, and any song that evokes the Loch Ness monster combined with Jungian concept like “Synchronicity II” is worthy of mention. It’s a decent tune, as well. “Synchronicity” is the most polished and professional of the band’s albums, and showcases all their expert musicianship. But by that time, the members of the Police were barely speaking to each other, getting into numerous fights, and recording each of their tracks in different rooms. They really couldn’t stand each other. I think everyone wishes The Police had stuck together after “Synchronicity” to see what else they could do, but they probably got about as much as they could considering they were a band pretty much in name only. Egos and musical styles never really meshed, except when it came to production. I like a bit of the jazzy stuff Sting would go on to produce, but it still doesn’t match the clever rawness of the work the band put down earlier.

LISTEN

FIRST

GHOST IN THE MACHINE

These are three talented musicians, and while they didn’t really get along, they could produce some great music. In the beginning, they built off the raw energy of punk, added in some reggae with mixes of other styles here and there, and added lyrics gleaned from philosophers. It came together best in this album, coming just before the egos took charge and produced the stylish, but hollow, “Synchronicity.” “Ghost in the Machine” features my favorite all-time track, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” It has the great bass line, terrific running piano, an island hop, and Stewart Copeland’s lively beat. “Spirits in the Material World” has a similar feel to it, while “Demolition Man” pushes the tempo when you need it. The Police have many songs about loneliness and isolation and apocalyptic themes. (“So Lonely,” “Message in a Bottle,” “When the World is Running Down …”) My favorite of the bunch is “Omegaman.” A terrific album all the way through, showcasing the best of The Police before they stopped talking to each other.

WHAT'S NEXT

OUTLANDOS d’AMOUR  /  REGATTA de BLANC  /  ZENYATTA MENDATTA

I tried separating these first three albums. I listened over and over, and just couldn’t pick one over the other. All three capture the best of what The Police were. From “Outlandos” came “So Lonely,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” the karaoke-inducing “Roxanne,” and the underrated “Next to You.” “Regatta” produced “Message in a Bottle” and “Walking on the Moon” along with  a brilliant “Bring on the Night” and a really good instrumental title track. “Zenyatta Mondatta” has the hits in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” but also includes a number of underrated tracks — “Driven to Tears,” “When the World is Running Down …,” and “Shadows in the Rain,” along with the fun “Canary in the Coalmine.” So you can understand why I had to include all three albums here.

FAVORITE

FIVE

TRACKS

SONG                                                      FROM THE ALBUM

Every Little Thing She Does is Magic    Ghost in the Machine
Bring On the Night                                  Regatta de Blanc
Omegaman                                               Ghost in the Machine
Shadows in the Rain                                Zenyatta Mondatta
Every Breath You Take                             Synchronicity

SECOND TIER

CHICAGO

Another band that was part of my early years listening to the radio. Terry Kath and Robert Lamm provide unmistakable vocals, and Chicago really developed my love of backing horns in rock music.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
25 or 6 to 4 / Chicago II
Make Me Smile / Chicago II
Saturday in the Park / Chicago V

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DOOBIE BROTHERS
I have to admit that I got onto the Doobies late, in the Michael McDonald years, but eventually appreciated the early work better. The two greatest hits albums may be the only ones I had in vinyl, 8-track and cassette, and I wore them all out.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Long Train Runnin’ / The Captain and Me
Jesus is Just Alright  / Toulouse Street
China Grove / The Captain and Me


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ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
It’s only been in the last 10 years or so that I really started listening to ELO, and I can’t say why it took so long. I know there was a VW commercial that used “Mr. Blue Sky” that may have jump-started it, and I realized how many great songs they had.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Turn to Stone / Out of the Blue
Mr. Blue Sky / Out of the Blue
Don’t Bring Me Down / Discovery


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PETER GABRIEL
I knew about Gabriel through “Shock the Monkey,” but in 1986 he came out with the stellar album “So.” The video for “Sledgehammer” was amazing, and it led me to listening to his other great work.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Solsbury Hill / Peter Gabriel 1
Sledgehammer / So
In Your Eyes / So


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ELTON JOHN
Of course, Elton John got huge radio play in the 70s when I was listening to the radio. There was hit after hit, and they are all well-known, but I really started liking a lot of his lesser-known deeper tracks like “My Father’s Gun” and “Amoreena”.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Bennie and the Jets  / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me  / Caribou
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds  / Single


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THE CURE
Of course, Elton John got huge radio play in the 70s when I was listening to the radio. There was hit after hit, and they are all well-known, but I really started liking a lot of his lesser-known deeper tracks like “My Father’s Gun” and “Amoreena”.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Bennie and the Jets  / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me  / Caribou
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds  / Single


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BOB MARLEY
Of course, Elton John got huge radio play in the 70s when I was listening to the radio. There was hit after hit, and they are all well-known, but I really started liking a lot of his lesser-known deeper tracks like “My Father’s Gun” and “Amoreena”.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Bennie and the Jets  / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me  / Caribou
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds  / Single

KISS

As a middle-schooler, I was a follower, and every teenage boy was listening to KISS, so I did, too. “Hotter than Hell” was the first album I bought, and having “Destroyer” was a right of passage. No, the music isn’t great, but it’s an important part of my musical past, and you’ll still catch me playing air guitar to the solo in “Detroit Rock City.”

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Rock and Roll All Nite / Dressed to Kill
Detroit Rock City / Destroyer
Love Gun / Love Gun

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VAN MORRISON
Morrison is one of those artists that I drifted to as I started building some depth into my listening. He has a beautifully soulful style, but I also loved the harder-edged “Gloria” and “Baby Please Don’t Go” when he was with the group “Them.”

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Moondance  / Moondance
Into the Mystic  /  Moondance
Crazy Love  / 


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PEARL JAM
“Ten” was released about the time I was moving my music into CDs, and it was a huge album. I saw Pearl Jam when they played at Purdue in the early 90s.They have a deep catalog, and my favorites come from the deeper tracks.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Black / Ten
Rearviewmirror  /  Vs.
Elderly Woman …  /  Vs.


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QUEEN
The band really came into my sphere when our middle school basketball team went undefeated, and “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” became our anthem on the bus rides to games. Then the album “The Game” came out and Queen became a staple in rotation.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Under Pressure /  Hot Space
Bohemian Rhapsody /  A Night at the Opera
Somebody to Love   /  A Day at the Races


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U2
When I was at Purdue, U2 was a bit of a college band, not the mega group they now are. I knew them back from the album “Boy,” and knew the singles “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” But “Joshua Tree” put U2 into the stratosphere as a supergroup and that album became one of the best of all time. The 30-year anniversary tour of that album is taking place in 2017.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
With or Without You  / The Joshua Tree
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / The Joshua Tree
Where the Streets Have No Name  / The Joshua Tree


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DEPECHE MODE
Of course, Elton John got huge radio play in the 70s when I was listening to the radio. There was hit after hit, and they are all well-known, but I really started liking a lot of his lesser-known deeper tracks like “My Father’s Gun” and “Amoreena”.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Bennie and the Jets  / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me  / Caribou
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds  / Single

B-52s

At the time, the B-52s to me were that band that had “Love Shack” on overload in music video rotation. It was catchy, but it didn’t really do much for me. But “Rock Lobster” was on the jukebox at the bar across the street form the paper, and we played it a lot on Saturday nights after deadline. That took me back to the bands older stuff, and those tracks hit a sweet spot.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Private Idaho  /  
Channel Z  /  
Rock Lobster  / 

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BLACK CROWES
After I started tracing the blues back into rock, one of the first bands that came up were the Black Crowes. They covered a lot of blues and R&B artists, like “Hard to Handle” from Otis Redding, and “Shake Your Moneymaker” from Elmore James. The Crowes’ original song “Wiser Time” is my all-time top track by any artist. It has a mellow bluesiness with an edge, and includes solid guitar and keyboard solos. It’s not well-known, but I’m glad I found it.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Wiser Time  /  Amorica
Remedy  /      
Jealous Again  / 


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PRINCE
I probably didn’t appreciate Prince as much as I should have at the height of his brilliance.  His dance music was on every playlist at every college party, but I wasn’t much of a dancer, at least when people were around. But my lasting memory is Prince playing “Purple Rain” IN the rain at the Bears-Colts Super Bowl. It was the only good part of that game.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Purple Rain  /  
I Would Die 4 You  /  
Let’s Go Crazy  / 


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SOUNDGARDEN
Nirvana and Pearl Jam brought the Seattle grunge music into the mainstream, but Soundgarden predates them both. When grunge became mainstream, I heard “Black Hole Sun” and saw the amazing video and was hooked.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Solsbury Hill /  Peter Gabriel 1
Sledgehammer  /  So
In Your Eyes  /  So


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VIOLENT FEMMES
On a college road trip to Ohio State in 1984, I saw the Violent Femmes at the Newport, a little theater on High Street. I had never heard of them before — nobody had really heard of them before — but the music was great and the whole trip was a lot of fun. The Femmes have been in rotation ever since.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Blister in the Sun  /  
Kiss Off  /  
Gone Daddy Gone  / 


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THE PLIMSOULS
Of course, Elton John got huge radio play in the 70s when I was listening to the radio. There was hit after hit, and they are all well-known, but I really started liking a lot of his lesser-known deeper tracks like “My Father’s Gun” and “Amoreena”.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS/ALBUM
Bennie and the Jets  / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me  / Caribou
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds  / Single

 

TOP TRACKS

Ryan Adams /  Wonderwall, Come Pick Me Up

Adele / All I Ask, Someone Like You
America / Sister Golden Hair, Ventura Highway
Beastie Boys / Sabotage, No Sleep ’Til Brooklyn

Bee Gees / How Deep Is Your Love, Tragedy
Johnny Cash / Jackson, Hurt
Ray Charles / Song for You, Georgia on my Mind
The Church / Under the Milky Way, Terra Nova Cain
The Clash / London Calling, Train in Vain
Joe Cocker / You Are So Beautiful, Feeling Alright
Leonard Cohen / Hallelujah, Suzanne
Elvis Costello / What’s So Funny ‘Bout …, Pump It Up
Jim Croce / Time in a Bottle, I Got a Name
The Cure / Friday I’m in Love, Lovesong
David Bowie / Life on Mars, Let’s Dance
Depeche Mode / Personal Jesus, Stripped
Dire Straits / Brothers in Arms, Calling Elvis

Earth, Wind & Fire / September, Shining Star
Eminem / Lose Yourself, Beautiful

Eurythmics / Here Comes the Rain Again, Missionary Man
Green Day / Longview, American Idiot
Jimi Hendrix / Little Wing, All Along the Watchtower
Don Henley / Sunset Grill, Dirty Laundry
Billy Idol / White Wedding, Rebel Yell
INXS / To Look at You, Here Comes
John Lennon / Mind Games, Imagine

Annie Lennox / Why, Waiting in Vain
Kansas / Dust in the Wind, Carry On Wayward Son

BB King / Thrill is Gone, Hummingbird
Kinks / Lola, Nothing in this World …
Lenny Kravitz / Are You Gonna Go My Way, Fields of Joy
Bob Marley / Get Up Stand Up, Jammin
Nirvana  /  All Apologies, Heart Shaped Box
Pink Floyd / Another Brick in the Wall, Us And Them
Plimsouls /  Million Miles Away, Women
Elvis Presley / Kentucky Rain, Little Less Conversation
Pretenders /  Middle of the Road, My City Was Gone
Ramones / Judy is a Punk, I Wanna Be Sedated
Otis Redding / Dock of the Bay, Try a Little Tenderness
Red Hot Chili Peppers /  Knock Me Down, Taste the Pain
Rolling Stones /  Paint It Black, Gimme Shelter
Sheryl Crow / Safe and Sound, Always On Your Side
Simon and Garfunkel / America, At The Zoo
The Smiths /  How Soon is Now, Last Night I Dreamt …
Elliott Smith /  Needle in the Hay, I Better Be Quiet Now
Bruce Springsteen / Rosalita, Jungleland
Steepwater Band / The Stars Look Good Tonight, Revelation Sunday
Sting / I Burn For You, It’s Probably Me
Styx / Renegade, Suite Madam Blue
Talking Heads / Burning Down the House, Stay Up Late

James Taylor / Fire and Rain, You've Got a Friend
Tears for Fears / Sowing the Seeds of Love, Who Killed Tangerine
They Might Be Giants / Birdhouse in Your Soul, Ana Ng
Three Dog Night / One, Old Fashioned Love Song
Stevie Ray Vaughan / Texas Flood, Tightrope
Velvet Underground / Sweet Jane, Stephanie Says
Wang Chung / Everybody Have Fun Tonight, To Live and Die in LA
The Who / Eminence Front, See Me Feel Me
Amy Winehouse / Rehab, Tears Dry On Their Own
Wings /  Band on the Run, Live and Let Die
Stevie Wonder / Superstition, Higher Ground
ZZ Top /  Waiting for the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago, Heard it on the X

Animotion / Obsession
Army of Lovers / Crucified
The Art Of Noise / KISS (Featuring Tom Jones)
Atlanta Rhythm Section / So In To You

Anita Baker / Giving You the Best That I Got

Beach Boys / God Only Knows

Blow Monkeys / Digging Your Scene

Jackson Brown / Doctor My Eyes

James Brown / I'll Go Crazy
Jeff Buckley / Hallelujah

Citizen Cope / Son's Gonna Rise
Cream / Badge

Cheap Trick / Dream Police
Christopher Cross / Sailing
Duran Duran / Save A Prayer

Lupe Fiasco / Hello Goodbye
Fifth Dimension / Age of Aquarius.Let the Sunshine In


Fleetwood Mac / Tusk


A Flock Of Seagulls / I Ran (So Far Away)

Foo Fighters / Everlong

Foreigner / Juke Box Hero

Gnarls Barkley / Crazy


The Grass Roots / Wait A Million Years

David Gray / Shine

Guns 'N' Roses / November Rain

Heatwave / Groove Line


Michael Jackson / Rock With You


Billy Joel / Just The Way You Are


Tom Jones / It's Not Unusual

KC & the Sunshine Band / Get Down Tonight


Level 42 / Something About You


Linkin Park / Numb

Looking Glass / Brandy

Madness / Our House

Magic Sam / Sweet Home Chicago

Mamas and the Papas / California Dreamin'

Manfred Mann / Blinded By the Light

Maroon 5 / Makes Me Wonder


MARRS / Pump Up the Volume

Natalie Merchant / Life Is Sweet


Steve Miller Band / Fly Like an Eagle

The Mission / Deliverance


Modern English / I Melt With You

Moody Blues / Nights in White Satin

The Monkees / Not My Stepping Stone

Paolo Nutini / New Shoes


Parliament-Funkadelic / Atomic Dog


Pharrell Williams / Happy

Bonnie Raitt / Feels Like Home to Me

Boz Scaggs / Lido shuffle


Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band / Roll Me Away


Brian Setzer Orchestra / Americano

Marlena Shaw / California Soul


Simply Red / Holding Back the Years

Soft Cell / Tainted Love


The Soggy Bottom Boys / Man of Constant Sorrow

Squeeze / Tempted

Temple of the Dog / Hunger Strike

Pete Townshend / Let My Love Open the Door


Jethro Tull / Aqualung

Wang Chung / Everybody Have Fun Tonight


Bill Withers / Lovely Day


Yes / Owner of  a Lonely Heart

 

PLAYLISTS

MOODY

Anyone who knows me knows that I can get moody at times. I'm a bit of a loner who just wants to go off in a corner and listen to depressing music. With multiple Elliott Smith and Adele songs, it's surprising that I don't walk in front of a bus. (Don't worry, I just like the music).

Take Me Home / Phil Collins
Ain't No Mountain High Enough / Marvin Gaye
Here Comes The Rain Again / Eurythmics
Can't Find My Way Home / Blind Faith
Just The Two Of Us / Bill Withers
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / U2
One / Three Dog Night
Fire And Rain / James Taylor
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) / Talking Heads
I Burn For You / Sting
Can't Stand Losing You / The Police
So Lonely / The Police
She's Gone / Hall and Oates
Lovesong / The Cure
You Are So Beautiful / Joe Cocker
If / Bread
New York Minute / Don Henley
It's Probably Me / Sting
You've Got A Friend / James Taylor

Fell On Black Days / Soundgarden
Safe And Sound / Sheryl Crow
Needle In The Hay / Elliott Smith
Somewhere Out There / Linda Rondstat, James Ingram
Who Wants to Live Forever / Queen
Under Pressure (w/David Bowie) / Queen
In Your Eyes / Peter Gabriel
A Million Miles Away / The Plimsouls
Time / The Alan Parsons Project
Life Is Sweet / Natalie Merchant
Waiting in Vain / Annie Lennox
Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me / Elton John
Sunset Grill / Don Henley
Someone Like You / Adele
Shine / David Gray
Wait A Million Years / The Grass Roots
Not Afraid / Eminem
Wildflower / Sheryl Crow
Hello / Adele
Come Pick Me Up / Ryan Adams
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic / The Police
Solsbury Hill / Peter Gabriel
Always On Your Side (w/Sting) / Sheryl Crow
Under the Milky Way / The Church
A Song for You / Ray Charles
Hallelujah / Jeff Buckley
Old Love / Eric Clapton
I Will Remember You / Sarah McLachlan
Time After Time / Cyndy Lauper
Dust In The Wind / Kansas
How Soon Is Now / The Smiths
Message In A Bottle / The Police
So Far Away / Carole King
Wishing You Were Here / Chicago
Lost Without Your Love / Bread
Diary / Bread
With Or Without You / U2
The Way We Were / Barbra Streisand
Last Night I Dreamt ... / The Smiths
I Better Be Quiet Now / Elliott Smith
Someone Like You / Van Morrison
Alone Again (Naturally) / Gilbert O'Sullivan
Brothers In Arms / Dire Straits
Hurt / Johnny Cash
All By Myself / Eric Carmen
All I Ask / Adele
America / Simon & Garfunkel
Omegaman / The Police
Nothing In This World... / The Kinks
Beautiful / Eminem
Against All Odds / Phil Collins
Yesterday / The Beatles

DISCO

On the other end of the scale from the moody music is my strange enjoyment of some disco tracks. I can’t tell you why. I’m not a dancer, thankfully, but there are times when “Get Down Tonight” by KC and the Sunshine Band pops up, and I feel the need to get up and boogie. It’s not a pretty sight, and it only happens when no one else is around.

Superstar / Carpenters
Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes / Edison Lighthouse
Doctor My Eyes / Jackson Browne
All By Myself / Eric Carmen
Bennie And The Jets / Elton John
Band of Gold / Freda Payne
Indiana Wants Me / R. Dean Taylor
It's Magic / Pilot
Daughter of Darkness / Tom Jones
Philadelphia Freedom / Elton John
Something / The Beatles
I'll Never Fall in Love Again / Dionne Warwick
Don't Pull Your Love / Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds
Guitar Man / Bread
Rock Me Gently / Andy Kim
Summer Breeze / Seals and Crofts
Oh What A Lonely Boy / Andrew Gold
Tin Man / America
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald / Gordon Lightfoot
Smiling Faces / The Undisputed Truth
You're So Vain / Carly Simon
Lido shuffle / Boz Scaggs
It's Too Late / Carole King
I Got A Name / Jim Croce
I Can See Clearly Now / Johnny Nash
Could It Be I'm Falling In Love / The Spinners
Horse With No Name / America
Indian Reservation / Paul Revere & The Raiders
Then Came You / Dionne Warwick
Brandy / Looking Glass
It's Too Late to Turn Back Now / Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
Band On The Run / Paul McCartney & Wings
Baker Street / Gerry Rafferty
Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again / The Fortunes
Give Me Just a Little More Time / Chairmen of the Board
Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves / Cher
Alone Again (Naturally) / Gilbert O'Sullivan
Rock The Boat / Hues Corporation
Wildfire / Michael Murphey
Precious And Few / Climax Blues Band
Heart Of Gold / Neil Young
Saturday In The Park / Chicago
Old Fashioned Love Song / Three Dog Night
Sooner Or Later / The Grass Roots
Spirit In The Sky / Norman Greenbaum

Vehicle / The Ides of March
Seasons in the Sun / Terry Jacks
Love Will Keep Us Together / Captain & Tennille
The Air That I Breathe / Hollies
Your Love Has Lifted Me / Rita Coolidge
You're Still The One / Orleans
Let My Love Open the Door / Pete Townshend
Age of Aquarius / Fifth Dimension

Without You / Harry Nilsson

MICHIGAN SONGS

I was born in 1964, right in the middle of Beatlemania. But my parents weren’t particularly Beatles fans. My mom had a stack of 45s of the music of her teen years in the 50s, including Elvis and the like. My dad, a Purdue marching bandsman, leaned toward that genre, along with some classical. My exposure to the current music of the day came on the radio, and really only when we were on vacation in northern Michigan. The radio was on almost all the time, and AM station we had on to was WIDG, (“Widge by the Bridge” for its proximity to the Mackinac Bridge).  They played pretty much top 40 music, so the popular songs from about 1970-74 have really stuck with me. They have stuck so much that when songs of that era pop up, my sister and I refer to them as “Michigan songs,” and I have a real fondness for them still today.

WES ANDERSON

I became a fan of Wes Anderson films after the first time I saw “Rushmore” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.” A big part of his unique filmmaking style is the way he uses music. There are familiar artists like the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and David Bowie, but the tracks he uses from those artists are rarely the ones most well-known. He culls from late 60s and early 70s, along with a few more contemporary artists and a few others more obscure. In the film, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” Anderson incorporates the songs of David Bowie, but mostly sung acoustically in Portuguese by Seu Jorge. The Wes Anderson playlist is a lot like his movies, it’s an acquired taste.

 

THE BLUES

My early music influences came from what I heard on the radio, which was generally top 40. My mother had some 45s from the 50s and early 60s, while my dad liked classical and marching band music. None of that held much interest for a teenager. It wasn’t until college when I heard classic blues music that I took a real interest. I began listening to BB King, Junior Wells, Robert Cray and Muddy Waters. That led me deeper into different blues artists and different blues styles. Once I had built my knowledge base in the blues, I worked my way back to bands like Eric Clapton, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes, and The Allman Brothers, who put their own spin on the blues. I continue to be a student of the blues, even 30 years later. The artists listed here are only a fraction of the great blues music, which includes several sub-genres, including Texas Blues, popularized in rock by Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top; and West Coast Blues, carried on by artists such as Robert Cray. There is also Jump Blues, Piedmont Blues, Country Blues, and my favorite - Chicago Blues. Most of the artists here have connections to Chicago Blues, and ones whose works I listen to regularly.

ROBERT JOHNSON

Johnson is the original. The father of them all. Nearly all of rock music, from Buddy Holly, to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and everyone after, can trace a line back to Robert Johnson. A master of the guitar and the Delta Blues of Mississippi, Johnson was said to have  become a great bluesman because he sold his soul to the devil at a mythical crossroad somewhere between Memphis and Clarksdale, Miss. Johnson died at the age of 27, with only four years’ worth of recording, which only added to his legend. But the songs he recorded, such as “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Cross Road Blues,” “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom,” “Traveling Riverside Blues,” and “Love in Vain” would go on to influence the first rock and roll acts and continue to inspire artists today. Johnson only recorded 11 records in his lifetime. A 1961 re-release of his work brought him back into view, and the 1991 “Complete Recordings” gave him wide recognition.

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ARTHUR 'BIG BOY' CRUDUP
One of the earliest blues influences after Robert Johnson, Crudup was from Clarksdale, Mississippi, and recorded song “That’s All Right,” which was the first record that Elvis Presley had made into a record. Crudup also wrote and recorded songs such as “Mean Old Frisco Blues,” “Who’s Been Foolin’ You,” and “So Glad You’re Mine,” which have been covered by artists like Elton John, Rod Stewart and many others. He has sometimes been called the “Father of Rock and Roll.”


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MUDDY WATERS
In the first half of the 20th century, there was a great migration of the black population from the rural South to the northern urban cities of the United States to escape the restrictive “Jim Crow” laws that were in place. During the 30s through the 50s, many of the great Delta bluesmen made their way to Chicago. Muddy Waters was one of the first to arrive, and within a few years started recorded for brothers Leonard and Phil Chess. At the same time, Waters discarded the old acoustic guitar for the new electric version so he could be heard over the large, loud club crowds. He had created the Chicago blues sound, and would go on to have some of the biggest blues hits like “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Mannish Boy,” and “I’m Ready.”


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OTIS SPANN
Spann came to Chicago from Mississippi at the age of 16 and quickly became the best blues pianist in the city. He played with just about every major blues musician of the day, and was part of Muddy Waters’ “Supergroup.” He would go on to also work with modern blues artists such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green and the early Fleetwood Mac. He died in 1970 at the age of 40.

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ELMORE JAMES

Known as the “King of the Slide Guitar,” James was influenced early on by fellow Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson. There is some dispute whether Johnson or James wrote the song “Dust My Broom,” which became James’ best-known song. James also wrote several other blues standards such as “The Sky is Crying,” “Done Somebody Wrong,” and “Shake Your Moneymaker,” all of which have been covered by numerous modern individuals and groups. His unique sound did not come from the new electric sound, but from a modified acoustic. It was of specific influence of some of the biggest hits of The Allman Brothers.

LITTLE WALTER

Like Otis Spann, Little Walter Jacobs was a major part of the Chicago Blues sound, and was known as the finest harmonica (harp) player of his era. He left home at the age of 12, and by 15 was in Chicago. Having to compete now with electric guitars, Little Walter began cupping a microphone in his hands as he played to get the harp sound out. He pushed amplifiers to their limits and the distorted harmonica sound added a new element to the electric blues. After getting his start in Chicago on the famous Maxwell Street, Little Walter eventually began working with artists at Chess Records. His first song as a frontman was “Juke,” which became the first harmonica instrumental to reach No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart, spending eight weeks there and becoming Little Walter’s signature track.

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OTIS RUSH

BUDDY GUY

LUTHER ALLISON

MAGIC SAM

This quartet of hard-playing guitarists all arrived in Chicago in the 1950s and dominated the blues scene in the city, especially in the west-side blues clubs, eventually creating a specific blues sub-genre, West Side Chicago Blues. They began to blur the line between traditional blues and rock. Magic Sam was an early star with the 1967 album “West Side Soul,” but his career ended with his death at 32 in 1969. Rush and Allison had prolific and influential careers, but it was Buddy Guy who stood out, as he continues to perform today into his 80s, and often takes the stage at his club “Buddy Guy’s Legends” in Chicago. Starting as a studio guitarist at Chess Records behind the likes of Muddy Waters, Guy outdueled Magic Sam and Otis Rush for a recording contract. But Guy’s style was deemed too wild for the conservative Chess, and Guy went out on his own. He re-emerged in the 80s and 90s with an evolved style that again pushed the envelope of the blues sound, culminating with 1991’s “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues,” which won a Grammy in 1992. He added Grammys in 1994 and 1996. More Grammys followed in 2001, 2004 and 2011. HIs 2015 album “Born to Play Guitar” earned the 80-year-old the 2016 Grammy for best blues album, his seventh Grammy award. On a personal note, I have seen Buddy Guy perform live several times, and he can still bring the energy as the elder statesmen of the blues.

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B.B. KING
The “King of the Blues,” B.B. King was born Riley King, but as a performer in Memphis became known as “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which became just “Blues Boy,” and eventually just “B.B.” Born in Mississippi in 1925, B.B. King performed well into his 80s, spanning the early Delta blues, through Memphis and Chicago, to mainstream modern performer. He became nationally-known with his first hit “3 O’Clock Blues” in 1952, then spent the next half century touring. He played 342 concerts in 1956, and was still playing 200 nights a year into his 70s. His 1970 hit, “The Thrill is Gone,” was one of the first blues songs to chart on both the R&B and pop ratings. King’s unique solo style on his signature guitar, named “Lucille” inspired the great rock guitar players who followed as they built on their own solo styles, particularly Eric Clapton. Clapton and King worked together often, and King crossed over and reached a new audience when he collaborated with the superband U2 on 1988’s “When Love Comes to Town” on U2’s album “Rattle and Hum.”  B.B. King is also one of just two of these blues legends I have seen perform in person (along with Buddy Guy). I saw him at three concerts before his death in 2015

JOHN LEE HOOKER

Like so many of his contemporaries, Hooker grew up a son of sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta, where he learned to play guitar. Unlike others at this time, Hooker did not immediately head to Chicago, but honed his sound on Beale Street in Memphis, then went to Detroit looking for work. He had an early hit with “Boogie Chillen’” in 1948. Though he could not read or write, Hooker compiled a number of original songs and adapted old blues standards into his more modern sound and his own unique style. Hooker returned to the public eye with an appearance in the movie “The Blues Brothers” in 1980. At the age of 78, Hooker released the album “The Healer” that included collaborations with Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt, among others. That same year, he performed a number of times with Van Morrison, and later with the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.


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BIG BILL BROONZY
Along with Robert Johnson, Broonzy was one of the original founding fathers of blues music. Born around the turn of the century, Broonzy learned to play on a homemade guitar. He was a sharecropper and preacher in Arkansas when he was drafted in the Army in World War I. When he returned from service, he decided to move to Chicago to look for work. He bounced around at day jobs and played music at events at night. He made a few recordings, but they did not sell well. Broonzy continued to refine his sound, taking traditional folk songs and spirituals into a more urban blues sound. Along the way, he built a catalog of more than 300 songs, many of which have become standards and covered by blues artists that followed, such as Muddy Waters. He was also an influence on later rock acts like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton, who recorded Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway” along with the group Derek and the Dominos on their album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.”


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WILLIE DIXON
Another of the greats to migrate from Mississippi to Chicago, Dixon went on to become the most prolific blues songwriter of the era. A championship boxer in his early years in Chicago, Dixon went back to music as a bass player with various jazz groups. He eventually landed at Chess records where he served as a studio musician, songwriter and talent scout. Along the way, Dixon worked with  nearly every major blues artist in Chicago, and was one of the most important figures in the development of the Chicago Blues sound. He was a major figure in bringing the blues sound into rock music, working initially with crossover artists Chuck Berry and Bo Diddly, and later having his songs covered by rock’s biggest names, including the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, among others.

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JUNIOR WELLS
Another of the great Chicago blues musicians, Wells arrived from Memphis as a 14-year-old in 1948 as a skilled harmonica player, taught by his cousin Junior Parker and Sonny Boy Williamson II.  Wells was also influenced by harp legend Little Walter, and eventually replaced Little Walter in Muddy Waters’ band. His best-known single is “Messin’ with the Kid,” released in 1960. Wells collaborated with Buddy Guy on the classic album “Hoodoo Man Blues,” and the two also worked with the Rolling Stones in the 70s. He remained active with his music until his death in 1998.