The ‘Mississippi Saxophone’ was the name given to the Blues harp when players in post-WWII Chicago, following the lead of Little Walter, started blowing their big, horn-like solos through a microphone. That broad juke-joint sound is alive today, and can be heard in the playing of younger men like Billy Branch, who learned first-hand from the Masters, and who often adds his strong vocal talents to the band he has been leading for nearly 40 years.
Billy plays Little Walter’s ‘Juke’ for a Festival audience;
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In 1990, Billy was invited by Alligator Records to join veterans Junior Wells, James Cotton and Carey Bell on their ‘Harp Attack’ album, where Billy’s showcase tune was his own ‘New Kid on the Block’, which was highly appropriate in such company, even though he was 38 at the time! Billy’s talent for compressing the theme of a tune into a coherent and expressive harp line made him the ‘go-to session man’ in the recording studios of Chicago, and he worked with ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, Koko Taylor, Taj Mahal, Johnny Winter and many more. He got deeply involved in the Blues for Schools project of the Blues Foundation and also sits on the Grammy Blues Committee. [stextbox id=”custom” caption=”Billy Branch Discography” float=”true” align=”left” width=”300″]Billy holds his own with some Chicago Legends on an album that is required listening for all fans of Blues Harp.
[/stextbox]Billy found time to record an album every two or three years for a while, including a fine acoustic set with Kenny Neal, and became a firm favourite on the Festival circuit, developing a loyal following in Europe. Billy and The SoBs broke a ten year recording silence in 2014 with their album ‘Blues Shock’ and, like a fine wine, Billy’s playing has matured with a tasteful and satisfying warm glow.