CHARLIE SAYLES

CHARLIE SAYLESTalent does not always get you recognition, as Charlie Sayles can tell you. A hugely talented harp player with a superb technique and a great voice, he incorporates the style of Chicago‘s early legends into his wide repertoire of Blues, Rock and Funk influenced material. Charlie has recorded only four albums in forty years of playing and spent most of his career blowing his harp on street corners.

Charlie Sayles was born in 1948 in Woburn MA, and a hard life got started. He grew up in a series of foster-homes and, like many of his generation, wound up in the Army posted to Vietnam. He began playing harp while he was a ‘grunt’ and when he got home, he played on street corners for tips. That has sustained him down the years, never seeming to have had a job, and speaks volumes for his abilities as an entertainer. Like the old-time ‘wandering songsters’, he journeyed to New York, St. Louis and Atlanta on his travels, developing a broad chording tone, with a bag-full of elegant, agile phrases and percussive tricks which served to hold his audience while playing alone. Charlie’s voice has a soulful quality and he has written a lot of his own material over the years. He recorded an excellent album, ‘Raw Harmonica Blues’ for the Dusty Roads label in 1976, and was picked up by The Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, where he made several appearances with Pete Seeger. By the early 80s, Charlie was settled in Washington DC, where he formed a band, and he continued to make a living from gigging and busking, but his reputation remained extremely local.

Charlie plays at a Public Library in 2003. Scintillating stuff!

Regular playing gave Charlie a warm, confident performing style, as he engages in witty banter with his audience between songs, and an unreleased recording of Charlie performing with his band in 1982 is well worth finding on You-Tube. Charlie’s recording career got going again in 1993 with the release of ‘Night Ain’t Right’ on the British JSP label, which contained many of Charlie’s own compositions. The follow-up, ‘I Got Something to Say’ had Washington club legend Bobby Parker guesting on guitar, but again sales were not huge outside his East-coast stomping grounds, and ‘Hip Guy’, released in 2000, didn’t fare any better.

Charlie performing on a Washington street corner;

Charlie has teamed up with guitarist Tony Fazio in a band called the Blues Disciples, and also recorded with Tony’s band Electrofied, and has recently been the subject of a documentary film. He continues to play at small clubs and Festivals, and also on street corners, and when you hear the quality of this man’s playing and his authentic Blues voice, you have to wonder why he isn’t better known. However that may change, as Charlie is rumoured to have spent timeĀ in China, so don’t be surprised if there are a billion new Blues fans soon!