Otis Spann is renowned as Muddy Waters‘ pianist throughout his Classic period of electric Chicago Blues, and a member of the Chess house-band that backed a roster of their big selling artists. He did rather more than that, as he showed off his great Blues voice on a series of fine albums in a solo…

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In the early 50s, Willie Mabon was at the forefront of the Chicago blues scene, with massive hit records on the Chess label. After a quiet spell, his career was revitalised in the 70s, when he discovered a new audience across the pond. Although he is not well remembered today, there was a time when…

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Maceo Merriweather was in important interpreter of urban piano Blues technique, who helped to transform the rough barrel-house styles of the Southern juke-joints and ‘sporting houses’ into the more sophisticated improvisations heard on the Chicago club scene. Performing solo or in a small band setting, Maceo incorporated the understated good taste of Leroy Carr with…

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Pete Johnson was a drummer before he took up piano in the clubs and bars of Kansas City in the mid-20s. He teamed up with Big Joe Turner and they spent over ten years honing their act in upscale nightspots like The Sunset Cafe. After seeing Pete play in Kansas, producer John Hammond brought him…

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Pianist Lovie Lee is best known as a member of Muddy Waters‘ band in its final incarnation, and he won that position as a result of many years relentless gigging around the Chicago club scene. Lovie’s big grin, affable stage presence and huge repertoire made him a popular man in his neighbourhood, while he remained…

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Jimmy Yancey was a veteran Blues and boogie pianist who was very influential on the younger Chicago players who started the boogie-woogie craze of the late thirties. Jimmy did not make a record until he was over 40 years old, but his elegant playing on the club and rent-party circuit in Chicago was legendary. Although…

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Cecil Gant had a massive hit in 1944 with ‘I Wonder’, which went to No.1 in the Billboard R&B charts and made No.20 in the Hot 100. A hard rocking boogie-woogie pianist with a voice that worked well with a Blues ballad, Cecil had his big hit while he was in the Army and his…

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New Orleans is famous for funky music, and Professor Longhair played a big part in bringing that funky feel to the clubs where he banged out his Afro-Cuban rhythms after WWII. Fats Domino, Huey ‘Piano’ Smith, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint all cite the Professor as a major influence on the characteristic ‘rhumba-boogie’ piano music…

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New Orleans pianist Huey specialised in the rocking R&B flavoured boogie-woogie that was so popular in his home-town in the early 50s. He played local clubs in the company of his friend Eddie Jones (Guitar Slim) for about four years, and after session work with Little Richard and Lloyd Price he formed The Clowns in…

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The Rev. Thomas A Dorsey was the founder of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs, composer of ‘Precious Lord’, mentor of Mahalia Jackson and a wonderful singer and pianist in his own right, but as ‘Georgia Tom’, he had a great early career in the Blues. He was a talent-scout, accompanist, arranger and songwriter in…

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