Several times a year the Blues World suffers the loss of yet another of our cherished Blues Heroes. We are reminded of these late and great Blues champions every time we hear their treasured songs being played. Blues Heaven may be filling up way too quickly, but their presence still shines endlessly down upon us. "Heaven done called another blues-stringer back home . . ."
Robert Johnson - Master of the Blues
Recognized as a master of the blues, particularly the Delta blues style, Robert Johnson's historical 1936 and 1937 recordings are a combination of his unique guitar skills, singing, and songwriting that continues to influence blues musicians today.
Robert Leroy Johnson played mostly on street corners, in juke joints, and Saturday night dances. As a traveling performer, he enjoyed little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime. In fact, Johnson is known to have only participated in two recording sessions, one in 1936 in San Antonio, and the other in 1937 in Dallas. These two sessions produced by famed Country Hall of Fame producer, Don Law, included twenty-nine songs with thirteen alternate takes. Recorded in low fidelity in improvised studios, these songs are his complete recorded output. Most were released as 10-inch, 78 rpm singles from 1937-1938, with a few released after Johnson's death on August 16, 1938.
Other than these recordings, very little was known of his life outside the musical circuit . . .
Inside Blues Heaven
The Early Blindmen of the Blues
Historically, blind musicians have performed without formal instruction that relies extensively on written musical notation. However, today there are many resources available for blind musicians who wish to learn Western music theory and classical notation. Louis Braille, the man who created the braille alphabet for the blind, also created a system of classical notation for the blind called Braille music. This system allows the blind to read and write music.
Blind musicians have made a significant contribution to American popular music, which is particularly true in blues, gospel, jazz, and other predominantly African American music. The achievements of blind African-Americans in music are extensive. The first recorded gospel sanctified barrelhouse piano player, Arizona Dranes, was blind, as were Al Hibbler, and Ray Charles, one of the most important figures in the creation of soul music. [Read more about the Early Blindmen of the Blues]
Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893 -1929)
Blind Willie McTell (1898 - 1959)
The world is incontestably a richer place because of Willie Dixon's musical contributions alone. Believing that his work was not yet finished, Dixon devoted much of his time in the 60s, 70s, and 80s to the organization he founded, Blues Heaven Foundation. His vision was to allow the echoes of great American blues to continue to develop, to encourage a new generation of blues greats, and to provide for the ongoing welfare of Senior Blues musicians.
2120 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Il - (312) 808-1286
William James Dixon (July 1, 1915 – January 29, 1992) was an American blues musician, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, record producer, and the most famous bass player the blues has ever known. Playing the upright and guitar, he sang with a deep distinctive voice and is best known as one of the most prolific songwriters of his time, having written and co-written over 500 songs. Next to Muddy Waters, Dixon is considered the most influential person in shaping the post–World War II sound of Chicago blues.
A brief list of his most famous compositions includes "Hoochie Coochie Man", "I Just Want to Make Love to You", "Little Red Rooster", "My Babe", "Spoonful", and "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover". These songs were written during the peak years of Chess Records, from 1950 to 1965, and were originally performed by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and Bo Diddley, influencing a generation of musicians worldwide.
Willie Dixon and his stand-up bass.
Willie Dixon with Muddy Waters.
Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters & Buddy Guy.
Willie Dixon playing his stand-up bass.
The Early Matriarchs of the Blues
Ma Rainey (April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939) was a minstrel and vaudeville performer, and early blues recording artist crowned the "Mother of the Blues," for her authentic expression of classic southern blues.
Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937) was an American blues singer widely known as the "Empress of the Blues," and was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s.
Billie Holiday (April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959), nicknamed "Lady Day," was an American jazz and swing music vocalist in the 1930s and 40s, who became a tremendous influence on jazz music and pop singing.
Memphis Minnie (June 3, 1897 – August 6, 1973) was a 1930s, 40s and 50s blues guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter whose recording career lasted for over three decades recording around 200 songs.
Late and Great Blues Harmonica Players
Little Walter (1930 - 1968)
Sonny Boy Williamson (1914 - 1948)
Junior Wells (1934 - 1998)
Big Walter Horton (1921 - 1981)
James Cotton (1935 - 2017)
Paul Butterfield (1942 - 1987)
Sonny Terry (1911 - 1986)
Carey Bell (1936 - 2007)