Great Bluesmen at Newport
It’s December 16th. So I’m recommending what is probably the most important album in my life. This is the one that started it all for me. I was sixteen years old. I had “The Country Blues” by Samuel Charters under my arm as I boarded the city bus to go to the U District in Seattle. There was a Tower Records there, and that’s where I was headed. Because I’d fallen in love with the names and stories in this book, but I didn’t know their music. I knew Muddy Waters. I knew Howlin’ Wolf. I knew Albert King, B.B. King, Albert Collins. I didn’t know Son House, or Lightnin’ Hopkins, or Bukka White, or Mance Lipscomb, or Mississippi John Hurt. I had to know what they sounded like.
I had been playing guitar for a couple years at that point. I wanted to be Joe Strummer. But a strange spell was taking me over. This blues spell. Something was growing inside of me. And it was leading me to Tower Records with “The Country Blues” under my arm. I was determined to find an LP by one of the names in the book.
What I found, was this album. Robert Pete Williams. Son House. Fred McDowell. Skip James. Reverend Gary Davis. They were all there.
I got home. I put the record on. Side One. First song. Mississippi John Hurt. Sliding Delta. For the first time in my life, I knew. Right away. That was it. That. That was what I wanted to do with my life.
And that IS what I did with my life.