Sat January 5, 2013
Marc On The Blues

Four Stories Around Some Legends Of The Blues

Every week on The Nine O’clock Blues I try to include a couple of very well-known Blues artists, this week it’s the jackpot. Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Elvin Bishop, Etta James and both Winter brothers, Edgar and Johnny.

What can I say about any of those greats that hasn’t been said already? Well, I could tell a couple of stories and hope maybe some of you haven’t heard them.

B.B. King vs. John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker had a career long one-upmanship contest with B. B. King.

B. B. bought a Buick. John Lee bought a Lincoln. B. B. bought a Cadillac. John Lee bought a Cadillac with gold trim. B. B. replaced his tour van with a bus. John Lee got a bigger bus. Big house for B. B.? Bigger house for John Lee.

And so it went throughout Hooker’s life until finally he passed away. When they read John Lee Hooker’s will he asked that he be buried in a simple grave with a simple marker…until B. B. died and then they were to wait until B. B’s. memorial was completed and then see to it that John Lee got a bigger one.

Howlin' Wolf vs. Muddy Waters

Howlin’ Wolf was a major competitor with Muddy Waters. After Willie Dixon wrote “Wang Dang Doodle” he offered it to Wolf who called it a “primitive levee song” and rejected it. Dixon was a master of getting what he wanted and knew that Wolf wouldn’t want Muddy Waters ever to one-up him, so Dixon told Wolf that Waters had asked permission to record it. It was not true, but it did the trick. Howlin’ Wolf rushed to the studio to get the song out before Waters. By the time Wolf found out about the trick, the song had become a hit.

It seems a little competition is good for the Blues.

Winter's "White Man's Blues"

There is a song by Edgar Winter called “White Man’s Blues,” it may not be quite what you think when you first hear the title. It helps a lot to know that both Edgar and his equally famous brother Johnny are albinos.

I have not heard any other discussions of that fact from either Winter and so was fascinated to listen to this expression of Edgar’s views on the subject. One telling part of the song goes:

“Maybe there’s some purpose
As yet I haven’t guessed
Sometimes it’s hard to tell
If I’ve been cursed or I’ve been blessed."

Clapton Is God

You may have seen reprints of a photo that was issued as a poster in the late 1960s. It shows a well-publicized graffiti that deified Eric Clapton with the famous slogan "Clapton is God." It had been sprayed by an admirer on a wall in an Islington Underground station in the autumn of 1967.

The phrase "Clapton is God" embarrassed Clapton and he said in 1987, "I never accepted that I was the greatest guitar player in the world. I always wanted to be the greatest guitar player in the world, but that's an ideal, and I accept it as an ideal." I would say that it is now up to the rest of us to decide if he has reached that ideal.

I should add that Clapton himself has said that Buddy Guy is the world’s greatest guitarist.

Join Eric and all the other greats this week on The Nine O’clock Blues.

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