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Charlie Musselwhite, A Blues Man Well Worth Hearing

Gregory Hanson
Flickr - Creative Commons
Charlie Musselwhite at the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival, July 5, 2014.

Charlie Musselwhite stands out as one of the leaders of the 1960's "white Blues" craze that included The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Siegel-Schwall Blues Band. Musselwhite's harmonica, guitar and vocals are still having a major influence on both white and African-American Blues artists.

Charles Douglas Musselwhite was born in Mississippi in 1944 and used to say he was Choctaw, though some years ago he reported that his mother told him he was Cherokee. Musselwhite's family believed it was natural for everyone to play music. Among those in the family who did were his guitar and harmonica playing father, pianist mother and a relative who was a one man band.


People sometimes call Musselwhite "Memphis Charlie" because he was moved to Memphis when he was three and it was there he was exposed to the transition when "The Blues had a baby and they called it Rock and Roll."

His musical education moved more heavily towards the Blues when he moved to Chicago's South Side not long after High School. There he learned from and played with people like Little Walter, Carey Bell, Sonny Boy Williamson and John Hammond. He recorded his own first album, Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite's Southside Band in 1967 and nearly 30 albums have followed.


Despite Musselwhite's frequent work with electric bands, Big Joe Williams said of him, "Charlie Musselwhite is one of the greatest living harp players of Country Blues. He is right up there with Sonny Boy Williamson." Whether Country Blues or, as I would say, South Side style, I have to agree that Charlie is one of the better and more authentic players around, not just on Blues harp, but also in his singing and guitar work.

Charlie has served as judge of the prestigious Independent Music Awards, has won a Grammy and a Blues Music Award and is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame since 2010.

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