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Luther Allison Expanded The Blues' World Overseas

Carl Lender
Wikimedia - Creative Commons
Luther Allison performing at the 1996 Riverwalk Blues Festival.

"Luther Allison delivers the real thing. Soulful shouter and scorching soloist, he performs the deep, hard blues as if his life were hanging in the balance." -- Guitar Player Magazine

Chicago Blues guitarist Luther Allison was a powerful performer who played lengthy soulful guitar solos and strolled thru the audience while he played, not unlike Albert Collins. Despite growing up in Chicago, he combined Chicago blues with some Rock, Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Jazz, but always with slight tinges of his early childhood in the Deep South.

Luther Allison was born in Widener, Arkansas, in a talented musical family. He got his start playing organ and singing gospel in church but his father listened to the Grand Ole Opry and the King Biscuit Show on the radio at night. That sparked Luther’s love of Blues and country music.

His knowledge of the Blues exploded when his family moved to Chicago in 1951 when he was 12. They first lived on the West Side near Freddie King, Magic Sam, and Otis Rush and later moved to the South Side and lived near Muddy Waters. Allison went to school with one of Muddy Waters’ sons and sometimes heard Muddy rehearsing at home.

It was at age 18 that he taught himself guitar. Soon after, in the late 1950s, he founded The Four Jivers who gigged around Chicago’s West Side. At that time he often jammed with people like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, James Cotton, Elmore James and Freddy King. "That," said Allison, "was my school."

In the 1970s interest in the Blues was fading in the U.S., so he moved to France. Through the 1980s and early 1990s Luther Allison spent 8 months a year playing major events in Europe like the Montreux International Jazz Festival. Hhe was coaxed back to tour the U.S. and Canada in the mid 1990s.

Luther Allison has won a number of W. C. Handy Awards including four in 1994, plus Living Blues Awards and others. In 1998 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He passed away from lung cancer in 1997.

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