Sam Lay (born March 20, 1935, Birmingham, Alabama) is an American drummer and vocalist who has been performing since the late 1950s. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Lay began his career in 1957, as the drummer for the Original Thunderbirds. He soon after became the drummer for the harmonica player Little Walter.
In the early 1960s, Lay began recording and performing with prominent blues musicians, including Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Eddie Taylor, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells, Bo Diddley, Magic Sam, Jimmy Rogers, Earl Hooker, and Muddy Waters. The recordings Lay made during this time, along with Waters’s album Fathers and Sons, recorded in 1969, are considered to be among the definitive works of Waters and Wolf.
In the mid-1960s, Lay joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and recorded and toured extensively with them. Bob Dylan used Lay as his drummer when he introduced electric rock at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Lay also recorded with Dylan, notably on the album Highway 61 Revisited (Lay drummed on the track “Highway 61”; the drummer on most of the other tracks was Bobby Gregg)
Lay’s drumming can be heard on over 40 recordings for Chess Records, with many notable blues performers. He toured the major blues festivals in the US and Europe with the Chess Records All-Stars.
In the late 1980s Lay was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, in Memphis. He has also been inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame, in Los Angeles, and the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland. He was nominated eight times for the coveted W. C. Handy Award for Best Instrumentalist, including a nomination in 2005.
Lay made two albums with his own band, released by Appaloosa Records and Evidence Records, and two recordings for Alligator Records with the Siegel-Schwall Band. His own album, Sam Lay in Bluesland, released in 1969 by Blue Thumb Records, was produced by Michael Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites.
He was nominated in 2000 for a Grammy Award for his performances on the CD Howlin’ Wolf Tribute. He was honored by the Recording Academy in January 2002 with a Legends and Heroes Award for his significant musical contributions. He was prominently featured in the PBS television documentary History of the Blues, broadcast in seven episodes, produced by the Academy Award–winning director Martin Scorsese. Lay shot many home movies of fellow blues performers in small Chicago venues in the late 1950s and 1960s, parts of which were included in History of the Blues and the WTTW television production Record Row, by the filmmaker Michael MacAlpin.
In 2009, Lay worked alongside Johnnie Marshall. In 2014, a video documentary detailing his life, Sam Lay in Bluesland, was created.
Lay was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, in 2015. (by wikipedia)
Sam Lay deserves to have a red carpet unrolled before him when he walks away from his drum kit; he’s one of the outstanding drummers of the modern blues era. Rush Hour Blues, recorded in Nashville in 1996 under the direction of ace guitarist Fred James, is Lay’s latest effort. He sings here in a forthright manner over the rhythmic background provided by his masterful drums, Celia Ann Price’s organ and piano, James’s second guitar, and a string bass plucked by James’s sidekick Bob Kommersmith. While his singing isn’t as strong and steady as in the past, it retains all of its emotional authenticity. The album’s songs mostly concern women, nothing new there. Remakes of venerable Chicago blues numbers are more interesting than the new compositions. On Muddy Waters’s “Blow Wind Blow,” Lay and company expertly balance relaxation and exhilaration. They also inject new life into two more covers, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Baby How Long” and Big Boy Crudup’s “Second Man.” In sum, Rush Hour Blues is worth hearing. (by Frank-John Hadley)
I had never heard of Sam Lay until driving home late one night and there he was at the far left end of the dial. It was an instrumental number called “midnight Drag”. That song prompted me to take a chance on this album and I was surprised at how good this album is. The style is Chicago blues, with an emphasis on the shuffle. Sam is one of the few singing blues drummers around, and he has been playing since the 50’s. He really works the shuffle well, and is backed by very tight band. The lead guitar work of Larry Burton is outstanding, and the keyboards played by Celia Ann Price are equally good. There is a good variety of tunes, from the classic chicago style opening number to the raucous “Rush Hour Blues”, and ending with the jazzier instrumental “midnight drag”. If you enjoy the blues this is one quality album worth getting. (an amazon customer)
Larry Burton (guitar)
Fred James (guitar)
Bob Kommersmith (bass)
Sam Lay (drums, vocals)
Celia Ann Price (keyboards)
Greg “Fingers” Taylor (harmonica)
01.Baby How Long (Burnette) 3.32
02. Second Man (Cruddup) 5.55
03. I’ll Be The Judge Of That (Bradford/Fleming) 2.58
04. I Like Women (James/Brandon) 3.43
05. Blow Wind Blow (Morgenfield) 3.54
06. I Got Two Woman (Burton) 4.09
07. Somebody Gotta Do It (Smith/Whiting) 3.13
08. Mama And Papa Hopkins (Hopkins/McCormick) 5.50
09. Rush Hour Blues (Bradford/Fleming) 3.26
10. I’m Gonna Shoot Her (Reed) 4.25
11. Pure Grain Alcohol (Curry) 2.45
12. Midnight Drag (Jackson) 3.41