Various Artists – American Folk Blues Festival ’65 (1966)

FrontCover1.jpgThe American Folk Blues Festival was a music festival that toured Europe as an annual event for several years beginning in 1962. It introduced audiences in Europe, including the UK, to leading blues performers of the day such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson, most of whom had never previously performed outside the US. The tours attracted substantial media coverage, including TV shows, and contributed to the growth of the audience for blues music in Europe.

German jazz publicist Joachim-Ernst Berendt first had the idea of bringing original African-American blues performers to Europe. Jazz and rock and roll had become very popular, and both genres drew influences directly back to the blues. Berendt thought that European audiences would flock to concert halls to see them in person.

Promoters Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau brought this idea to reality. By contacting Willie Dixon, an influential blues composer and bassist from Chicago, they were given access to the blues culture of the southern United States. The first festival was held in 1962, and they continued almost annually until 1972, after an eight-year hiatus reviving the festival in 1980 until its final performance in 1985.
Performances and audiences

The concerts featured some of the leading blues artists of the 1960s, such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson, some playing in unique combinations such as T-Bone Walker playing guitar for pianist Memphis Slim, Otis Rush with Junior Wells, Sonny Boy Williamson with Muddy Waters. The Festival DVDs include the only known footage of Little Walter, and rare recordings of John Lee Hooker playing harmonica.


The audience at Manchester in 1962, the first venue for the festival in Britain, included Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Jimmy Page. Subsequent attendees at the first London festivals are believed to have also included such influential musicians as Eric Burdon, Eric Clapton, and Steve Winwood.[citation needed] Collectively these were the primary movers in the blues explosion that would lead to the British Invasion.

Sonny Boy Williamson’s visit to London with the 1963 festival led to him spending a year in Europe including recording the Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds album,[1] (first released on Star-Club Records in 1965), and recording with The Animals.

On 7 May 1964, Granada Television broadcast Blues and Gospel Train, a programme directed by John Hamp featuring Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Rev. Gary Davis, Cousin Joe and Otis Spann. For filming, the company transformed the disused Wilbraham Road railway station into “Chorltonville”, giving it the supposed appearance of a southern U.S.-style station. About 200 fans were brought by train to the platform opposite the performers. The performance was interrupted by a rainstorm, after which Tharpe performed the gospel song “Didn’t It Rain”.


Blues musicians who performed on the American Folk Blues Festival tours included Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Hooker, Sippie Wallace, T-Bone Walker, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Memphis Slim, Otis Rush, Lonnie Johnson, Eddie Boyd, Big Walter Horton, Junior Wells, Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Willie Dixon, Otis Spann, Big Mama Thornton, Bukka White, Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf (with a band made up of Sunnyland Slim, Hubert Sumlin, Willie Dixon and drummer Clifton James), Champion Jack Dupree, Son House, Skip James, Sleepy John Estes, Little Brother Montgomery, Victoria Spivey, J. B. Lenoir, Little Walter, Carey Bell, Louisiana Red, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Joe Turner, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Lee Jackson, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Roosevelt Sykes, Doctor Ross, Koko Taylor, Hound Dog Taylor, Archie Edwards,Helen Humes and Sugar Pie DeSanto.

Many of the concerts were released on a long-running annual series of records, which was collated again for release in the 1990s. (by wikipedia)

And here´s a very special album from this great festival tradition.

Despite the fact that the most of the American Blues Festivals are recorded live, the 1965 edition was done in the studio. This allows combinations which hardly could be achieved in a concert-hall and this album makes frank use of it.

For example, you will hear Buddy Guy not only on guitar, but also on bass behind John Lee Hooker and other artists, or, Eddie Boyd who switched over to organ.

Okay … listen to another milestone of the American Folk Blues Festival … and you will some masters of the Blues !


Fred Below (drums)
Eddie Boyd (vocals, keyboards)
Fred McDowell (vocals guitar)
Buddy Guy (guitar, vocals, bass)
John Lee Hooker (vocals, guitar)
Big Walter “Shakey” Horton (harmonica, vocals)
Lonesome Jimmy Lee (bass, guitar, vocals)
Doctor Ross (vocals, guitar, drums)
Roosevelt Sykes (piano, vocals)
Big Mama Thornton (vocals)

AlernateFrontCoverAlternate frontcover

01. Fred McDowell: Highway 61 (McDowell) 3.07
02. J.B. Lenoir: Slow Down (Lenoir) 1.52
03. Big Walter “Shakey” Horton: Christine (Horton) 4.04
04. Roosevelt Sykes: Come On Back Home (Sykes) 2.35
05. Eddie Boyd: Five Long Years (Boyd) 3.18
06. Eddie Boyd: The Big Question (Boyd) 2.52
07. Lonesome Jimmy Lee: Rosalie (Robinson) 2.15
08. John Lee Hooker: King Of The World (Hooker) 3.43
09. John Lee Hooker: Della Mae (Hooker) 4.08
10. Buddy Guy: First Time I Met The Blues (Guy) 4.33
11. Big Mama Thornton: Hound Dog (Leiber/Stoller) 3.21
12. Doctor Ross: My Black Name Is Ringing (Ross) 4.32




Big Mama Thornton – Stronger Than Dirt (1969)

FrontCover1This is one of my favorite albums ever. I bought it at the time because of my love for Janis Joplin & wanted to hear the woman that had had such an affect on her. The album was made on the heels of Cheap Thrills as a comeback but never achieved the success she hoped for. It includes a remake of Hound Dog Man & Ball & Chain, as well as a version of Summertime that Joplin had covered earlier. All of them are strong sets comparable to her earlier versions. The rest is material that is chosen wisely.

Her version of That Lucky Old Sun, to me, is one of the great songs of transcendent honesty. She lets you feel the truth of life & it’s burden. It was the first time, at the age of 18, that I “got” the blues. I understood & more than likely it was the first time I realized it was never going to be easy on this earth, but that it was endurable. The title of the album itself says this very thing.

Her version of I Shall Be released, has much the same feel, & is to my mind, the most interesting arrangement of the song. It’s always been the one Dylan song I found great & has been covered well by many. To me this is the best. It is the one & only time that this song swings & when she belts out “You know, Big Mama, I was framed” you know she knows exactly what he’s talking about. She expounds the universal.


The album starts off with Born Under A Bad Sign, another song that she was born to sing. It’s material she has lived. All the songs on this album are good, not a filler in the lot & all are handled by her with ease. It’s clear it’s all material she enjoyed giving her Big Mama interpretation to, from Funky Broadway to Let’s Go Get Stoned to Rollin’ Stone to Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do. This is her strongest outing in the studio.

There seems to be almost a contradiction in the fact that here was this big voice that came out effortlessly. Something that, no matter how good she was, Joplin did not have. It took a lot of effort & burned her out. Big Mama despite living the blues was never buried in them. She knew how to let the good times roll, specifically, because she knew how hard it could be. On this album, after years of obscurity she’s enjoying the attention that’s finally come back to her, rolling up her sleeves & saying: “This is what they’re talking about, here’s the treasure. This is what you’ve been missing.” (by Robido)

Alternate frontcover:


Big Mama Thornton (vocals)
a bunch of unknown studio musicians

01 Born Under A Bad Sign (Jones/Bell) 3.45
02. Hound Dog (Leiber/Stoller) 2.25
03. Ball And Chain (Thornton) 4.40
04. Summertime (Gershwin) 4.13
05. Rollin’ Stone (Morganfield) 3.56
06. Let’s Go Get Stoned (Armstead/Ashford/Simpson) 4.30
07. Funky Broadway (Christian) 4.16
08. That Lucky Old Sun (Smith/Gillespie) 3.35
09. Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do (Malone/Scott) 3.39
10. I Shall Be Released (Dylan) 4.38