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Four Times the Blues: Wild Child Butler, Henry Gray, Harry "Big Daddy"
Hypolite, and Pinetop Perkins
Wild Child Butler, Sho Nuff
Chad Kassem is doing as much as anyone alive today to preserve the blues. His Blue Heaven Studios, in a beautiful old cathedral in Salina, Kansas is a place where blues artists can be recorded in state-of-the-art sound in a relaxed atmosphere. Chad has become justifiably famous for his efforts to record aging blues masters for posterity.
George "Wild Child" Butler, harmonica player par excellence, has toured
with Jimmy Rogers and Lightnin' Hopkins, and has been praised by many of the legends of
the blues. He cut his first record in Montgomery, Alabama in 1964. Now he has cut his
first SACD, at the age of 64. Wild Child was born in 1936 on a plantation in Alabama. His
mildly menacing moniker apparently came from his habit as a baby of sliding across the
floor, tearing womens' stockings, and tugging at their skirts. He is one of the most
underrated blues performers today, according to the good folks at Blue Heaven. Wild Child
has a commanding stage presence, and his lively harmonica playing and singing really hit
me where I live. I know, because I was at Chad Kassem's place to see him perform in
rehearsal and in front of a delirious audience. (For a report on the Blues Masters at the
Crossroads festival, see my article, "Livin with the Blues in Salina,"
elsewhere on this site.)
Now Chad has issued an SACD that captures George Butler at his rollickin' best. With this SACD, you'll get a good dose of what I got in Salina. The sound is clear, live, and real. Wild Child, on vocals and harmonica, is accompanied by Jimmy D. Lane on acoustic and electric guitar, Bob Stroger on bass, Sam Lay on drums, along with the venerable Jimmie Lee Robinson on acoustic guitar on one cut. The unique and compelling Wild Child sound will get your toes tapping and your blood flowing. Many of the cuts are feel-good, up-tempo numbers that roll right along. Others are slower, but punctuated with Wild Child's patented "snappy" blues style. My favorite blues musician of all time, Sonny Boy Williamson, was a big influence on Wild Child, and I can hear it clear as day in some of his slower numbers. Here's hoping Wild Child makes it back to Salina for an encore. Highly recommended.
Have you ever wanted to hear what one of the biggest blues pianists of the Chicago of the 1950s sounds like solo? Well now you can, up close and personal, thanks to Chad Kassem and Blue Heaven Studios. Henry Gray recorded with Bo Diddley, Little Walter, and many others, and he played with Howlin Wolf from 1956 to 1968. Hes still in high demand internationally as a performer.
Henry was one of the featured artists at
As loyal readers know, Stan Ricker was on hand in Salina to make direct-to-disc recordings of the performances. This 45-rpm LP was recorded in the afternoon, before the concert. Its sound is live, direct, stripped down, and a bit raw. The direct-to-disc recording had some flaws, due to problems with the amplifiers in the recording chain (through no fault whatsoever of Stans), so this LP was created from the backup half-inch 30 ips analogue tape. Those of you who are familiar with 45 rpm LPs know what advantages they have over 33 1/3 rpm LPs. When the cutting stylus has more space on the lacquer over which to inscribe a given amount of music, and your stylus similarly has more space over which to retrieve it, good things happen.
The six cuts on the LP provide a good overview of Henrys dazzling technique
and crowd-pleasing style. I just wonder how much attention
Talk about the guy who put the "boogie" in "boogie woogie!" Pinetop Perkins wasnt born to the piano. He actually started out as a guitarist. Later, in the forties, he went to work rebuilding pianos, which led to playing them. He ultimately spent eleven years playing with Muddy Waters, as well as Sonny Boy Williamson #2, B.B. King, and "all the greats."
At age 87, Pinetop proved that he still could bring down the house at Chad Kassems third annual Blues Masters at the Crossroads festival. What a piano player! He was the oldest musician at the festival, but certainly not the least lively. Resplendent in a shiny reddish-purple striped suit, a red hat, and a piano-keyboard tie, he was classy and understated, with a kindly stage presence. Letting the crowd know that "Well, I am the blues, I tell ya," Pinetop just rolled out the blues, very calmly and unassumingly, even during the big burners, and received three standing ovations from a very happy crowd.
I was in the front row for the concert, locking eyes with Pinetop more than once, and can attest that he has audience rapport. This recording, done in the same space but without the audience, is an eerie recreation of that event. Chad has hit the nail on the head. The image of the piano is clear as a bell, and Pinetops rollicking, rolling boogie-woogie style isnt exactly hidden in the mix. His voice is right there in my listening room, with all of its inflections and commanding tone, and it sounds like hes singing for you. The electric guitar is also uncannily reproduced. I can close my eyes and be instantly transported back to that cathedral in Salina. It is quite spooky. The man really heats up the ivories on some of these cuts, especially "Down in Mississippi," where he sounds like a heretofore-unrecognized force of nature.
I was privileged to have been able to spend some time in Salina talking to Pinetop, and wish him many more years of making great music. He deserves it.
Just buy this record. Its not to be missed.
Harry "Big Daddy" Hypolite, Louisiana Country Boy
Harry "Big Daddy" Hypolite has long deserved to make a recording in
which he is the featured artist, and now he has, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of
Chad Kassem. Harry is a consummate musician, a phenomenal guitar player, an enthusiastic
singer, a real crowd pleaser, and an extraordinary human being. I know, because I saw him
Harry dropped out of school in the fourth grade, after which he chopped sugar
cane, dug sweet potatoes, and picked cotton in
With this SACD, youll get a tremendous dose of what I got when Harry was
playing mere feet in front of me, minus the crowd noise. The sound is clear, immediate,
live, and real. He is all but in your room in the flesh. This is a pure analog recording
made in 2000 at Blue Heaven studios, translated via Sonys DSD (Direct Stream
Digital) process to SACD. Harry, on acoustic and electric guitar, is ably accompanied by
Jimmy D. Lane on electric guitar and dobro, Big John Amaro on Hammond B-3, Loui Villeri on
bass, and Bruce Cahoon on drums. The B-3 in
If you have an SACD player, buy this recording. If you dont have an SACD player, run out and buy the Sony DVP-NS500V for about $200 on sale, and then buy this recording. What are you waiting for? Highly recommended.