Luther Allison

I have notes for a post about the great musicians I had the privilege to hear/see when they were alive – one of the benefits of getting old. I decided this guy deserves his own.

Luther Allison was born in Widener, Arkansas on August 17, 1939 and died in Madison, WI on August 12, 1997 – 25 years ago today. He moved to Chicago in 1951 and studied at the feet of the masters. When the “blues revival” hit white college kids in the 1960s, Luther was one of the younger players who introduced us to the older generation.

Madison, WI is only three hours from Chicago and Luther made the trip frequently. Madison became a second home. He used a long guitar cord so he could wander into the audience (and he did his share of flirting during those forays). When he released his debut album “Love Me Mama” for Delmark Records in 1969, we knew he was a force to be reckoned with.

Luther signed to Motown Records and put out three albums on that label in the 1970s and then disappeared from view in the US, living in France where American Blues Masters had a more appreciative audience. He burst back onto the US scene with “Soul Fixin’ Man” released on Alligator Records in 1994. For casual fan in the US, Luther was back.

Luther was a player who understood that it’s not how many notes you play, it’s how you play those notes…and how you play the silences in between. After signing with Alligator, Luther divided his time between North America and Europe. His last recorded performance was in Montreal on July 6, 1997. He played a couple more shows, checked into a hospital in Madison WI, and died of lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain. You can see and hear that he still had it with five weeks to live.

And finally, the music didn’t die completely with his death. Here is his son, Bernard Allison, born in 1965. I have not yet seen/heard him in person.

Is it a coincidence that so many of these are Elmore James songs?

This is a bonus post, pre-written for the occasion. For those of you champing at the bit, the regular post will follow in one minute. It will be a musical day in half-fast land.

Happy birthday

You may may noticed that music creeps into this bike blog on a regular basis. Usually it is squeezed into some other topic.

This time it doesn’t fit with the next scheduled post, so Charlie McCoy gets his own. Charlie McCoy is one of the greatest harmonica players out there and you have probably never heard of him. He mostly works as a sideman in the country and western genre but I’d put him up there with the blues greats.

One day my roommate came home with an album by this guy I never heard of. We played it constantly.

We think of this as a fiddle tune, but the harmonica was made for railroad songs.
Jazz standards, anyone? (Written by Hoagy Carmichael, best known for Ray Charles’ rendition.)
Gospel
Yes, he plays the blues and he pays his dues to one of the greats.
How about The Beatles?
One of his earliest recordings, with Roy Orbison

Charlie McCoy was born in West Virginia on March 28, 1941. He has been active as a Nashville session player and is one of those people you have heard many times without knowing it, having played on up to 400 sessions per year at the height of his career. He also plays guitar, bass, trumpet, and drums in addition to his better-known work on harp. He sings now and then. He played guitar on Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”. He was the bassist on all of Dylan’s album “John Wesley Harding”. He was probably best known as Musical Director for the TV show “Hee-Haw”, source of the first clip here. For all of its corn, it had some amazing music. He has also worked with Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ringo Starr, Steve Miller, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, JJ Cale, Al Kooper, and Paul Simon, among many others.

Happy birthday, Charlie…and thanks to My Old Pal Ovaltine for introducing me to his music some 50 years ago.

Contrary to the proverb that “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”, this year March came in like a lamb with a temperature of 49 degrees F (9.4 C) and is going out like a lion with a temperature of 26 (-3.3 C) as I write this on 3/28 and a forecast for snow on 3/31.

You say it’s your birthday

Is there any significance to sharing birthdays? Astrologers would say yes. If you share your birthday with someone you admire, you might be tempted to say yes in hopes something rubs off on you.

Today (November 29) there are a number of people who share a birthday. John Mayall, who is credited as a parent of the British Blues Revival, is 88 today. Among the guitarists who passed through his band, The Bluesbreakers, were Eric Clapton (hailed as “god” by fans in the 60s), Peter Green (who replaced Clapton and about whom B.B. King said “He was the only guitarist who made me sweat” and when someone asked what happened to Clapton, Mayall said “Don’t worry – we’ve got someone better”) and Mick Taylor (who went on to play with the Rolling Stones).

In this case, Mayall does not stand in the background and showcase one of his brilliant guitarists.

Felix Cavalieri (organ and vocals with The Young Rascals) is 79 today.

Joel Coen (of the filmmaking Coen Brothers) is 67. One shot in their first film, “Blood Simple”, convinced me that I was going to follow these guys. Adude in Austin might appreciate this one.

The only light in this scene comes from the window, and then through a series of holes shot in the wall. It was the light through those holes that won me over. Screen shot from “Blood Simple” by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Actor Don Cheadle (“Devil in a Blue Dress”, “Hotel Rwanda”, “Ocean’s 11”, “Crash”) is 57.

The theoretical conception date for these men would have been March 8 – International Women’s Day.

Is there any significance in this? I don’t know. Time to go ride my bike.

Favorite Son

Busch Light can in its natural habitat. It will eventually assume its protective coloration. (The blue pigment fades to a pale green. The process has begun.)

A Busch Light can means the half-fast cycling club cleaned its adopted highway again. No further news on that front.

I never tire of this view. Sorry if you do. Look! No litter!
Madison’s Favorite Son, Joel Paterson (from a previous festival – I brought no camera this time)

Our neighborhood summer festivals were combined into one this year. We walked down to the park just long enough to see the set by the Joel Paterson Trio. Joel grew up a few blocks from here. He spent his teen years playing the blues at a neighborhood bar, then moved to Chicago where he plays in multiple bands. A self-proclaimed guitar geek, he plays swing, rockabilly, country, and blues (and a little Hawaiian guitar).

Joel on all instruments in a home pandemic recording
From his all-Beatles solo acoustic guitar album
Guitar and clarinet blues jam
The Western Elstons, his country band
And here’s a full set of his band Modern Sound, from a festival in Spain.

There’s lots more where that came from, including some Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley’s guitarist) and Chet Atkins tributes. I think he should be famous. Listen and see if you agree.

Yeah, I’ve been riding my bike a lot. Back-to-back weekends with centuries coming up in September, so 50-60 mile rides twice a week as well as daily commuting and Wednesday night rides. I haven’t ridden 100 miles in a day since 2019, so we’ll see if I still can.

Hot and humid Wednesday Night Ride

It’s tobacco season, so last week I rode past a crew out cutting tobacco, and this week rode past sheds full of drying tobacco. If you’re not from around here, you probably didn’t realize Wisconsin is tobacco country. Tobacco used to be grown here as cigar wrappers and is now mostly for chewing. It was once a major cash crop. A farmer got an allotment from the state, allowing a set number of acres to be grown. It was hard work (hand planted, hand cut, hand tied and hung, hand stripped from the veins after curing, and bundled for sale) but virtually guaranteed income. If you had an allotment, you grew tobacco. I had a friend who bought a farm with a small allotment and the neighbors thought she was crazy because she chose not to grow tobacco. The tobacco shed (a large barn with louvers that can be opened to increase airflow, and a network of framing from which to hang the poles with bundles of leaves draped over them) was used for storage.

COVID cases are on the rise again and I just finished another tour of duty on the COVID units. Most of my patients this week were not vaccinated. I was vaccinated in December and January. While it is true that I am now magnetic, that’s just my personality and I was that way before the vaccine;) If you have seen the videos of people purporting to prove that the vaccine makes one magnetic, they are either more ignorant than I think they are, or they just blatantly dishonest. The videos show people sticking non-ferrous metals to their skin and claiming it is because the vaccine made them magnetic. I have duplicated that with a penny, bobby pin, paper clip, money clip, button, and a Post-It note. Only one of those would have stuck were magnetism at play. Lest you think I did anything heroic this week, I was safer in this gear (and the sanitation process I go through as I enter and leave each room) than you are if you go into a store, restaurant, or bar (especially if you don’t wear a mask, or anyone else in there doesn’t). You don’t know if you are near someone who is positive. I do.