Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 2:30 pm
Credit Christopher Durst / Courtesy of the artist
Harmonica master James Cotton is a giant of the blues. Born in 1935 on a cotton plantation in Tunica, Miss., he learned the instrument from Sonny Boy Williamson, who had a radio program right across the river in West Helena, Ark. After listening to the show and imitating him on a harmonica, Cotton met Williamson, who took him under his wing.
At 15, Cotton met and played with Howlin' Wolf, who took him to record at Sun Studios in Memphis. Later, while on tour, Muddy Waters asked Cotton to replace Junior Wells in his band; Cotton stayed on the road with Waters for a dozen years.
Albert Murray, the influential writer and critic who helped found Jazz at Lincoln Center, died Sunday at home in Harlem. He was 97 years old. Duke Ellington once described him as the "unsquarest person I know."
For Murray, jazz and blues were more than just musical forms. They were a survival technique — an improvisatory response to hardship and uncertainty, as he told NPR in 1997: "You don't know how many bars you have, but however many of them you can make swing, the better off you are. That's about it."
Based in Nashville via Los Angeles, the husband and wife duo of Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez have been performing together for nearly a decade as Johnnyswim. Now they make their first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Taj Mahal has a degree in animal husbandry and agronomy, and planned to be a farmer. Music was just something he did.
"No matter what went down, music was always going to be a part of my life," the guitarist and singer says. "What ultimately happened is that, over a period of time, I just kind of looked around and when like, 'Wow! I'm actually making a living doing this.'"