When Kail Baxley was a kid growing up in Williston, S.C., James Brown used to challenge him to dance-offs. Baxley didn't win so much. He did better as an amateur boxer — his key to getting out of the small town and traveling to Europe and Africa.
Legendary pianist Mose Allison has appeared on Mountain Stage four times over the years — and this is his very first performance, recorded January 15, 1989. Born in Tippo, Miss. in 1927, Allison has always straddled the line between blues and jazz, never favoring one genre over the other.
For the past 37 years, Down Home Music Store has sat on a lonely block in El Cerrito, Calif. For all that time, Chris Strachwitz has stocked the store with a treasure trove of American roots music. He produced many of the records filling Down Home's bins.
Originally published on Mon April 22, 2013 3:41 pm
Grammy-winning blues-rock singer Ben Harper has made 10 studio albums over the course of his career. For his latest project, he teamed up with harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite to release a collaborative album titled Get Up! Musselwhite, one of the few white musicians to gain exposure in the blues scene during the 1960s, has released 26 records and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010.
Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 9:53 pm
A new album by bluesman Corey Harris pays tribute to one Southern neighborhood with a particularly haunted past.
Fulton Blues is named for a district in Richmond, Va., that was once home to a large number of the city's middle class African-American families. But by the 1960s, Fulton had fallen on hard times. Its scenic views of the James River and easy access to downtown made it a target for "urban renewal," as it was euphemistically called in the Virginia Statehouse. The residents of Fulton were evicted and the neighborhood was razed.
Juke-joint bluesmen Robert "Bilbo" Walker and Anthony "Big A" Sherrod know how to rock a party. Sherrod, 29, wrote the title song to the blues documentary We Juke Up In Here, while Walker (his father-in-law) is one of the most charismatic 76-year-olds you'll ever meet.
The 74-year-old Mississippi blues guitarist Robert Belfour possesses a deep, earthy tone which makes his live performances enthralling and compelling. Belfour has been playing since childhood in the Mississippi hill country around Red Banks (just south of Memphis, Tenn.), where he picked up his father's guitar and learned to play. When his father died, the burden of supporting the family fell largely on the 13-year-old. He went into construction work in Memphis, playing blues on the side when there was time.
Originally published on Thu January 31, 2013 1:12 pm
Ben Harper grew up roaming the aisles and restoring guitars at his family's music store, the Claremont Folk Music Center. Going on its 60th year of business, the storefront in Southern California is where Harper first discovered the harmonica playing of blues legend Charlie Musselwhite.
"We had Charlie's records stacked high at my family's store and at my house," Harper tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.
In the Northern Hemisphere, January is typically the coldest month of the year. If we can somehow drag ourselves through the month, things will begin to turn around and we'll be on the road to springtime. But January often feels as if it'll never end.
So as we slog through the cold rain and snow, awaiting January's demise, here are five blues songs to help get us through the winter.
We couldn't leave Memphis without a taste of the blues from gospel-blues singer and preacher Rev. John Wilkins. He's the son of Rev. Robert Wilkins, who wrote "Prodigal Son," a song famously covered by The Rolling Stones on Beggars Banquet.
Here, we've got a performance by Rev. John Wilkins with his band — and his daughters on backing vocals. During our interview, Wilkins spoke about his faith and his father, and even sings a version of "Prodigal Son" himself.