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Junior Wells

December 9, 1934 – January 15, 1998

Recording history: early-mid 1950’s for States, 1960’s for Chief/Profile/USA/ Vanguard/Mercury/Delmark, 1970’s for Mercury/Delmark, 1990’s for Telarc…and more

Also recorded with: Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, T-Bone Walker, Floyd Jones …and more

Important/historic recordings: “Junior’s Wail”, “Tomorrow Night”, “Messin’ With The Kid”, “Snatch It Back And Hold It“, “Cha-Cha-Cha In Blue”

Random fact: Though he has made public his love & appreciation for Rice Miller aka Sonny Boy Williamson #2 (including Junior’s recording of “Help Me” in tribute of Rice Miller on his legendary Chicago/The Blues/Today session for Vanguard), many songs by Junior that became popular for blues & harmonica fans were taken from Sonny Boy Williamson #1 – John Lee Williamson. Including songs like “HooDoo Man Blues” (recorded many times by Junior, starting with his first session in 1953), “Cut That Out“, “The Big Boat“, “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl“, “Early In The Morning” and “Checking On My Baby” (also done by Sonny Boy Williamson #2).

About: Born Amos Blackmore in Memphis, Tennessee, he got first first harmonica lessons from a young Junior Parker (another influential blues vocalist & harp player). When moving to Chicago before becoming a teenager, Junior was well on his way to becoming  proficient on the instrument. While still a teen, he went on to become a bandmate with Louis Myers, Dave Myers and drummer Fred Below to form the Aces. In 1952, when Little Walter went solo (from Muddy Waters' band after his success with “Juke“), Junior Well’s performed & recorded with Muddy, and Walter went on to use the Aces band to back himself up. It is said that at that time, there was no one that could hold a candle to what Little Walter was doing on the harmonica, aside from the young Junior Wells.

In 1953/4, Muddy Waters himself (along with others) had recorded behind Junior Wells on some classic records for the States label. Junior went to make some classic recordings on big & small labels through the 1960’s, many of which today are still heralded as some of the great (and most popular) classic Chicago-style blues records…especially his recordings with longtime musical partner Buddy Guy. In the 1970’s Junior still was making records, but also headed in a different, more funk/R&B direction, with the harp taking a backseat. When he did play harp though, it was still great. He recorded through the 1990’s, leading up to his death in 1998.

Recommended Recordings in-print:

  • “Blues Hit Big Town” – Delmark (1953/54 recordings on the States label)
  • “Best of the Vanguard Years” – Vanguard (great 1960’s Vanguard recordings)
  • “Snakebite 5 – Viper” – Retroworld OR “Introduction To Junior Wells” – Fuel (some great 1960’s Chief recordings)
  • “Coming At You” – Vanguard
  • “HooDoo Man Blues” – Delmark (Classic first full-length Chicago Blues LP!)
  • “Southside Blues Jam” – Delmark
  • “On Tap” – Delmark
  • “Live At Theresa’s” – Delmark
  • “Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play The Blues” – Atco
  • “Buddy Guy & The Junior Wells – Alone & Acoustic” –  Alligator
  • “Buddy Guy & Junior Wells – Drinkin’ TNT & Smokin’ Dynamite” – Blind Pig
  • “Come On In This House” – Telarc (decent later recording)

Recommended DVDs in-print (with some Junior Wells footage):

  • American Folk Blues Festival – Vol. 1
  • American Folk Blues Festival – Vol. 4

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