Beats, Rhymes & Life #03

Beats, Rhymes & Life is a weekly 10 track playlist sharing the music and stories of musicians across the globe.

CHARLEY PATTON

Mississippi born Charley or Charlie Patton is widely considered to be the father of the Delta Blues. Thought to be fathered by a former slave named Henderson Chatmon, Charley was raised by parents Bill and Annie Patton and through his musical output during the early part of the 20th century (1916 - 1935) now ranks high in the pantheon of America's greatest ever musicians and a heavy influence on Howlin' Wolf.

ABNER JAY

A one man band capable of writing some of the most gut-wrenching blue songs around. Abner Jay travelled the American south with a converted mobile home (watch here) and a banjo he claimed was made in 1748.  Lyrically he explored topics ranging from depression to cocaine.

ESTHER PHILLIPS

Encouraged into singing by her sister, the Esther Phillips (pictured) story began with her talent show win a the Barrelhouse club owned by band leader, tv presenter and journalist Johnny Otis at aged 14. She went on to receive four Grammy nominations in the 70s before succumbing to liver and kidney failure due to long term alcohol and drug abuse.

SLIM HARPO

Despite never really being a full time musician James Isaac Moore AKA Slim Harpo was one of the most commercially successful blues recording artists of the time. Much of his recognition was ignited by regular covers of his songs by the likes of The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and The Kinks. 

LONESOME SUNDOWN

Inspired by John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, Cornelius Green III picked up the guitar in 1948 and began something of a stop start music career. During the mid 50s after stints as a truck driver and working in an oil refinery, Green joined a number of bands and eventually started recording under his name Lonesome Sundown, playing the club circuits in Texas and Louisiana.  

Over the course of the next decade, he fell out of love with the music industry through a perceived lack of success exacerbated by a traumatic divorce and quit to become a labourer and joined the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith Fellowship Throughout the World Church, where he eventually became a minister. 

He was persuaded back into the studio briefly in 1977 but poor sales of the single 'I Betcha' hastened a second retirement.  Musically, things turned around posthumously as Lonesome Sundown was inducted into the Louisiana Hall Of Fame in 2000, five years after his death.

LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS

A line in his New York Times obituary reads, "one of the great country blues singers and perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players". After a slow start breaking into the music industry Lightnin' Hopkins went on to record more albums than any other blues artist and was backed by the rhythm section of The 13th Floor Elevators on 1968 album Free From Patterns.

BIG MAMA THORNTON

Self taught rhythm and blues pioneer Willie Mae Thornton once decried her voice as louder than any microphone had a stage presence to match. An openly gay Thorton paved th way for the type of gender and race subversion we see today, confounding traditional expectations as early as the 1950s. 

Although she achieved success, her two biggest hits 'Hound Dog' and 'Ball n Chain' were eclipsed by Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin covers respectively.

SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON II

A blues harmonica singer-songwriter who created many of the genre's standards. Sonny Boy Williamson, born Aleck or Alex Ford recorded with everyone from Elmore James to The Yardbirds and Jimmy Page. 

The Mississippi native moved to Arkansas in 1949 where he lived with his sister and her husband, none other than Howlin' Wolf. 

LOWELL FULSON

As an 18 year old in California, Lowell Fulson formed a band with a young Ray Charles before serving in the US Navy between 1943-45.

Returning to the music scene he went on to become a key artist on the Chess Club Records label, with his compositions covered by the likes of Otis Reading, Eric Clapton and ZZ Top.