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<i>Mississippi Blues</i> Pays Tribute to R&B Legends - 2002-03-25

A new CD pays tribute to these masters of the Delta blues, including singer and guitarist John Lee Hooker. John Lee Hooker, sings "Baby Don’t Do Me Wrong" from the new compilation Mississippi Blues.

Some of America's greatest blues legends honed their skills while growing up along the banks of the Mississippi River. They were the early pioneers of modern blues whose music was first heard in bars, work camps and impromptu house parties.

John Lee was among the best-known of all the Delta bluesmen. Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1917, Hooker traveled to Detroit, Michigan, where his howling voice and raw guitar work landed him a recording contract with Modern Records.

He recorded for more than two dozen labels before collaborating with some of rock’s top acts, including Carlos Santana, Keith Richards and Bonnie Raitt.

Hooker’s best-selling collection The Healer, along with a string of soulful, country-blues singles and albums, led to his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. He died ten years later at the age of 83.

Of the three biggest cities on the Mississippi River; Saint Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; and New Orleans, Lousiana, Memphis was home to blues greats Memphis Minnie, Memphis Slim and Junior Wells. From Mississippi Blues, singer and harmonica player Junior Wells performs “Come On In This House.”

Following in the footsteps of blues harmonica legend Sonny Boy Williamson, Junior Wells left his home in Memphis for Helena, Arkansas, and eventually Chicago, Illinois. His big break came in 1952, when he replaced Little Walter in Muddy Waters’ Blues Band. Wells soon became a respected bandleader and one of blues music’s most popular soloists.

He was also known for his work with blues guitarist Buddy Guy, touring and recording with Guy for over 25 years. Wells died of cancer at age 63 in 1998.

Unlike Junior Wells who left his southern roots for the bright lights of Chicago, "Mississippi" John Hurt spent his entire life in his home state. And unlike many of his contemporaries, Hurt never switched to electric blues.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist "Mississippi" John Hurt cultivated his gentle folk-blues style in the farming town of Avalon, Mississippi. His only trips away from Avalon were to Memphis and New York for recording sessions for Okeh Records.

His fame peaked at the height of the 1960s folk revival when he performed at Carnegie Hall and the Newport Folk Festival. Hurt was still in fine finger-picking form when he died at age 73 in 1966.

Also featured on the new Putumayo Records' compilation Mississippi Blues are R&B duo Ike & Tina Turner; singers Bobby Bland and Artie White; and guitar virtuosos Luther Allison, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup; and up-and-coming singer and guitarist from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Chris Thomas King, doing "Come On In My Kitchen."