Blues History
Tampa Red
Tampa Red was born Hudson Whittaker (or Woodbridge), January 8, 1904 in Smithville,
Georgia.  He was raised in Tampa, Florida by his Grandmother Whittaker’s family, and his red
hair put the finishing touch on his popular stage name.  Tampa Red traveled to Chicago,
Illinois and took up with pianist Tommy A. Dorsey in 1925, recording extensively with Vocalion
Records, touring the black theater circuit, and driving the hokum craze into a frenzy.  The
bawdy “It’s Tight Like That” scored a huge hit in 1928.  His distinct bottleneck blues guitar
style earned him the label ‘The Guitar Wizard’ and he often recorded with his Hokum Jug Band
after Dorsey left to pursue a career in gospel music.  By 1934 he limited his live performances
to the area surrounding Chicago and signed on with Victor Records, a stint that would last 20
years.  An accomplished piano player, he was noted for his kazoo work when recording with his
Chicago Five through the late 30’s.  By 1941 he had partnered with pianist Big Maceo for
numerous studio sessions and fronted a recording band that foreshadowed the renowned post-
war Chicago sound.  His wife and business manager, Frances, opened their Chicago home to
numerous itinerant musicians, providing food, lodging and much-needed rehearsal space.  
After her death, Tampa Red fell into depression, drinking, and suffered a nervous breakdown.  
By the early 60’s he had started to record again but had little desire to make a comeback.  He
entered a nursing home in 1974 and died on March 19, 1981 in Chicago, leaving behind a
career that included blues standards like “Don’t You Lie To Me” and “It Hurts Me Too”.  He was
widely imitated and admired, having worked with everyone from Big Bill Broonzy to Ma Rainey,
and he’s credited with successfully bridging urban and country style blues at the height of his
long career.
Junior Wells
Junior Wells was born Amos Blackmore on December 9, 1934 in Memphis, Tennessee.  By age
12 he had already borrowed his earliest harmonica licks from velvet-smooth vocalist and harp
wonder Little Junior Parker.  Shortly thereafter he moved to Chicago and at age 16 joined with
Louis & Dave Myers to form The Deuces, later becoming The Aces with the addition of noted
drummer Fred Below.  In 1952 Wells left The Aces upon hearing that harp master Little Walter
had departed the Muddy Waters Band on the heels of his first hit, "Juke".  Wells slipped in to
Muddy's unit with relative ease while Little Walter later joined up with The Aces.  Still, Wells
and the Aces worked together for his first States Records sessions, culminating with such hits
as "Junior's Wail", "Cut That Out", and "Hoodoo Man".  From 1957 through 1966 he cut sides
for the Profile, Chief, Age, and Delmark labels which yielded memorable numbers like "Little
By Little" and "Messin' With The Kid" (featuring guitarist Earl Hooker).  Wells waxed his first
songs with Buddy Guy on the classic LP
Hoodoo Man Blues in 1965, including memorable
versions of "Snatch It Back And Hold It" and "Chittlin' Con Carne".  No stranger to the R&B
charts, he cut  funk-filled LP's for Mercury's Blue Rock label and Delmark during the late 60's
and early 70's, and joined Guy as the opening act for a 1970 Rolling Stones tour.  The 80's
proved to be a dry spell for Wells recording career, but he continued to be a favorite at various
clubs and taverns throughout the Windy City.  Enjoying a deserved resurgence in the 90's, he
recorded with Alligator Records and received a W.C. Handy Award for his 1997 Telarc release
Come On In This House, featuring guest artists Bob Margolin, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood
Hart, and John Mooney, among others.  Treatment for lymphatic cancer brought on a heart
attack and subsequent coma in the Fall of '97.  Junior Wells passed away on January 15, 1998
in Chicago, leaving his influence upon an entire generation of harmonica players and putting
the exclamation point on the post-war Chicago blues sound that he helped make famous.
Please check back often - more blues history to come.
(c) 2008  Cape Fear Blues Society
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Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4, 1913 in Clarkson, Mississippi (or 1915
in Rolling Fork, MS).  After the death of his mother in 1918, he was raised by his grandmother
and earned the nickname "Muddy Waters" while growing up in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  By age
17 he had acquired a deep, dark voice and demeanor, coupled with a deft guitar technique in
the manner of Robert Johnson and Son House.  He continued to refine his talent on guitar and
had mastered the "bottleneck" style when Alan Lomax and The Library of Congress (in search
of a then-deceased Robert Johnson) drove onto Stovall Plantation in 1941, asking him if he'd
like to record some tracks for their folksong archives.  The results became an early indicator of
the pain and power that Waters' music would evoke over the course of his career.  He moved
to Chicago in 1943, hoping to play music full-time, but opting for a paycheck in the wartime
economy.  Helped along by Big Bill Broonzy, he played the club circuit and recorded with the
Columbia and Aristocrat labels, and eventually settled in with the Chess brothers.  He waxed
his signature tune, "Rollin' Stone", in 1948 on Chess Records, sparking a meteoric rise in his
career and a succession of legendary blues bands that have seen few equals since.  Through
the 1950's, Muddy Waters reigned supreme in the world of Chicago blues, performing with the
likes of Otis Spann, Jimmy Rogers, and Little Walter.  Waters reverted to his mastery of the
Delta style during a memorable set at the 1960 Newport Folk Festival and sparked a blues
revival that would reverberate for another decade.  He recorded in England with Rory Gallagher
and Steve Winwood in 1972, and later partnered with Johnny Winter to produce some of the
most prolific albums of his storied career.  Muddy worked tirelessly throughout his life to bring
his passion for the blues to audiences all across the U.S. and abroad.  He was 70 years old
when he passed away in his sleep at his suburban Chicago home on April 30, 1983.  With his
legacy assured for the ages, he remains a legendary giant of the blues idiom.
Muddy Waters
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