Yesterday I had the extraordinary opportunity to spend time with legendary John Hammond. Meeting John and his wife Marla was like meeting some long lost aunt and uncle. They are incredibly warm and genuine people that were more than happy to just hang out and shoot the breeze before and after soundcheck and the show. Like me, they are huge blues music fans. Like all blues music junkies do…a lot of our conversation was “have you heard this artist or that album? Aww man…you gotta check it out…!” The real treat was when they would add a little personal story ….and there were so many! Too many to write here but…some of them touched on: John attending Antioch College in the 50’s where he met Ian Buchanan and Jorma Kaukenon; playing Gerdes Folk City in the early 60s and having his uncle, Benny Goodman walk out before the end of his set; going to Chicago in the early 60’s and going to Silvios on the South Side with then unknown Mike Bloomfield to see Sonny Boy Williamson play. John said they were the only whites in the place and Sonny Boy performed the entire show sitting at the back of the bar at a dark table with three women fawning over him! For John’s first UK tour in 1965, his back up band was John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers…featuring Eric Clapton. John was doing a record in 1969 down at Muscle Shoals and “some cat mysteriously appeared one day, was warmly greeted by everyone in the studios, plugged a guitar in and played some amazing slide guitar” It was Duane Allman. Duane recorded several track on that album with John and thy became close friends. Years later in October 1971, John and Duane were partying , hanging out and jamming in NYC. The next morning John had a gig in Canada to get to and Duane flew back down to Georgia. Getting home, Duane decided to go for a beer run. Unknown to each of them, the night before would be Duane’s last night on earth.
Man, I was drinkin’ this stuff down in gulps!!
Meanwhile, John’s performance was intense, expressive and emotional. The bayou North is fairly small room and I had to turn the PA down during John’s performance….he probably could have down the show without it.
Both John and Marla were also very complimentary and supportive of my music …to me directly, to the crowd and others. It feels good.
I really don’t know if I’ll ever see them again ….but just a few hours with them was a blessing.
Robert Johnson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi possibly on May 8, 1911, to Julia Major Dodds (born October 1874) and Noah Johnson (born December 1884). Julia was married to Charles Dodds (born February 1865), a relatively prosperous landowner and furniture maker with whom she had ten children. Charles Dodds had been forced by a mob to leave Hazlehurst following a dispute with white landowners. Julia left Hazlehurst with baby Robert but after some two years sent him to live in Memphis with her husband, who had changed his name to Charles Spencer
After 8 years living in Europe, I finally got back to the States 6 mos ago. My band in Spain (The Blu-Tones) was good fun. We played some fun gigs and made a CD!
Now I'm back in the USA and lookin for folks to play with. I've been lucky to hook up with Ed Accardi. Ed's a real old school fingerstyle groove player that can lay it down from Blind Blake to Richard Thompson.
Another guy I've been playin with is Steve Russell. Steve's a Butterfield-school harp player. Great singer too. Steve played with one of my favorite bands, Slo Leak alongside Charlie Karp and Danny Kortchmar.
I've got some low-key, under the radar acoustic gigs with these guys comin' up.
Good to be back in the USA..!!