“Crossroads” by Clapton, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and Robert Randolph; I gotcha cultural appropriation right here

Robert Johnson wrote and recorded “Crossroads” in the mid-1930s.

Many, myself included, consider it the icon blues song, a cultural achievement of a high order, like the blues itself.

Those acoustic songs were the platform on which Chicago’s electric blues were built in the 1950s and, a decade later, a fusion of blues and rock.

What today’s best blues-rockers have done with it is amazing, original . . . and it has kept the genre alive, not as a relic but as a living, evolving musical form.

Just listen to Sheryl and those great backup singers, carried forward on a wave of guitars and some mighty inventive percussion.

Chuck Berry, whose exhuberance and guitar licks defined roll-and-roll, dead at 90

Rolling Stone has a wonderful remembrance.

For us Baby Boomers, the songs were the sound track of our misspent youth.

Just say the names:

  • Maybellene
  • Roll Over Beethoven
  • Too Much Monkey Business
  • School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell!)
  • Rock and Roll Music
  • Sweet Little Sixteen
  • Oh, Carol
  • Little Queenie
  • Back in the U.S.A.
  • Memphis, Tennessee (whose cover by Johnny Rivers was even more popular)
  • Nadine, Honey, Is That You?
  • No Particular Place to Go
  • My Ding-a-Ling
  • Reelin’ and Rockin’

And what could be the best rock-and-roll song ever laid down: Johnny B. Goode.

It captures everything great about rock music at its inception.

Berry, who wrote the song, was born in 1926 . . . on Goode Avenue.  He recorded it 4-5 miles from where I live, at the Leonard and Phil Chess’s studio, at 2120 South Michigan Ave. (The Rolling Stones had a great hit entitled “2120 South Michigan Avenue.” click here to hear it)

Here is Chuck playing Johnny B. Goode live in 1958, the year he released it–and doing the dances he loved!


Here is Chuck jammin’ with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Chuck Leavell (of the Rolling Stone and Allman Brothers Band), and Chuck’s longtime pianist, Johnnie Johnson, who is fabulous. You’ll recognize the songs and you’ll love seeing the joy of these greats playing together.

Late in the song, you’ll hear Chuck singing with a blues rhythm that underlay his work. And what a lyric: he’s glad his baby’s back, “it’s been a long, long time since I’ve heard my backbone crack.”


Mose Allison, RIP: A Tribute by Musicians Influenced by his glorious version of “Parchman Farm”

Mose Allison, who died today after a long, influential life in music, transformed the Delta Blues, played on acoustic guitars and harmonicas, into modern piano jazz, often inflected with wry humor. The last line of the song is the killer (pun intended). The NYT obituary is here.

Mose Allison’s Powerful Influence

Allison’s ability to transform and update Delta Blues had a huge impact on British rockers in the late 1960s, looking to create their own genre, based on the Delta originals. Here are some of these Brits remembering how popular Mose’s “Parchman Farm” was in England and how it influenced their own music.

John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers (including Eric Clapton) did a wonderful version in the late 1960s (link here). Unfortunately, their version leaves out the punchline.

Two Modern Versions of Allison’s Parchman Farm

Johnny Winter, the great Texas guitarist, does Mose’s version with the same humor and a blues/rock edge:

I love the hard blues/rock version of Albert Castiglia.

And a traditional blues song about the prison farm, to give you a sense of Allison’s point of departure

To understand the depth and originality of Mose Allison’s version, listen to this powerful, traditional version of “Parchman Farm Blues” by Bukka White. It’s not the same song, but it one of many written about the iconic Mississippi Prison, where so many blacks and whites, men and women, served hard time in the cotton fields.

Mose Allison, Rest in Peace.

On this date: September 6, 1968, Eric Clapton and George Harrison record their great guitar duet in “When My Guitar Gently Weeps”

It took 28 takes, but Eric Clapton and George Harrison recorded one of the iconic guitar duets of the rock era. It is often called a “solo,” but, to me, it is the interaction between Harrison and Clapton that make this music so touching–and still so moving–after all these years.

Here is Guitar World’s article on how the recording was made.

Below, Harrison and Clapton play at the 1971 “Concert for Bangladesh”