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This Week on Blues Unlimited - Instrumental Madness: Classic Grooves & Hot Rockers from King & Federal Records (Hour 2)
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June 20, 2016 10:48 AM PDT
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Join us for an all-instrumental extravaganza, as we put the spotlight on King and Federal Records. While other labels certainly recorded instrumentals, it was King who made them into an institution. We’ll hear from Bill Doggett, Freddy King, Pete "Guitar" Lewis, Jimmy Nolen, King Curtis, Ike Turner, and a whole lot more. It’s King and Federal instrumentals, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

We're number one! Pictured: Bill Doggett, whose game-changing "Honky Tonk" spent 13 weeks at the very top of the Billboard charts.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/zlzf5xm

This Week on Blues Unlimited - Instrumental Madness: Classic Grooves & Hot Rockers from King & Federal Records (Hour 1)
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June 20, 2016 10:26 AM PDT
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Join us for an all-instrumental extravaganza, as we put the spotlight on King and Federal Records. While other labels certainly recorded instrumentals, it was King who made them into an institution. We’ll hear from Bill Doggett, Freddy King, Pete "Guitar" Lewis, Jimmy Nolen, King Curtis, Ike Turner, and a whole lot more. It’s King and Federal instrumentals, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

We're number one! Pictured: Bill Doggett, whose game-changing "Honky Tonk" spent 13 weeks at the very top of the Billboard charts.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/z9xlpag

Previously on Blues Unlimited - The Keepers of the Flame, Part 1: Mud Boy & The Neutrons (Hour 2)
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June 13, 2016 07:59 AM PDT
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Their live shows were the stuff of legend. Their voices — an impromptu, ad hoc mixture of deep bass to high falsetto — blended together like a fine country quilt. Waiting for them to tour outside Memphis? Don’t bet on it. Like a lot of blues musicians I can think of, they recorded very little, and rather infrequently. One of them was a painter, sculptor, and puppeteer who had played washboard with the irascible Bukka White. Another had been best friends with Furry Lewis — a fire-brand guitarist capable of playing everything from old folk ditties to heavy metal, and just about everything in between. Another was a talented multi-instrumentalist, Hill Country philosopher and all-around iconoclast who spent the bulk of his career making other people sound good. And the fourth one? An anthropologist and 20th century renaissance man, who possessed an unforgettable, golden voice.

Together and on stage, they were a force to be reckoned with. A name that was simply made up on the spot. “They’ve got to know I’m not going on the road with no Mud Boy and the Neutrons!” proclaimed Ry Cooder to Jim Dickinson, when his record company asked if he would go on tour as the opening act for Alice Cooper (as recounted by Robert Gordon in his book, “It Came From Memphis”). Dickinson immediately loved the name. They figured that if anyone ever asked them who Mud Boy was, they’d simply answer: “That’s MISTER Boy to you.”

From the get-go, the emphasis was on playing and artistic integrity. Not touring, and not commercial success. Hence, the legendary live shows, and the all-too infrequent recording dates. And if you’d like to know more, I highly recommend Gordon’s book, where he gets into far more detail than I can here.

Flash forward to January 1988. I was a young graduate student who had just transferred, mid-semester, to Memphis State University. I had come to study the blues. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing there, but I was following a call I thought I had heard. Not having time to find an apartment that semester, I opted instead for a dorm room. As was typical, the first thing that got set up was the stereo. Tuning in to the left end of the FM dial, I clearly heard the sounds of the Velvet Underground coming out over the airwaves. It wasn’t blues, necessarily, but it was calmly reassuring, nonetheless. Making me feel that, perhaps, I’d made the right decision afterall.

The station was WEVL, a volunteer-driven community operation, with an under-paid staff of one. Over the next few days, I found out that they were holding a fundraiser at the Hoka Theater in Oxford, Mississippi, just a short drive away. So, on a Saturday night in January, I made the 90 miles or so down to Oxford, and for five bucks (all I had was an out-of-town check, but they accepted it anyway), I got to see a screening of the Chuck Berry film, “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll,” was fed a spaghetti dinner, and got to see Mud Boy and the Neutrons play live in performance. It may very well have been the best five bucks I ever spent.

Quite naturally, the members of Mud Boy were big supporters of the station, and if the weather was right and the wind was blowing in a south-easterly direction, they could sometimes be cajoled into playing live on the air for WEVL’s semi-annual membership drives.

To say that I was friends with Mud Boy would be a misnomer. I became involved with the station, and because of that, knew who they were, and sometimes got to be in the same room that they were in. One of my friends has a cassette tape of Lee Baker and a few other musically inclined souls, all jamming together down at the station; myself included, apparently, on 12-string guitar — although what I could have possibly contributed to the proceedings is beyond me.

The passing years, however, took their toll. Mud Boy’s live shows became further apart. One by one, their blues heroes passed on — some of them, cared for in their final years by Lee himself. There were kids to raise, careers to pursue, and families to run. Lee Baker formed a group, The Agitators, to play around town. Sid Selvidge could be found strumming his trademark acoustic guitar at the North End, downtown, on Friday nights (later, he would go on to became the executive producer of the critically acclaimed “Beale Street Caravan” radio program). Jimmy Crosthwait continued painting and making fanciful metal sculptures, in addition to running an art gallery east of Memphis. Jim Dickinson busied himself in the recording studio, becoming a sought-after producer who had the talent and a knack for making other people sound good. Legend has it that he always carried a copy of the Mississippi Fred McDowell LP, “Amazing Grace,” just so that there’d be “something real” in the studio for people to listen to.

In September 1996, however, a bomb was dropped on the Memphis music community. It had all started a month earlier, apparently, when Lee Baker’s home was totally destroyed in a fire. Based on conjecture from those who knew him — and we must stress here that details are sketchy at best — it’s believed that some would-be thieves caught wind of the fact that Lee had saved up some money to pay for the pressing of The Agitators' new album. It’s now thought that the robbers grabbed the money but bungled the job, and to cover their tracks, set fire to Lee’s home.

It was a devastating blow. Decades of priceless and irreplaceable memorabilia — including, I believe, Furry Lewis’ guitar — were gone in a few moments.

Vowing to move on, Lee and his family found temporary residence with his aunt, for whom he also helped collect rent from her various tenants. Described as a “country outpost,” the thieves apparently found them about a month later — Lee and his aunt — shot them both, took the rent money, and set the place on fire, once again, to cover their tracks. As Jim Dickinson later said, the church in Memphis where the service was held couldn’t hold all the friends, family, and admirers who came to pay their respects and mourn his loss.

After that, Mud Boy formally disbanded. In the meantime, Jim Dickinson’s sons, Luther and Cody (“my greatest productions,” he once quipped), made quite a stir in the music world. In 2005, the remaining three members of Mud Boy were lured to London, for one last performance. It was apparently filmed — with intentions for release — but still has not seen the light of day.

In 2009, Jim Dickinson succumbed to the after-effects of triple-bypass heart surgery. Four years later, Sid Selvidge would follow, after battling cancer of the mouth. Today, Jimmy Crosthwait is the last surviving member of Mud Boy & The Neutrons, although a new group, “The Sons of Mud Boy,” help carry on the tradition they started.

In every sense, Mud Boy & The Neutrons were the “Keepers of the Flame” of Memphis music, representing, as it were, the best that the city had to offer. For those of us lucky enough to see them play live, an experience we’ll never forget. And although they may be gone, they will certainly never be forgotten.

P.S. - As for Jim Dickinson’s now-famous rallying cry — ”World Boogie Is Coming!” — we, the disciples of Mud Boy, patiently await its imminent arrival.

Pictured: Memphis’ very own merry band of pranksters, Mud Boy & the Neutrons. Left to Right: Lee Baker, Jimmy Crosthwait, Jim Dickinson, Sid Selvidge. Photo courtesy of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

Previously on Blues Unlimited - The Keepers of the Flame, Part 1: Mud Boy & The Neutrons (Hour 1)
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June 13, 2016 07:44 AM PDT
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Join us as we start a new series, "The Keepers of the Flame." Designed to spotlight individuals who've made extraordinary contributions to the world of the blues, our first installment pays tribute to Lee Baker, Jimmy Crosthwait, Jim Dickinson, and Sid Selvidge — collectively known as Memphis cult favorite, Mud Boy & The Neutrons. Plus, we’ll hear Jim Dickinson’s legendary slab of vinyl, "Beale Street Saturday Night." All that and more, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Join us as we start a new series, "The Keepers of the Flame." Designed to spotlight individuals who've made extraordinary contributions to the world of the blues, our first installment pays tribute to Lee Baker, Jimmy Crosthwait, Jim Dickinson, and Sid Selvidge — collectively known as Memphis cult favorite, Mud Boy & The Neutrons. Plus, we’ll hear Jim Dickinson’s legendary slab of vinyl, "Beale Street Saturday Night." All that and more, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Pictured: Memphis’ very own merry band of pranksters, Mud Boy & the Neutrons. Left to Right: Lee Baker, Jimmy Crosthwait, Jim Dickinson, Sid Selvidge. Photo courtesy of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

Previously on Blues Unlimited - East Coast Slide Guitar (Hour 2)
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June 06, 2016 08:27 AM PDT
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When you think of slide guitar, you probably think of Muddy Waters, Elmore James or Son House -- but did you ever stop to think about some of the bottleneck practitioners from the Eastern Seaboard? Join us for an illuminating look at the art and artistry of East Coast slide guitar, including classics from Blind Willie McTell, Curley Weaver, Barbecue Bob, Peg Leg Howell, Sylvester Weaver, Kokomo Arnold, Tampa Red, Blind Boy Fuller, Dan Pickett, John Lee, and more.

Pictured: Like fellow Atlanta Bluesman Blind Willie McTell, Barbecue Bob preferred the big open sound of the 12-string guitar. Image by: R. Crumb.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/hxtqxtu

Previously on Blues Unlimited - East Coast Slide Guitar (Hour 1)
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June 06, 2016 08:11 AM PDT
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When you think of slide guitar, you probably think of Muddy Waters, Elmore James or Son House -- but did you ever stop to think about some of the bottleneck practitioners from the Eastern Seaboard? Join us for an illuminating look at the art and artistry of East Coast slide guitar, including classics from Blind Willie McTell, Curley Weaver, Barbecue Bob, Peg Leg Howell, Sylvester Weaver, Kokomo Arnold, Tampa Red, Blind Boy Fuller, Dan Pickett, John Lee, and more.

Pictured: Like fellow Atlanta Bluesman Blind Willie McTell, Barbecue Bob preferred the big open sound of the 12-string guitar. Image by: R. Crumb.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/jzp9ncp

Previously on Blues Unlimited - Good Time Tunes: Songs About Drinkin' & Havin' Fun (Hour 2)
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May 30, 2016 07:09 AM PDT
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Join us as we celebrate the good times, with songs about drinking and having fun. With music on tap from Ike Turner, J.B. Lenoir, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Terry and more, how can you possibly go wrong! A celebration of the good times, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Pictured: Stick McGhee, whose "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" was a big smash hit for Atlantic Records in 1949.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/huzz7av

Previously on Blues Unlimited - Good Time Tunes: Songs About Drinkin' & Havin' Fun (Hour 1)
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May 30, 2016 06:57 AM PDT
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Join us as we celebrate the good times, with songs about drinking and having fun. With music on tap from Ike Turner, J.B. Lenoir, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Terry and more, how can you possibly go wrong! A celebration of the good times, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Pictured: Stick McGhee, whose "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" was a big smash hit for Atlantic Records in 1949.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/jezg9yg

Previously on Blues Unlimited - Blues and R&B from Trumpet Records (Hour 2)
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May 23, 2016 08:21 AM PDT
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Join us as we aim the spotlight on one of the most beloved record labels of all time, Trumpet Records, of Jackson, Mississippi. Spearheaded by entrepreneur Lillian McMurry, it helped give rise to the careers of Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, Willie Love, and Jerry "Boogie" McCain. Blues and R&B from Trumpet Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/hwrrs2u

To see a short video about Trumpet Records, click here: http://www.msbluestrail.org/films

Previously on Blues Unlimited - Blues and R&B from Trumpet Records (Hour 1)
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May 23, 2016 08:09 AM PDT
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Join us as we aim the spotlight on one of the most beloved record labels of all time, Trumpet Records, of Jackson, Mississippi. Spearheaded by entrepreneur Lillian McMurry, it helped give rise to the careers of Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, Willie Love, and Jerry "Boogie" McCain. Blues and R&B from Trumpet Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/hd9cptq

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