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Charlie Musselwhite

Harmonica wizard Norton Buffalo can recollect a leaner time when his record collection had been whittled down to only the bare essentials: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite's South Side Band. Butterfield and Musselwhite will probably be forever linked as the two most interesting, and arguably the most important, products of the "white blues movement" of the mid- to late '60s -- not only because they were near the forefront chronologically, but because they both stand out as being especially faithful to the style. Each certainly earned the respect of his legendary mentors. No less than the late Big Joe Williams said, "Charlie Musselwhite is one of the greatest living harp players of country blues. He is right up there with Sonny Boy Williamson, and he's been my harp player ever since Sonny Boy got killed."

It's interesting that Williams specifies "country" blues, because, even though he made his mark leading electric bands in Chicago and San Francisco, Musselwhite began playing blues with people he'd read about in Samuel Charters' Country Blues -- Memphis greats like Furry Lewis, Will Shade, and Gus Cannon. It was these rural roots that set him apart from Butterfield, and decades later Musselwhite began incorporating his first instrument, guitar.

Musselwhite was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi in 1944, and his family moved north to Memphis, where he went to high school. Musselwhite migrated to Chicago in search of the near-mythical $3.00-an-hour job (the same lure that set innumerable youngsters on the same route), and became a familiar face at blues haunts like Pepper's, Turner's, and Theresa's, sitting in with and sometimes playing alongside harmonica lords such as Little Walter, Shakey Horton, Good Rockin' Charles, Carey Bell, Big John Wrencher, and even Sonny Boy Williamson. Before recording his first album, Musselwhite appeared on LPs by Tracy Nelson and John Hammond and duetted (as Memphis Charlie) with Shakey Horton on Vanguard's Chicago/The Blues/Today series.

When his aforementioned debut LP became a standard on San Francisco's underground radio, Musselwhite played the Fillmore Auditorium and never returned to the Windy City. Leading bands that featured greats like guitarists Harvey Mandel, Freddie Roulette, Luther Tucker, Louis Myers, Robben Ford, Fenton Robinson, and Junior Watson, Musselwhite played steadily in Bay Area bars and mounted somewhat low-profile national tours. It wasn't until the late '80s, when he conquered a career-long drinking problem, that Musselwhite began touring worldwide to rave notices. He became busier than ever and continued releasing records to critical acclaim.

His two releases on Virgin, Rough News in 1997 and Continental Drifter in 2000, found Musselwhite mixing elements of jazz, gospel, Tex-Mex, and acoustic Delta blues. After signing with Telarc Blues in 2002, he continued exploring his musical roots by releasing One Night in America. The disc exposed Musselwhite's interest in country music with a cover version of the Johnny Cash classic "Big River," and featured guest appearances by Kelly Willis and Marty Stuart. Sanctuary, released in 2004, was Musselwhite's first record for Real World. After extensive touring globally, he returned to the studio for its follow-up, the back-to-basics Delta Hardware, recorded in Mississippi. The set was hard-edged and raw blues and featured one live track, the hip-shaking "Clarksdale Boogie," recorded in front of a small but enthusiastic audience at Red's Juke Joint in that very town. Musselwhite returned to Alligator in 2009 and got down to business and cut The Well in Chicago, an all-original program that featured a guest duet appearance from Mavis Staples on the track "Sad Beautiful World." The song references the murder of his 93-year-old mother during a burglary in her home. ~ Dan Forte & Al Campbell, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Great lyrics i feel ya
Love that harp
rockyfletche r . r f
He is the headliner this year at the Winthrop R&B festival again , always a big grin on his face love him!
Charlie, Charlie, Charlie...!! ! A Prince of a Human Being & very generous mentor to to all with his precious shared TIME...A TRUE MENSCH...A ZEN MASTER'S MODEL OF PATIENCE..BU T DON'T BE FOOLED BY THE MELOW EXTERIOR THAT YOU ENCOUNTER NOW...CHARLE Y EARNED HIS HALO... THE HARD WAY ...FIGHTING EVERY KIND OF DEMON...TOOT H AND NAIL ...AND LOOSING..LOO S I N G ...STUDYING
Met him twice; a very gracious and cool guy!
the best, i seem him whenever he comes to the New Jersey area, you can catch him in new york city and new hope the first week of may, 2012
STAND BACK! indeed! from the get-go, always surrounded himself with great sidemaen.
Heard about you Charlie in a one-time harmonica class, saw you at the Paso Robles Midstate Fair. You are terrific! Where in the world can I learn to play a fraction as well as you!? Never see female harp players.
CJ
my avatar says it all, one of my favorite artists to photograph and listen to!
Charlie musselwhite, Norton Buffalo and Charlie Mccoy will always be my number ones!!!
Last of the Old School....So Cool!
Wonder how many bluesmen (and women?) got their start due to Charlie? How many ears has Charlie bent? If the Delta holds the roots, Charlie is the trunk of a really big tree.
prob was him-he did do that song with her...kinda wierd,huh?
randy3986
Can any one tell me if Charlie was playing for Cindy Lauper @ the Chumash Casino in Santa Yenez a couple of weeks ago ? Looked and sounded like him
YES, YES, YES, NICE TO HEAR A" SUPER BLUES HARP P PLAYER ". MAYBE SOME DAY I WILL MEET HIM . MR.CLARK
Saw Charlie last night at the World Cafe in PhilaPa, what he does with the harmonica is truly amazing, played note for note with his guitarist,sh o o k hands with a Chicago Bluesman legend, he thanked me for purchasing 2 CDs! This is a man who is simply a blues man, his lyrics are plain and simple, nothing complicated about this guy, very inspiring for anyone interested in the origin of blues.
Saw him at the Avalon Ballroom in San Fran. in the early 70's. Great memories!!
First heard Charlie on the Loisianna Fog lp with the Ford brothers(Rob b e n , etc),as well as Daryl Dragon on keyboards(ak a the Captain, of The Captain and Tennile) 1973-4?. Also recently on an album with John Hammond doing Tom Waits songs Called Wicked Grinn very good stuff!!
bluebooch23
What'rethe Blues without great harmonica?
A true harmonica god nothing more nothing less and is my insperation to play my harmonica until a cant breathe!!!
What a cool voice. I can't decide if I want to get up and dance or lay back with my eyes closed to really feel the music.
I remember he did a guest appearance with Neil Merryweather : M e r r y w e a t h e r 'Word Of Mouth' a lot of great musicians cut this album with Merryweather classic album I have it stored in my archives. Remember Howard Roberts (guitar) another great guess appearance. Salute the Blues! Thanks Johnny Winter And! Rock on!
ashlo831
Charlie loving the new song you did with Dan Hicks, Keep it up!
Shootin' for the moon is a killer track!
REMINDS ME OF MY BROTHER GARY SMITH, THE FAMOUS HARP PLAYER

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