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Luther Allison

An American-born guitarist, singer, and songwriter who lived in France since 1980, Luther Allison was the man to book at blues festivals in the mid-'90s. Allison's comeback into the mainstream was ushered in by a recording contract with an American record company, Chicago-based Alligator Records. After he signed with Alligator in 1994, Allison's popularity grew exponentially and he worked steadily until his death in 1997.

Born August 17, 1939, in Widener, AR, Allison was the 14th of 15 children, the son of cotton farmers. His parents moved to Chicago when he was in his early teens, but he had a solid awareness of blues before he left Arkansas, as he played organ in the church and learned to sing gospel in Widener as well. Allison recalled that his earliest awareness of blues came via the family radio in Arkansas, which his dad would play at night. Allison recalls listening to both the Grand Ole Opry and B.B. King on the King Biscuit Show on Memphis' WDIA. Although he was a talented baseball player and had begun to learn the shoemaking trade in Chicago after high school, it wasn't long before Allison began to focus more of his attention on playing blues guitar. Allison had been hanging out in blues clubs all through high school, and with his brother's encouragement, he honed his string-bending skills and powerful, soul-filled vocal technique.

It was while living with his family on Chicago's West Side that he had his first awareness of wanting to become a full-time bluesman, and he played bass behind guitarist Jimmy Dawkins, who Allison grew up with. Also in Allison's neighborhood were established blues greats like Freddie King, Magic Sam, and Otis Rush. He distinctly remembers everyone talking about Buddy Guy when he came to town from his native Louisiana. After the Allison household moved to the South Side, they lived a few blocks away from Muddy Waters, and Allison and Waters' son Charles became friends. When he was 18 years old, his brother showed him basic chords and notes on the guitar, and the super bright Allison made rapid progress after that. Allison went on to "blues college" by sitting in with some of the most legendary names in blues in Chicago's local venues: Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Howlin' Wolf among them.

His first chance to record came with Bob Koester's then-tiny Delmark Record label, and his first album, Love Me Mama, was released in 1969. But like anyone else with a record out on a small label, it was up to him to go out and promote it, and he did, putting in stellar, show-stopping performances at the Ann Arbor Blues Festivals in 1969, 1970, and 1971. After that, people began to pay attention to Luther Allison, and in 1972 he signed with Motown Records. Meanwhile, a growing group of rock & roll fans began showing up at Allison's shows, because his style seemed so reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix and his live shows clocked in at just under four hours!

Although his Motown albums got him to places he'd never been before, like Japan and new venues in Europe, the recordings didn't sell well. He does have the distinction of being one of a few blues musicians to record for Motown. Allison stayed busy in Europe through the rest of the 1970s and 1980s, and recorded Love Me Papa for the French Black and Blue label in 1977. He followed with a number of live recordings from Paris, and, in 1984, he settled outside of Paris, since France and Germany were such major markets for him. At home in the U.S., Allison continued to perform sporadically, when knowledgeable blues festival organizers or blues societies would book him.

As accomplished a guitarist as he was, Allison wasn't a straight-ahead Chicago blues musician. He learned the blues long before he got to Chicago. What he did so successfully is take his base of Chicago blues and add touches of rock, soul, reggae, funk, and jazz. Allison's first two albums for Alligator, Soul Fixin' Man and Blue Streak, are arguably two of his strongest. His talents as a songwriter are fully developed, and he's well-recorded and well-produced, often with horns backing his band. Another one to look for is a 1992 reissue on Evidence, Love Me Papa. In 1996, Motown reissued some of the three albums worth of material he recorded for that label (between 1972 and 1976) on compact disc.

Well into his mid-50s, Allison continued to delight club and festival audiences around the world with his lengthy, sweat-drenched, high-energy shows, complete with dazzling guitar playing and inspired, soulful vocals. He continued to tour and record until July of 1997, when he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Just over a month later, he died in a hospital in Madison, WI; a tragic end to one of the great blues comeback stories. 1998's posthumous Live in Paradise captured one of his final shows, recorded on La Reunion Island in April 1997. Thomas Ruf, who was inspired by and became a friend of Allison's shortly before the bluesman's death, issued Underground on Ruf Records in 2007. ~ Richard Skelly, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Great show at King Biscuit Blues Fest in 1996 in Clarksdale/ Helena!
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Luther Allison and I were friends from 72 up to his passing. I knew Luther on a personal level as well as a musician. You to me are the King of the blues. You are truly missed but remain in my heart and your music lives on. Love you Luther, R.I.H. PEACE!
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boogiespeed
Met Luther in 1996 @ the Albany NY Fleet Blues Fest, the year before he passed away... We spoke for a good 10 minutes after his gig.... he was very concerned ( and rightfully so ) about the future (-what future?) of urban black kids without fathers,..-a n d why he wrote Got to get outta the Hood I was very impressed with his sincerity. He was a genuine kind soul. And one hell of a ax man I'll tell ya -course you already knew that if you're not deaf... Rest in PEACE Luther Allison
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Luther Allison is one of the most criminally overlooked blues guitarist and singer in history. One listen to Live in Chicago and you WILL be a fan!!!
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Seen him at the caboose in the 70s. That was the best!!!!!!!! ! ! !
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It seems like a lifetime is not enough
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Wow! I thought the blues belong to BB and Bobby Bland. I was wrong. This track is awesome.
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His death at such a young age was a great loss to the Chicago's blues scene! He will be missed an outstanding showman who loved what he did! I had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions and a true gentleman!
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dogro7
The consummate performer, I remember him rocking Duck Duck Goose in Green Bay, Wi
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Knew Luther from his years in Eau Claire...The REAL DEAL in the blues and as a person...RIP and play some wit da angels!
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Luther be throwing down on some blues.
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The S**t!!!! In the house, n its f**kin HOT!!!! *,*'
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I saw Luther play several times in 1980 while in college at St. Cloud, MN (Fantastic)
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Glad to find Luther on Pandora. Saw him and James Cotton in a tiny club north of Boston while in high school (74-75?). Thanks to Donny Murray and Sandy's Jazz Club.
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Motown's only ever blues guitarist... Fact!
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wooh
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I like this song
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wooooh
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A genuine Bluesman, the real deal!
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I saw him a number of times in Wisconsin in the 70's. When he toured in the US in the 90's he would have The James Solberg Band (from WI) back him. Solberg is also an excellent blueman and definitely worth checking out. RIP Luther you're one of the best.
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Great music love it
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Get it Luther !!!! check out tribute to Luther by Lucky Peterson
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i love em blues
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it Feels Good inside
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epic
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lol
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Its been a long time babbbbby!<3
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oh yes boy play that guitar
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So good! A friend of my dad turned me on to him in the 80s. He had passed from my memory until pandora brought him out to play for me again. :-).

I will not let that happen again. I feel ashamed :-(
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The Truth*978*4m 1 4 y ~
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amazing! thank you pandora :)
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sheree.camel
Will have to look into Luther Allison .... and that pianist ain't no joke...
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SWEET!
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This guy can jam, love him already
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Love blues music. Where my followers
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kimm55
1977- North Carolina blues joint. First time I heard the blues---live acoustic- he snagged me for good right then n there!!! legend!
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loefflerjame s
Saw home at his 2nd last concert,so powerfully done, no way would you have any hint that he was less than 30 days away from the end. A performer to the Max. RIP Luther
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I had the pleasure of seeing him in concert in 1972. Was great !! Just unbelievable , really. There are videos available of him in concert that kinda' capture him and what he could do and be (as one who channels that energy...). Last summer saw his son, Bernard play. That, too....a joy. Another great blues experience.
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this is my life right her
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damn my man is awesome at soloing at the guitar and his name is luther allison
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baddasss good blues guitar
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saw him in 97. he showed up late (his band played alone for an hour), but when he got there he unleashed on us for the next 2 and a half and it was awesome
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i know it is a cliche but he was a livewire. sparks and arcs flying everywhere
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mo072986
I still miss him whenhis song come up
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kgillim9
When I first heard him, I was hooked!
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I got to know Luther in 1980 when I worked in a club (Cabooze) in Minneapolis. Not only a great guitarist, but a great man. Fame did not affect him. He loved people and life.

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I feel so dumb!! i wished i had listen to this guy before!! He's awesome!!
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I love this man's music it touches my soul as his namesake shall always touch my heart. Much love for the Allisons.
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R.I.P. Allison ur son is ripping up the blues scene in england and cats like me are playing the blues in the states im playing my guitar right now brother
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