Spring has sprung here in Mississippi. Daffodils are beaming yellow everywhere you turn and the plum and pear trees look like giant Q-Tips dotting the landscape by the thousands. In another rite of spring across the country, dozens of blues festivals kick off the season. This issue includes our annual 2013 Living Blues Festival Guide featuring nearly 500 blues festivals around the country. An expanded list with even more festivals (including many overseas) can be found at our Website, www.LivingBlues.com. There are dozens of new festivals this season, and several older, established festivals have got huge line-ups this year. So get out your calendar, block off those vacation days, and check out some great blues.
This issue’s cover artist, James Cotton, is the reigning godfather of blues harmonica with a career stretching back to the late 1940s when he was taken under the wing of Sonny Boy Williamson (II) and hit the road with his band. After recording his first sides for Sun Records in 1953, Cotton moved to Chicago in 1954 to join the Muddy Waters Band. He stayed with the legendary band for 12 years, finally cutting ties in 1966 to re-launch his own solo career.
James Cotton blows the harp like a bellowing bull. His tone shreds the notes and drives his music like the best lead guitar players. With his voice now silenced by the throat cancer he survived several years ago, the focus is on his real voice—his harp—and what he can say with it. Our first cover story on James Cotton in 26 years finds the venerable harp master reflecting on his 60+ year career with characteristic charm and grace.
Durham, North Carolina’s John Dee Holeman is one of the last of the Bull City bluesmen who go back to the heyday of that region’s vibrant blues scene. Rooted in the sounds of men like Reverend Gary Davis and Blind Boy Fuller, Holeman is a direct link to a way of life that is fading fast.
Charles “Big Daddy” Stallings’ roots lie in South Carolina but his career has taken off over the last 20 years since he moved to Maryland. A favorite in the Washington, D.C., area, Stallings is breaking onto the national scene.
Last but not least, LB is proud to have founding editor Jim O’Neal back in our pages again. After two years of health issues O’Neal is back on board with an expanded Bluesoterica with fascinating, new details about a number of blues artists. Watch for more writing from Jim O’Neal in upcoming issues.
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Brett J. Bonner