Settin’ The Pace
Muddy Waters’ Rhythm Section
Willie “Big Eyes” Smith
By Margo Cooper
Born in Helena, Arkansas, Willie Smith grew up hearing the classic blues sounds on KFFA radio. After moving to Chicago in 1953, Smith picked up the harmonica and, before long, the drums. He formed his first band in 1956 and was hired by Muddy Waters to play drums in 1961. For the next two decades Smith (despite a few years out of the band) was Muddy’s main drummer. Smith backed Waters till his death in 1983 and went on to form the Legendary Blues Band. He continues to tour and front his own band.
Calvin “Fuzz” Jones
By Margo Cooper
Money, Mississippi–born bass player Calvin “Fuzz” Jones has played with some of the best of the Chicago Blues crowd, including Junior Wells, Jimmy Rogers, Fenton Robinson, J.B. Lenoir, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters. Jones tells his tale, from growing up in Mississippi to spending nearly ten years in the legendary Muddy Waters’ Blues Band.
By Steve Freund
Another Muddy Waters Band alumnus, Francis Clay joined the band back in 1957. Clay was one of the best Chicago blues drummers of his era, drumming behind Magic Sam, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and James Cotton, to name a few. Clay continued playing after moving to California, backing Percy Mayfield, John Lee Hooker, and Charles Brown, among others.
Discovering Robert Johnson’s Guitar Teacher
By Bruce Michael Conforth
As the legend goes Robert Johnson left the Mississippi Delta a struggling guitarist, yet returned a year later able to play with the best of them. The story spread that he had sold his soul to the devil to learn to play. New research reveals where Johnson actually spent those missing months, what he was doing, and most importantly, whom he was doing it with—guitarist and teacher Ike Zimmerman.
New releases by Otis Taylor, Catherine Russell, and the North Mississippi Allstars. Reissues from Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker, and Amos Milburn. New DVDs of Ray Charles and Son Seals.
2007 Top 50 CDs