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Blues All Day Long

Blues All Day Long: The Jimmy Rogers Story

Wayne Everett Goins
Foreword by Kim Wilson
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Blues All Day Long
    Book Description:

    A member of Muddy Waters' legendary late 1940s-1950s band, Jimmy Rogers pioneered a blues guitar style that made him one of the most revered sidemen of all time. Rogers also had a significant if star-crossed career as a singer and solo artist for Chess Records, releasing the classic singles "That's All Right" and "Walking By Myself" before a break with the label and changing public tastes drove him into a period of semi-retirement. In Blues All Day Long , Wayne Everett Goins mines seventy-five hours of interviews with Rogers' family, collaborators, and peers to follow a life spent playing the blues. Goins' account takes Rogers from a childhood learning harmonica alongside future virtuoso Snooky Pryor to rich descriptions of playing Chicago clubs, from recording sessions at Chess to the everyday struggle to find the next show and the right groove. Goins' work concludes with the little-known story of a late-in-life renaissance that included new music, entry into the Blues Hall of Fame, and high-profile tours with Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. Informed and definitive, Blues All Day Long fills a gap in twentieth century music history with the story of an eminent blues musician and one of the genre's seminal bands.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09649-5
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Kim Wilson

    Jimmy Rogers—oh, man. It’s so hard to tell you what he meant to me. Was he my father? My uncle? Big brother? I don’t know. Maybe he was all of them. One thing’s for sure, though—he was definitely my hero. When you were around him, everything seemed to flow in an effortless, natural kind of way. And his music was just like his personality—with Jimmy, there was no need for rehearsal. He struck me as a really nice cat. Despite whatever he’d been through, he was always a happy, confident, and generous guy. I think it’s because...

    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-6)

    The blues wasn’t born in Chicago, but it sure was raised there—just like me. For all of my life, I’ve had a direct and powerful connection to the blues. My father, William Earl Goins, knew and hung out with Little Walter (they were drinking buddies) and could mimic his harp style with ease. When he was in a Jimmy Reed mood, my dad could play harp that way too, or Big Walter’s style when he felt like it. He also taught me my first blues guitar licks in the key of E, and I listened to all the classic...


      (pp. 9-26)

      Jimmy Rogers was born James A. Lane on June 3, 1924, in Ruleville, Mississippi, to Grossie Jackson and Walter “Roscoe” Lane. Roscoe was from an area near Atlanta, Georgia (little is known about what brought him to the South). While there is almost no information about his father’s background, much more is known about Jimmy’s mother. Grossie Jackson, born on January 17, 1905, was from the small town of Maben, Mississippi; she was one of seven children born to LeAnna Miller and William Jackson.

      After a whirlwind romance, eighteen-year old Grossie discovered that she was pregnant, possibly to the surprise...

      (pp. 27-52)

      The impact that Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, and Little Walter had on the history of Chicago blues was so huge that many people actually believe there wasn’t much of a blues scene happening before their arrival in the mid-1940s. Nothing could be further from the truth. There was so much happening then that Jimmy, Muddy, and Little Walter all had to earn their way into an already thriving scene in Chicago. Indeed, it was serendipitous that the artists who had the town sewn up just happened to be the same ones Jimmy had worshipped back in Mississippi, when he heard...

      (pp. 53-75)

      The blues carnival atmosphere on Maxwell Street really appealed to Little Walter, so much so that he became a regular fixture there on weekends, even after he became part of an official, unionized band. Although the money-making opportunities there were well received by musicians, being part of that scene was seriously frowned upon, as Jimmy observed during an interview.

      The union didn’t want us to play down on Maxwell Street. The hardest job for us was to keep Walter out from down there. If they had found out about it, they would have stuck a fine on him or blackballed...

      (pp. 76-97)

      Jimmy Rogers participated in a marathon recording session that took place at Parkway Records in January and February 1950. The session was organized much like the one held in December 1948 at Tempo-Tone Records for Irving Taman under Sunnyland Slim’s direction. At the Parkway session, Little Walter, Baby Face Leroy, Muddy Waters, Little Rogers, Sunnyland Slim, Memphis Minnie, Big Crawford, and Floyd and Moody Jones were all in attendance, among others. Over time this session became famous for the unbridled enthusiasm and intense delivery of the performance on both parts of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” with Muddy, Baby Face, and Little...

      (pp. 98-117)

      In 1952 the Muddy Waters band was the hottest thing on the Chess record label, and the group went out to promote the singles that Muddy had on the charts. On this particular tour, they went outside of their customary gig itinerary and traveled to the Deep South, into the Mississippi Delta region, covering juke joints and radio stations in various parts of Mississippi and Louisiana. Their last recording session provided a rare opportunity for Little Walter to take the lead on two tunes—one instrumental and one vocal feature. Jimmy reflected on the casual attitude that both he and...

      (pp. 118-136)

      What led to Jimmy’s distancing himself from Leonard Chess? Maybe it was his mounting frustration with the pressure from the label to follow the beat of acts who were brought in to lead the way toward the emergence of the new rock ’n’ roll groove. Maybe it was the ever expanding gulf that lay between himself and Leonard, with Chess constantly holding back almost every tune Jimmy put in the can. Maybe the harrowing thirteen-take session when he recorded “Blues All Day Long” was the final straw. Or maybe he was just fed up with the fact that several others,...


      (pp. 139-156)

      When asked whether there were any extenuating circumstances beyond money that drove Jimmy Rogers away from the music business, he replied, “No, the financial reasons, that’s all. It wasn’t enough in it for me with the family I had. So I had to do something to make some heavy money, that’s what I’d need. With a family like I had, you can’t be playin’ around.”¹ He knew that his change in direction would have an immediate impact on those around him, including the sidemen he used for the nucleus of his band. Jimmy added, “I wasn’t doin’ any gigging because...

      (pp. 157-180)

      When word hit the streets that Jimmy was back on the scene and ready to hit the road, musicians and promoters rallied around him, offering him work from all directions. They’d missed him, and not just his playing. Jimmy had always maintained good relations with his comrades and was widely regarded as a man with integrity. And people were always fond of that huge smile of his. “They was all worryin’ me about hittin’ the road again, Sunnyland Slim, Dixon, all these guys,” Jimmy said shyly.

      They said, “ Man, come on back out here and help us,” you know....

      (pp. 181-207)

      Jimmy’s simple tastes were reflected in how he lived and how he played. While the latest rage of the 1970s seemed to involve cranking the amps up and blasting away at the guitar while “squeezing the strings,” Jimmy stuck to the basic approach he had consistently maintained throughout his performing career: his style was embedded in the interplay that lay between either two guitars, guitar and piano, or guitar and harmonica. Simply put, he liked to play off the other guy. “I always would use a second guitar when I had my own group,” Jimmy said. “It’s pretty hard to...

    • 10 FEELIN’ GOOD
      (pp. 208-236)

      In Chicago, Jimmy Rogers held court in local clubs with his usual lineup of musicians, which included Joe Berson on harp, Big Moose Walker on piano, Left Hand Frank Craig on guitar, Right Hand Frank Bandy on bass, and S. P. Leary on drums. The band took a few short tours throughout the Midwest during the late 1970s, but by the time the ’80s arrived, the East Coast fully embraced the music they’d largely ignored during the ’50s. “There was a huge interest in blues for a while here in this area,” said bassist Michael “Mudcat” Ward, a well-known musician...

    • 11 OUT ON THE ROAD
      (pp. 237-260)

      Back in Boston, Jimmy was still rolling with his East Coast crew, gathering momentum up and down the coast. Local bassist Mudcat Ward was a permanent fixture among Boston’s elite bluesmen. “With Jimmy, we played weddings and private parties—this is all during the middle ’80s—they were good-paying gigs,” Mudcat said. “He’d come two or three times a year.” What Jimmy had now was a series of regular engagements that provided a stable income he could depend upon when he wasn’t doing major tours. But it didn’t start out that way. “At first he came up trying to find...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  8. PART III. FATHERS AND SONS (1989–1997)

      (pp. 263-290)

      In November 1989Chicago Tribunenewspaper reporter Dan Kening mentioned that a new Jimmy Rogers LP would be forthcoming.¹ Indeed, Clifford Antone had decided to make his club the centerpiece for Jimmy’s next album project. He put Kim Wilson in charge of producing the record. Clifford clearly thought Wilson was the perfect choice to oversee the project, and Kim was ecstatic to be the chosen one. “Jimmy’s and Muddy’s music—even more than the Thunderbirds—that was my stompin’ grounds,” Kim said. “Because it was harmonica music.”²

      Kim gave the project his full attention and produced one of the finest...

      (pp. 291-309)

      The year 1996 turned out to be another exciting one for Jimmy. He was seventytwo years old and still going strong. In early February he and his band had a gig in St. Louis. John May, a prominent local club owner, was instrumental in serving as liaison between local musicians and blues acts that came through the city of St. Louis. It was May’s idea to hire harp player Keith Doder and his Blue City Band to open for Jimmy at a club called Off Broadway. Doder wanted to be a part of Jimmy’s group, but the harp chair was...

    • 14 LONG GONE
      (pp. 310-316)

      Jimmy D. Lane’s albumLegacywas released in 1998, just months after Jimmy’s passing. The lengthy liner notes accompanying the CD read like an autobiography. The homage to his beloved father was bittersweet, with Jimmy D. reminiscing about growing up in a household where blues legends routinely dropped by. “When I grew up, Louis and Dave Myers, Robert Junior [Lockwood], Johnny Littlejohn, Muddy, Big Walter, and Wolf would all come over to the house, set up and jam. They’d have jam sessions, chicken sessions and fish sessions [laughs]. I feel real proud and lucky that I was able to be...

    (pp. 317-318)

    The words above were delivered by Alex Thomas at the dedication of a Mississippi Blues Trail marker on behalf of Jimmy Rogers in Ruleville on Friday, November 4, 2011. In a fitting gesture, the Film and Tourism Development Bureau of the Mississippi Development Authority placed the 144th marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail in Sunflower County in Jimmy’s honor.¹

    Thomas, program manager for the bureau, began the ceremonies by saying, “The blues trail gives us an opportunity to learn about this history and heritage that has happened in our own backyard. This is another historic day for Mississippi.” After Ruleville...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 319-350)
    (pp. 351-364)
    (pp. 365-374)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 375-388)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 389-400)