Friday, October 14, 2016

'You Don't Love Me, Baby' - Junior Wells

While at Bring Your Own Blues in Lansing, MI I was able to hear Mr. Harrison, a Lansing based blues band. The band was a welcome surprise.I'd never heard them before, or known them to play for dancers, but they are one of the most enjoyable blues bands I've heard in a long time. In part, I thoroughly enjoyed their breadth of blues sub-genres they played. Specifically, they played a cover of 'You Don't Love Me, Baby' by Junior Wells - a song I haven't heard covered by any other contemporary band, at least live (upon doing research Magic Sam has a fun version of this song, and the song itself is a cover of earlier artists such as Billie Cobb and Bo Diddley - though there is apparently some claim that Cobb covered a similar song by Diddley, but I digress).

This song is off of Junior Well's 1965 debut album, Hoodoo Man Blues. Personally, this is one of my favorite albums (along with Southside Blues Jam). This album was an early collaboration between Buddy Guy and Wells. The innovative album become one of Delmark Record's best sellers and has been included for preservation in the National Recording Registry, a list of sound recordings that "are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States."

Junior Wells himself moved to Chicago in 1948 with his mother from West Memphis, AK. He began playing for house parties and bars with the local musicians. Influenced by Little Walter, he played harmonica with an 'amplified style' that is on full display in Hoodoo Man Blues. On the cover of Hoodoo Man Blues, Wells tells the story of how he came to possess a harmonica: "I went to this pawnshop downtown and the man had a harmonica prices at $2.00. I got a job on a soda truck... played hookey from school ... worked all week and on Saturday the man gave me a dollar and a half. A dollar and a half! For a whole week of work. I went to the pawnshop and the man said the price was two dollars. I told him I had to have that harp. He walked away from the counter – left the harp there. So I laid my dollar-and-a-half on the counter and picked up the harp. When my trial came up, the judge asked me why I did it. I told him I had to have that harp. The judge asked me to play it and when I did he gave the man the 50 cents and hollered "Case dismissed!" (1948)

In 1952 he began to play and recorded a session with Muddy Waters for Chess Records. Wells went on to record several records including Southside Blues Jam, On Tap, and Come On In This House. He died in Chicago in 1998.

The song opens with Buddy Guy on the guitar, kicking into a high energy groove. Junior Wells comes in singing soon after. I love the energy of this song, the rhythm in the guitar, and the stops where the band drops out. The tempo also gradually increases as the song continues. Wells' harmonica comes in the last thirty or so seconds of the song.

Musicians on the album:

Junior Wells - Harmonica, Vocals
Buddy Guy - Guitar, Vocals
Jack Myers - Bass
Bill Warren - drums

Below are two additional versions of the song I think are worth a listen:

Bo Diddley - You Don't Love Me (You Don't Care)

Willie Cobb - You Don't Love Me

Junior Wells - You Don't Love Me, Baby


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