Thursday, March 16, 2017

James Cotton RIP

James Cotton, one of the true greats of the blues, has reportedly died aged 82. Born in Tunica, Mississippi, James was inspired by Sonny Boy Williamson II and took over his band in the early 50's. Originally a drummer, he joined Howlin' Wolf's band as a harmonica player and made his first record for Sam Phillips at Sun in Memphis. Joining Muddy Waters' band in 1955 he became the band leader and stayed with them until 1965.He formed his own band, with Otis Spann on piano, and recorded an album for Vanguard. Later he recorded for Buddah and for Alligator and Blind Pig. Despite throat cancer he continued to tour and his final album in 2013, Cotton Mouth Man, included contributions by Gregg Allman, Ruthie Foster and Delbert McClinton, among others.
I saw James perform at Hopsons Plantation in Clarksdale and at the King Biscuit Festival in Helena on several occasions and despite his lack of mobility and vocal incapacity he always put on a good show. My photo shows him at King Biscuit in 2014.
Another death, at the young age of 60, is that of Joni Sledge, founder member of Philadelphia disco
group Sister Sledge. Formed in 1971 they enjoyed some success with 'Mama Never Told Me' and 'Love Don't Go Through No Changes With Me' but it was under the direction of Nile Rodgers that they hit the big time. 'He's The Greatest Dancer', 'We Are Family' and 'Lost In Music' were huge disco hits and their success continued into the 80's with 'All American Girls' and 'Frankie', a UK number one.


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