I’ve been reflecting on my influences lately and will write about them from time to time. We always tend to end up where we started; in life you end up as you age, looking and acting like your parents. In music you go back to the first things you listened to whatever path you since have traveled.
The 1950s Louisiana style of blues was and still is a huge influence on me and I’m sure on all my contemporaries too.
Younger musicians are are also hip to that music these days.
The style is well documented and easily within every listeners grasp.
Slim Harpo immediately comes to mind when talking of “swamp blues” because he had the mainstream hits but Lightning Slim was a big star too: The Rolling Stones covered one of Lightning’s songs on the Blue & Lonesome album.
I don’t recall “swamp blues” being a moniker back when I was first listening to that kind of blues.
I saw Slim Harpo play in the late ‘60’s at The Whiskey a Go Go on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. He was on tour and he sounded great playing his 335 guitar with his harp in a harness. It was a memory I’ll never forget. He was a king for sure
There were other artists in the genre that didn’t quite have the allure of either of the two Slim’s. Of those other artists, Lazy Lester stands out as a very important influence on me during the 1960’s and I think of him and listen to his blues music today.
Lester also was an early influence on the first wave of R n B bands in the UK during the 1962/63 period although these days he is largely forgotten and certainly isn’t a mainstream name among blues artists.
Perhaps one of the reasons for his unfamiliarity is that he quit playing music for a lot of years starting in the sixties at an important time when blues was re emerging into mainstream pop music. It took a long time for him to resurface.
There is also a definite Jimmy Reed approach to his music that could draw comparisons but that applies to so many, then and now.
What makes Lester, in my mind, an A lister is that he had memorable songs; songs indeed covered by many other artists. Memorable songs are what we leave as part of our legacy. Some of us are lucky just to have one song. Lazy had a few. The first song that comes to my mind would be “Sugar Coated Love”. I nearly covered that song with the band back in the early 1970’s.
Although I grew up listening to electric harmonica, which was the progressive sound back then, I actually am drawn to acoustic harp playing. Lester played like that; simple, unadorned into or through a vocal microphone.
Lazy Lester died not so long ago and there seems to be very little live footage of him on the Internet. What I’ve seen is very low key; reflecting his personality I would imagine. His lack of ego, from what I’ve read, was one of his strong points.
He remains one of my favorite harp players. He’s a fine singer and songwriter in the Louisiana blues tradition. I’m sure he’ll continue to be one who’ll be cherished by blues fans as time moves on.
Think I’ll go now and play a few of his harp licks……….