Willie KING – Jukin’ at Betties 2004

Willie KING – Jukin’ at Betties 2004


Recorded live at Mississippi juke joint Bettie’s Place and nominated for the 2006 Blues Music Award “Traditionl Album of the Year.”
Willie King was born in Prairie Point, MS, in 1943, and raised in Alabama. After his father left the home, Willie and his siblings were raised by his grandparents, who were local sharecroppers. Music was important to the King family – Willie’s grandfather was a gospel singer, and his absent father was an amateur blues musician. Young Willie made his first guitar, a diddley bo, by nailing a baling wire to a tree in the yard. By age 9, he had a one-string guitar that he could bring indoors to play at night.In 1967, Willie King moved to Chicago in an attempt to make more money than he could down South. He also spent a lot of time with the great blues performers of the 50’s including Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, who along with John Lee Hooker have been King’s greatest influences. After a year spent on the West and South Sides, he returned to Old Memphis, Alabama, just across the border from the Mississippi Prairie. A salesman – of shoes, cologne, and other frivolities – Willie traveled the rural roads hawking goods and talking politics. Choosing not to work under the “old system” of unequal treatment, King joined the civil rights movement near the end of the decade.
In 1987, a chance meeting at a festival in Eutaw, Alabama, blew Rooster Blues founder Jim O’Neal away: According to O’Neal, King’s “juke-joint musical style and political lyrics knocked me down.” The two kept in touch for the next 13 years, during which O’Neal relocated his label, and King concentrated on his own community, forging relationships with local youth through a blues education program, through his organization The Rural Members Association.

The Rural Members Association has sponsored classes in music, woodworking, food preservation, and other African-American traditions, and has provided transportation, legal assistance, and other services for the needy over the past two decades. In recent years he’s been sponsoring a festival on the creek, which is known as The Freedom Creek Festival. Willie explains, “We was targetin’ at tryin’ to get all walks of life, different people to come down and kinda be with us in reality down there, you know. Let’s get back to reality, in the woods . . . mix and mingle . . . get to know each other. Get up to have a workin’ relationship, try to bring peace . . .”

“Freedom Creek,” Willie King’s debut album on Rooster Blues Records, was King’s powerful introduction into the wider music and blues world. Not only was the album acclaimed by critics worldwide, it also received awards from Living Blues Magazine for Best Male Blues Artist (2001), Best Blues Album (2000) and Best Contemporary Blues Album (2000).

King’s follow up, “Living In a New World”, is nothing short of spectacular. Produced by Jim O’Neal and recorded at Easley Studio in Memphis, the album reminds the listener of Curtis Mayfield while allowing RL Burnside fans to rejoice as well. This CD won Living Blues Magazine awards for Best Song and Best Cover Art, and W. C. Handy nominations for Traditional Blues Album of the Year and Blues Song of the Year.

In addition to the two CD’s on the Rooster Blues label, Willie has previously released two independently recorded CDs – “Walkin’ the Walk, Talkin’ the Talk” which was recorded with local Alabama bluesman “Birmingham” George Conner, and the widely acclaimed” I Am The Blues.”

Rocking juke joint blues from award-winning Alabama bluesman Willie King. Recorded live at his favorite venue, Bettie’s Place, down a dirt road in rural Mississippi, Bettie’s Place has been described by Living Blues Magazine as “one of the best juke joints in the state,” and King has been playing there regularly for many years.
This CD is produced by Willie King and Rick Asherson, his harmonica and keyboard player from London, England. Bettie’s Place has featured in several documentaries, including Martin Scorsese’s film about the blues “Feel Like Coming Home,” and it was during this film shoot that King and Asherson connected with the outstanding sound engineer Sam Watson. Between them they have produced a ripping, rolling, rollicking CD that captures King’s down-home juke joint blues in it’s original and authentic setting.
01. Jukin’ At Bettie’s 6:18
02. It Takes a Good Woman 8:08
03. That’s What the Blues Is All About 4:29
04. Troubles to the Wind 8:14
05. Don’t Blame It On Me 8:24
06. The Real Deal 6:57
07. Systematic Train 6:59
08. Back to the Woods 6:36

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