Lightnin´ HOPKINS – Sings the Blues 1961

Lightnin´ HOPKINS – Sings the Blues  1961
All tracks was recorded in Houston 1949-1950
Thx To *Chriss*


Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins was born on March 15, 1912 in Centerville, Texas. In 1920, Hopkins met and — at age 8 — played with the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson. For a short time, he later became Jefferson’s guide. Hopkins’ cousin, the great Texas bluesman Texas Alexander, was another influence as Hopkins played with Alexander. That partnership was broken up by Hopkins’ time in Houston’s County Prison Farm during the 30s.

When Hopkins made his way to Houston’s Third Ward in 1946, he was introduced to Lola Anne Cullum, a talent scout who had pieced together deals with companies such as Alladin Records out of Los Angeles. She paired up Hopkins with a piano player by the name of Wilson “Thunder” Smith and came up with the name “Lightnin'” as an obvious match. It stuck.

Hopkins had no little success with Katie May, cut on November 9, 1946. After that came a series on the Alladin label — Shotgun Blues, Short Haired Woman, Abilene and Big Mama Jump. The blues floodgate had opened. What followed was thirty plus years of albums on everything from small, obscure labels to big ones. The list includes Modern/RPM, Gold Star, Mercury, Jax, Decca and Herald. During this period he cut some of the most ferocious blues guitar mixed with what he told me were “air songs,” meaning those where he’d just pull the lyrics right out of the air on the spot.

Hopkins’ career faded until a folklorist by the name of Mack McCormick rediscovered Hopkins and presented him under the growing label of “folk artist.” It made no different to Lightnin’ what they called him, he played as he always had, working with Sam Charters on Folkway Records in 1959. The groundbreaking solo album was recorded by Charters in Hopkins’ apartment on a borrowed guitar. Again, Hopkins’ career was off and running “like a turkey through the corn.”

More albums than can be counted followed, including those on labels such as Candid, Arhoolie, Prestige, Verve, Jewel, World Pacific, Bluesville, Fire and Vee-Jay. For an upfront fee, the whiskey or gin flavored albums were often recorded by tiny, obscure one-person labels. Since Hopkins had the gift of the air song, he had no shortage of material. The songs would range from intense, deep tissue blues to some of the more surrealistic ever recorded as he reached for rhymes.

The archetypal story of Hopkins as a performer supposedly involved Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, then a young kid in a band around the corner from my band’s garage — The Moving Sidewalks. Supposedly, Gibbons heard Hopkins play at a coffeehouse and muttered, “He doesn’t even know when to change chords.” Hopkins was standing behind Gibbons, according to the story, and leaned forward and surprised the teenager with, “Lightnin’ change when Lightnin’ want to.”

Indeed, Hopkins had a bag of licks and patterns that fit largely into two divisions — slow E and Fast E (with an occasional venture into A). His rhythm and the chord changes go with his feelings at that moment in time and, as such, made it difficult for other musicians to follow. With a few exceptions, his solo recordings later in his life have that quirky sense to them and work well as opposed to hired bands that became hopelessly entangled, to quote a Hopkins song, “like a ball of twine.”

Hopkins didn’t do much of in the way of recording after 1974, his health fragile. I saw him one night at the Jewish Community Center in Houston where he performed a concert for a small, polite group in theater style seating. He played well, but the audience was polite and reserved. A half hour into the concert, in came a relative of Hopkins’ — I believe it was an elderly (even compared to Lightnin) uncle. The old man sat down on the front row and, with that, Hopkins seemed to come alive. The audience seemed to wake up as well and it moved into a rollicking evening.

Shortly later, Hopkins died in Houston on January 30, 1982.
By Christer Andersson “ChrisGoesRock.
Sam Hopkins was a Texas country bluesman of the highest caliber whose career began in the 1920s and stretched all the way into the 1980s. Along the way, Hopkins watched the genre change remarkably, but he never appreciably altered his mournful Lone Star sound, which translated onto both acoustic and electric guitar. Hopkins’ nimble dexterity made intricate boogie riffs seem easy, and his fascinating penchant for improvising lyrics to fit whatever situation might arise made him a beloved blues troubadour.
Hopkins’ brothers John Henry and Joel were also talented bluesmen, but it was Sam who became a star. In 1920, he met the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson at a social function, and even got a chance to play with him. Later, Hopkins served as Jefferson’s guide. In his teens, Hopkins began working with another pre-war great, singer Texas Alexander, who was his cousin. A mid-’30s stretch in Houston’s County Prison Farm for the young guitarist interrupted their partnership for a time, but when he was freed, Hopkins hooked back up with the older bluesman.

The pair was dishing out their lowdown brand of blues in Houston’s Third Ward in 1946 when talent scout Lola Anne Cullum came across them. She had already engineered a pact with Los Angeles-based Aladdin Records for another of her charges, pianist Amos Milburn, and Cullum saw the same sort of opportunity within Hopkins’ dusty country blues. Alexander wasn’t part of the deal; instead, Cullum paired Hopkins with pianist Wilson “Thunder” Smith, sensibly re-christened the guitarist “Lightnin’,” and presto! Hopkins was very soon an Aladdin recording artist.

“Katie May,” cut on November 9, 1946, in L.A. with Smith lending a hand on the 88s, was Lightnin’ Hopkins’ first regional seller of note. He recorded prolifically for Aladdin in both L.A. and Houston into 1948, scoring a national R&B hit for the firm with his “Shotgun Blues.” “Short Haired Woman,” “Abilene,” and “Big Mama Jump,” among many Aladdin gems, were evocative Texas blues rooted in an earlier era.

A load of other labels recorded the wily Hopkins after that, both in a solo context and with a small rhythm section: Modern/RPM (his uncompromising “Tim Moore’s Farm” was an R&B hit in 1949); Gold Star (where he hit with “T-Model Blues” that same year); Sittin’ in With (“Give Me Central 209” and “Coffee Blues” were national chart entries in 1952) and its Jax subsidiary; the major labels Mercury and Decca; and, in 1954, a remarkable batch of sides for Herald where Hopkins played blistering electric guitar on a series of blasting rockers (“Lightnin’s Boogie,” “Lightnin’s Special,” and the amazing “Hopkins’ Sky Hop”) in front of drummer Ben Turner and bassist Donald Cooks (who must have had bleeding fingers, so torrid were some of the tempos).

But Hopkins’ style was apparently too rustic and old-fashioned for the new generation of rock & roll enthusiasts (they should have checked out “Hopkins’ Sky Hop”). He was back on the Houston scene by 1959, largely forgotten. Fortunately, folklorist Mack McCormick rediscovered the guitarist, who was dusted off and presented as a folk-blues artist; a role that Hopkins was born to play. Pioneering musicologist Sam Charters produced Hopkins in a solo context for Folkways Records that same year, cutting an entire LP in Hopkins’ tiny apartment (on a borrowed guitar). The results helped introduced his music to an entirely new audience.

Lightnin’ Hopkins went from gigging at back-alley gin joints to starring at collegiate coffeehouses, appearing on TV programs, and touring Europe to boot. His once-flagging recording career went right through the roof, with albums for World Pacific; Vee-Jay; Bluesville; Bobby Robinson’s Fire label (where he cut his classic “Mojo Hand” in 1960); Candid; Arhoolie; Prestige; Verve; and, in 1965, the first of several LPs for Stan Lewis’ Shreveport-based Jewel logo.

Hopkins generally demanded full payment before he’d deign to sit down and record, and seldom indulged a producer’s desire for more than one take of any song. His singular sense of country time befuddled more than a few unseasoned musicians; from the 1960s on, his solo work is usually preferable to band-backed material.

Filmmaker Les Blank captured the Texas troubadour’s informal lifestyle most vividly in his acclaimed 1967 documentary, The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins. As one of the last great country bluesmen, Hopkins was a fascinating figure who bridged the gap between rural and urban styles.
By Bill Dahl. AMG.
01.Jake Head Boogie
02.Lonesome Dog Blues
03.Tell Me Pretty Mama
04.Las Affair
05.Don´t Keep My Baby Long
06.Santa Fe (Blues)
07.Give Me Back That Wig
08.Beggin´ You to Stay (aka Someday Blues)
09.Bad Luck and Trouble
10.Ticket Agent
11.War New Blues
12.Everyday I Have the Blues
13.Needed Time
14.One Kind Favor
15.Black Cat
16.Some Day Baby

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