The Gitfiddlers

EJR_02S_12ST.QXTWith his album Born Under a Bad Sign Albert King did something unusual amongst bluesmen: he made some pretty good money.  Also the subject of glowing reviews, Born Under a Bad Sign is an album of hooks and whimsical lyrics in tidy packages that ultimately sounds too commercial. Not so with an album he did with Stevie Ray Vaughan.  There we feel like we’re eavesdropping on something that would have happened regardless of recording equipment.  It’s two guitar masters – or gitfiddlers – playing not for the audience, but for each other.  It’s fun to hear the talk between tracks as King takes on the role of the old blues prophet ceding his mantle to the up-and-comer.  He makes Stevie Ray promise not to get complacent, saying “you’re already [half-pause] pretty good.”

Yup, he was pretty good. Does Stevie Ray play the guitar, or does the guitar play him? It’s hard to tell sometimes.  I have this fanciful theory about how the ancient Greeks would occasionally see someone whose talents so exceeded other mortals that they were inspired to make up gods, super-skilled beings who otherwise retained the foibles and weaknesses of men. Well, if Stevie Ray was born in ancient Greece there would be a guitar god, who, as a bluesman, would probably be in a few stories with Aphrodite, always ending with another reason to write a blues song.

One of Albert King’s stories is about a never-confirmed impromptu recording session.  He and another guitarist who happened to be in the same club at the same time decided to get together to play some blues, but not without “The Queen,” Janis Joplin. “Janis had a little glass.  She always had [half-pause] a little glass, God rest her soul.”  The other guitar player for that session was Jimi Hendrix.  Now, a lot of us associate Jimi Hendrix with feedback & flash, as well as a tendency toward undisciplined indulgence.  That’s not the Jimi Hendrix you see here:

At first Hendrix didn’t know what to do when handed the 1960 Zemaitis, strung left-handed especially for him. He began picking only when the producer told him to play a “short, quiet” blues, in contrast to his image as a stormy rocker.

After less than a minute Hendrix stopped playing the Zemaitis, admitted he was “scared to death,” and asked for another try. For the next four minutes, even after the film ran out, he performed an inspired version of “Hear My Train A Comin’.”

Hendrix ends the clip asking “You didn’t think I’d do that?” Bet you didn’t.


Filed under Blues

7 responses to “The Gitfiddlers

  1. I remember having this discussion at the Confessional Outhouse many moons ago. I now cannot stop howling at the moon. I always liked the Allman Brothers version of Stormy Monday better than anyone else’s. Stevie Ray is an impressive guitar player but the mood of the song is captured better by the Allman Brothers in my opinion.

    • Yeazel,we all have a right to our opinions. Having said that, some exercise that right better than others… Anyway, we tend to like the first rendition of a song we’ve heard, and can also associate any number of memories with a particular version. The Allman Brothers were the best of the southern rock bands, but I hope you aren’t under the impression that Albert King would invite Dickey Betts to cut a blues album with him. I’m just talkin’ smack, albeit justified smack. Thanks for the comparison.

      • I’m not so sure Albert King would’nt invite Dickey Betts to cut a blues album with him (where are you getting your information MM?)- although I think Dickey is no longer with us. He died in a motorcycle accident on the same street as the other Allman brother. if I remember correctly it was on the same day of the same month of the year- only a year later. You need to lay off the smack- it is unbecoming of a man of your stature.

        What’s up with the Celtics? I told you they were going to get rid of Pierce or Garnett. That will be happening soon my friend. I was just a little early with the forecast. They are both about done and with the Rondo injury they will have to bear a bigger burden and lose their legs even quicker.

      • You’re musically incorrigible.

        While the Rondo injury effectively brings to an end any championship dreams in the Garnett era, I still doubt they’ll unload Pierce or Garnett. The Celts are in a tough place now. Garnett and Pierce, as mid-30’s guys with big paychecks, just aren’t going to get much return in a trade. The Celtic assets with the most trade value are Rondo, Sullinger, and Bradley, but that’s their future. We may be on the edge of a dark era in Celts basketball – hopefully not as low as the John Y. Brown or Rick Pitino stints.

  2. You always have to go low with your blows, MM. Have you ever once said something favorably about me! Maybe I just ask for it due to my comments about you Calvinists. I do read and appreciate Calvin you know. Even though I don’t agree with how he frames the perseverance of the saints doctrine and a few other doctrines. I am glad to be getting comments from you again. And I love Blue’s Friday’s at PB- just like Scott Clark does.

    • JY we’ve been over this before: if I didn’t know you or didn’t like you I’d be coolly polite. So you need only worry if I start being nice to you.
      Yours truly,

  3. What a guy MM- you do make me laugh and that is a good thing.

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