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Blues Unlimited - The Radio Show

Updated 6 days ago

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Join us as we explore the wonderful world of the Blues, and its history, heritage, and rich cultural traditions.

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Join us as we explore the wonderful world of the Blues, and its history, heritage, and rich cultural traditions.

iTunes Ratings

36 Ratings
Average Ratings
33
3
0
0
0

Great show ... on hiatus?

By Leon Luap - Sep 28 2019
Read more
Is Sleepy Boy Hawkins taking a break? No new shows for a while. Hope he’s OK ...

Great show

By slit lip - May 19 2016
Read more
Just found this and I dig it. Do you ever plan on doing a show on jump blues?

iTunes Ratings

36 Ratings
Average Ratings
33
3
0
0
0

Great show ... on hiatus?

By Leon Luap - Sep 28 2019
Read more
Is Sleepy Boy Hawkins taking a break? No new shows for a while. Hope he’s OK ...

Great show

By slit lip - May 19 2016
Read more
Just found this and I dig it. Do you ever plan on doing a show on jump blues?
Cover image of Blues Unlimited - The Radio Show

Blues Unlimited - The Radio Show

Latest release on Jul 29, 2019

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 6 days ago

Rank #1: Take No Prisoners: The Monster Guitar of Pete Lewis, 1947-1960 (Hour 2)

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“Blues Unlimited: The Complete Radio Show Transcripts, Volume 3” was the #2 new release at Amazon for Music Reference and was a top ten new release in Music History & Criticism this past weekend! Now available in the Amazon Kindle Store at https://tinyurl.com/y4pwwr2f and from Barnes & Noble at https://tinyurl.com/y64jdbrp

While the name Johnny Otis is certainly synonymous with West Coast R&B, and borders on what many people would call a household name, his one-time guitar player, Pete Lewis, is a virtual unknown whose life is shrouded in mystery.

Apparently, Johnny Otis "discovered" Pete Lewis at his Barrelhouse Club, in 1947, during one of the regular Thursday night talent shows. He went on to hire Lewis to be a part of his band, in what would mark an almost ten year relationship. Legend has it that Lewis came to California by way of his birthplace, now thought to be Oklahoma City, in the year 1913 (previously it was thought to be Louisiana, which we now know to be in error).

What Pete Lewis did prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, was that he was a guitar player like no other. A disciple of T-Bone Walker, he took the electric guitar to new heights, offering sophisticated turns of phrase that bordered on jazz-inflected, to low-down gut bucket riffs that were unceremoniously wrenched out of his instrument — sometimes, all in the same song, or if need be, in the short space of a twelve-bar solo. His playing is at once, crisp, precise, and gritty — not to mention endlessly inventive — the perfect compliment to Otis' rocking big band.

From what we can gather, Lewis must have been something of a character. One anecdote, related in the book “Midnight at the Barrelhouse,” is that during a time of incessant touring, he arbitrarily one day decided to stop talking to his boss, Johnny Otis. After about a year had passed, he suddenly resumed talking to him, as if nothing had ever happened.

One member of the Otis band — a legend in his own right, tenor sax icon Ben Webster — admired Pete's playing, and the story goes that the two of them roomed together while out on the road (Be sure to listen for a couple of inspired duets between the two of them near the end of the first hour).

Although reports vary to the exact date, sometime around 1956, Johnny Otis and Pete Lewis parted company for good. Rumor has it that it was Lewis' problems with alcohol that lead to Otis seeking a replacement, which he found with yet another young and inspired talent, Jimmy Nolen.

Thanks to cracker-jack research detective Rob Ford, we happen to know that Pete Lewis was still playing guitar in the clubs of Los Angeles as late as 1962. After that, details start to get murky. According Johnny Otis, the last time he saw Pete Lewis, it was shortly after the L.A. riots of 1966. In the intervening years since he’d last seen him, Lewis had become a wino, apparently living on the streets. Lewis died a short time later, in 1970, at the age of 57. A sad and ironic end to a man whose guitar playing took no prisoners, and had few equals.

Photo of Pete "Guitar" Lewis courtesy of Ace Records/Johnny Otis Collection.

This episode is available commercial free and in its original full-fidelity high quality audio exclusively to our subscribers at Bandcamp. Your annual subscription of $27 a year will go directly to support this radio show, and you’ll gain INSTANT DOWNLOAD ACCESS to this and more than 170 other episodes from our extensive archive as well. More info is at http://bluesunlimited.bandcamp.com/subscribe

May 28 2019

58mins

Play

Rank #2: Take No Prisoners: The Monster Guitar of Pete Lewis, 1947-1960 (Hour 1)

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“Blues Unlimited: The Complete Radio Show Transcripts, Volume 3” was the #2 new release at Amazon for Music Reference and was a top ten new release in Music History & Criticism this past weekend! Now available in the Amazon Kindle Store at https://tinyurl.com/y4pwwr2f and from Barnes & Noble at https://tinyurl.com/y64jdbrp

If you were going to make a list of all the West Coast guitar players, the name of Pete Lewis might very well be at the top. Joining up with Johnny Otis, his fiery fretwork sparked dozens of sides by Otis, and a host of others, from the late 1940s through the mid 1950s. A tribute to Pete "Guitar" Lewis, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Photo of Pete "Guitar" Lewis courtesy of Ace Records/Johnny Otis Collection.

This episode is available commercial free and in its original full-fidelity high quality audio exclusively to our subscribers at Bandcamp. Your annual subscription of $27 a year will go directly to support this radio show, and you’ll gain INSTANT DOWNLOAD ACCESS to this and more than 170 other episodes from our extensive archive as well. More info is at http://bluesunlimited.bandcamp.com/subscribe

May 28 2019

1hr

Play

Rank #3: Blues On a Summer's Day: Newport Blues & Gospel 1958-1960 (Hour 1)

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The eBook version of “The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James” is now on sale! Available from the Amazon Kindle Store at https://tinyurl.com/yy6vlsv3 and from Apple Books at https://tinyurl.com/y4ql53s2

NOTE: As a special service to our listeners, we are making some of the older episodes from our archive available for the first time in many years. Please note that — as time allows — we will be redoing almost all the episodes from our “first season” (this one included). In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this “blast from the past!” And, as always, thanks for listening!

On this episode of Blues Unlimited — our fourth and last installment paying tribute to the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals — we take a look at some of the fantastic Blues, R&B, and Gospel that was recorded live on stage at the iconic Newport, Rhode Island festival between the years of 1958 through 1960. We'll hear great, rare and classic performances from Ray Charles, Memphis Slim, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Mahalia Jackson, Big Joe Turner, and more.

Pictured: Program for the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, which included performances by John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.

Are you looking for ways to promote your band’s latest release, product, business, or service? Advertise on the podcast that’s been downloaded over one million times, and reach a global audience of blues lovers! Contact us at bluesunlimited at gmail dot com for more details!

This episode is available commercial free and in its original full-fidelity high quality audio exclusively to our subscribers at Bandcamp. Your annual subscription of $27 a year will go directly to support this radio show, and you’ll gain INSTANT DOWNLOAD ACCESS to this and more than 170 other episodes from our extensive archive as well. More info is at http://bluesunlimited.bandcamp.com/subscribe

Jul 02 2019

59mins

Play

Rank #4: R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 1) (Hour 1)

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We’re pleased to say that all three volumes of Blues Unlimited: The Complete Radio Show Transcripts have now been published as eBooks! They’re available from Apple Books at https://tinyurl.com/y4rceu7b - Barnes & Noble at https://tinyurl.com/yxkvx6rl - and also available in the Kindle Store from Amazon at https://tinyurl.com/yyuwxbla (And please keep in mind that every dollar from every purchase will help keep an independent voice in blues radio alive and well! And we thank you!)

In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program (the first of three) we dive head first into "The Heroes of the Blues." Among the featured artists on this program are Peg Leg Howell, Blind Blake, Frank Stokes, Jaybird Coleman, Blind Willie Johnson, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Lemon Jefferson, the Mississippi Sheiks, and more.

Pictured: One of the "Heroes of the Blues" featured on this episode. Illustration by R. Crumb.

Are you looking for ways to promote your band’s latest release, product, business, or service? Advertise on the podcast that’s been downloaded over one million times, and reach a global audience of blues lovers! Contact us at bluesunlimited at gmail dot com for more details!

This episode is available commercial free and in its original full-fidelity high quality audio exclusively to our subscribers at Bandcamp. Your annual subscription of $27 a year will go directly to support this radio show, and you’ll gain INSTANT DOWNLOAD ACCESS to this and more than 170 other episodes from our extensive archive as well. More info is at http://bluesunlimited.bandcamp.com/subscribe

Jun 11 2019

58mins

Play

Rank #5: This Week in Blues History - July 8-14

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“The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James” is the #1 New Release at the Amazon Kindle Store for Blues Books. On sale NOW at https://tinyurl.com/yy6vlsv3 (Amazon) and at https://tinyurl.com/y4ql53s2 (Apple Books)

“This Week in Blues History” aims the spotlight on important recordings, artists, and events from the golden era of the blues. This time, we profile guitarist Blue Smitty, who cut his only session for Chess Records, this week in 1952.

“This Week in Blues History” is available commercial free to our bandcamp subscribers! More info -- including how to get instant access to more than 170 episodes of Blues Unlimited -- that’s over 340 hours worth of entertainment -- is at http://bluesunlimited.bandcamp.com/subscribe

Jul 08 2019

4mins

Play

Rank #6: Chicago Blues Harmonica 1945-1955 (Hour 2)

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“The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James” is the #1 New Release at the Amazon Kindle Store for Blues Books. On sale now at https://tinyurl.com/yy6vlsv3 (Amazon) and at https://tinyurl.com/y4ql53s2 (Apple Books)

As a special treat to our listeners, here’s another blast from the archives that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser. Enjoy! —SBH.

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we take a look at some of the great harmonica wizards that were a mainstay of the Chicago Blues scene. Beginning with 'The Chairman of the Board' – John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, who was pretty much responsible for putting the harmonica on the Windy City Blues map in the first place – and continuing on up through the early recordings of Little Walter, Snooky Pryor, Junior Wells, and Big Walter Horton, it's a veritable feast of Harmonica Blues, as we pull out some of the finest waxings the Windy City had to offer, including some rare gems and a look at some of the 'lesser knowns' who were a part of the scene as well.

Pictured: Little Walter, the King of Chicago Blues Harmonica.

Are you looking for ways to promote your band’s latest release, product, business, or service? Advertise on the podcast that’s been downloaded over one million times, and reach a global audience of blues lovers! Contact us at bluesunlimited at gmail dot com for more details!

This episode is available commercial free and in its original full-fidelity high quality audio exclusively to our subscribers at Bandcamp. Your annual subscription of $27 a year will go directly to support this radio show, and you’ll gain INSTANT DOWNLOAD ACCESS to this and more than 170 other episodes from our extensive archive as well. More info is at http://bluesunlimited.bandcamp.com/subscribe

Jul 08 2019

56mins

Play

Rank #7: R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 3) (Hour 2)

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The eBook version of “The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James” will officially be released July 1st, 2019. Available from the Amazon Kindle Store at https://tinyurl.com/yy6vlsv3 and from Apple Books at https://tinyurl.com/y4ql53s2

In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program we finish up our exploration of "The Heroes of the Blues" with music from Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell, Son House, Peetie Wheatstraw, Memphis Minnie, and more.

Pictured: One of the "Heroes of the Blues" featured on this episode. Illustration by R. Crumb.

Sleepy Boy Hawkins - in the flesh! - will be making an appearance at the first ever Bainbridge Island Museum of Art’s Mojo Rhythm & Blues Festival! All the details you need to know, right here: https://tinyurl.com/yx9k9sbs

Are you looking for ways to promote your band’s latest release, product, business, or service? Advertise on the podcast that’s been downloaded over one million times, and reach a global audience of blues lovers! Contact us at bluesunlimited at gmail dot com for more details!

This episode is available commercial free and in its original full-fidelity high quality audio exclusively to our subscribers at Bandcamp. Your annual subscription of $27 a year will go directly to support this radio show, and you’ll gain INSTANT DOWNLOAD ACCESS to this and more than 170 other episodes from our extensive archive as well. More info is at http://bluesunlimited.bandcamp.com/subscribe

Jun 25 2019

1hr

Play

Rank #8: Smash Hits of the Late 1940s (Hour 2)

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Join us as we count our way down through the biggest #1 R&B hits of the late 1940s. It was a period dominated by Blues shouters, wailing saxes, and piano-playing balladeers -- and Louis Jordan was king of the charts. But times were a changing, with independent record producers making inroads into previously uncharted waters.

One iconic record that helped pave the way for what would become the burgeoning independent record scene of the late 1940s was "I Wonder," by Private Cecil Gant. It was just the right record, at just the right time, hitting upon the zeitgeist of World War II and homesick soldiers who would soon be stationed "a million miles away" from their gal back home. The original version was recorded in June 1944 by Leroy Hurte for his independent Bronze label, but when Hurte couldn't keep up with demand, it was quietly recorded again, for yet another independent label, Gilt-Edge. And as events played out, it was Gilt-Edge — not Bronze — that had the Billboard smash hit with it. It was such a huge seller that Gilt-Edge had trouble keeping up with orders as well, even into the early days of March 1945, months after its release.

But it set the record industry on its ear, so to speak. As a massive hit with broad crossover appeal, it was a clarion call to the newly emerging independent record industry that success was possible in a market mostly dominated by the major labels up until that time.

By far, though, Louis Jordan was one of the biggest stars of the era, turning in almost 50 top ten performances on the Billboard charts between 1942 and late 1949, with most of those making it into the top 5, or higher. With cleverly crafted songs and a band that cooked, it's pretty easy to see how he would go on to influence Rhythm & Blues rockers like Chuck Berry the following decade (One main difference between the '40s and the '50s? Louis Jordan's instrument of choice was the saxophone. Chuck Berry wielded an electric guitar.... need we say more?).

To come up with our list of the biggest #1 R&B hits of the late 1940s, we devised a special super-secret formula, giving weight to the number of weeks a record was on the Billboard charts, with bonus points given for number of weeks held in the top position. After hearing the show and seeing the playlist, however, some might wonder why some all time classics didn't make the cut.

One of the most widely heard records of the late 1940s had to be "Open The Door, Richard!" by Jack McVea. Essentially a comedy record cut for the L.A.-based Black & White label, it entered the charts on February 8th, 1947, but only enjoyed a seven week run, topping out at number two, where it stayed for two weeks. "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee," Stick McGhee's homage to good times and cheap booze that helped put a fledgling Atlantic Records on the map, befell a similar fate. After a healthy run of 23 weeks on the charts, it stalled out at number two (a position it held for four weeks), but was unable to penetrate the grasp of three of the hugest hits of the decade that were making a run on the charts at exactly the same time -- "The Hucklebuck" by Paul Williams, "Trouble Blues," by Charles Brown, and "Ain't Nobody's Business," by Jimmy Witherspoon. And speaking of classics by Charles Brown, "Drifting Blues" -- cut in 1946 with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, and one of his most widely covered songs -- hit a similar brick wall when it ran up against Lionel Hampton's version of "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop," which was enjoying a 16 week run at the top slot that spring and summer. On the charts for 23 weeks, "Drifting Blues" finally topped out at number two, for two weeks.

Although Billboard chart statistics don't always tell us "the whole story" (so to speak), in any case, here are the hits that a generation of R&B fans danced to, heard on the radio, sung along to, and put their nickels in juke boxes all across America to hear again, and again, and again. Join us then, as we count our way down through the biggest #1 R&B hit records of the late 1940s.

Pictured: At 32 weeks on the charts, “The Hucklebuck,” by Paul Williams, was one of the biggest hits of the decade.

This episode is available commercial free and in its original full-fidelity high quality audio exclusively to our subscribers at Bandcamp. Your annual subscription of $27 a year will go directly to support this radio show, and you’ll gain INSTANT DOWNLOAD ACCESS to this and more than 170 other episodes from our extensive archive as well. More info is at http://bluesunlimited.bandcamp.com/subscribe

Jun 05 2019

59mins

Play

Rank #9: R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 1) (Hour 2)

Podcast cover
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We’re pleased to say that all three volumes of Blues Unlimited: The Complete Radio Show Transcripts have now been published as eBooks! They’re available from Apple Books at https://tinyurl.com/y4rceu7b - Barnes & Noble at https://tinyurl.com/yxkvx6rl - and also available in the Kindle Store from Amazon at https://tinyurl.com/yyuwxbla (And please keep in mind that every dollar from every purchase will help keep an independent voice in blues radio alive and well! And we thank you!)

In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program (the first of three) we dive head first into "The Heroes of the Blues." Among the featured artists on this program are Peg Leg Howell, Blind Blake, Frank Stokes, Jaybird Coleman, Blind Willie Johnson, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Lemon Jefferson, the Mississippi Sheiks, and more.

Pictured: One of the "Heroes of the Blues" featured on this episode. Illustration by R. Crumb.

Are you looking for ways to promote your band’s latest release, product, business, or service? Advertise on the podcast that’s been downloaded over one million times, and reach a global audience of blues lovers! Contact us at bluesunlimited at gmail dot com for more details!

This episode is available commercial free and in its original full-fidelity high quality audio exclusively to our subscribers at Bandcamp. Your annual subscription of $27 a year will go directly to support this radio show, and you’ll gain INSTANT DOWNLOAD ACCESS to this and more than 170 other episodes from our extensive archive as well. More info is at http://bluesunlimited.bandcamp.com/subscribe

Jun 11 2019

1hr 1min

Play

Rank #10: This Week on BU - Movin' & Groovin' to the Hammond B3 (Hour 1)

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“The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James” was the #1 New Release at the Amazon Kindle Store for Blues Books. On sale now at https://tinyurl.com/yy6vlsv3 (Amazon) and at https://tinyurl.com/y4ql53s2 (Apple Books)

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we're movin' and groovin' to the sounds of the Hammond B3 organ. Popular in Jazz, Blues, R&B, Soul, and Gospel, we'll celebrate the history of this hit making instrument over the years, with rarities from Sam Lazar and J.C. Davis, plus all time classics from Bill Doggett, Booker T. & the MG's, Jimmy McGriff, and more.

Pictured: Hit maker for Stax Records, Booker T. Jones.

Are you looking for ways to promote your band’s latest release, product, business, or service? Advertise on the podcast that’s been downloaded over one million times, and reach a global audience of blues lovers! Contact us at bluesunlimited at gmail dot com for more details!

This episode is available commercial free and in its original full-fidelity high quality audio exclusively to our subscribers at Bandcamp. Your annual subscription of $27 a year will go directly to support this radio show, and you’ll gain INSTANT DOWNLOAD ACCESS to this and more than 170 other episodes from our extensive archive as well. More info is at http://bluesunlimited.bandcamp.com/subscribe

Jul 08 2019

1hr 2mins

Play