THE SALT OF THE EARTH

1950s-60s
Deep South electric blues

Though the Chicago style came to be its greatest representative around the world, electric blues in the 1950s and '60s was also developed into distinctive and popular styles in various other regions such as Memphis (B. B. King, Junior Parker), Texas (Lightnin' Hopkins, Hop Wilson) and Louisiana (Slim Harpo, Lonesome Sundown, Lightnin' Slim, Guitar Slim). Of these Louisiana blues, with its heavy reliance on echo, slower tempos and generally "swampish" feel, had an especially big importance on the Stones.
 
 

BUSTER BROWN  (1911-1976)

A Georgia native, Brown was a harmonica player who never made a recording until his late forties when he arrived in New York City in 1959 to record his one and only true hit, the classic Fanny Mae. He had a number of smaller hits in the early 60s before sinking into obscurity.

The Stones covered Fanny Mae onstage in 1965.
 
 

SLIM HARPO  (1924-1970)

Another great electric blues influence on the Stones, Harpo, however, was not from the Chicago scene and did not share a similar sound as the Chicago blues artists. He was born and lived in Louisiana and in the 1950s and the 1960s helped create a style that has been called electric Louisiana blues. A guitarist, vocalist and harmonica player who played songs in the deceptively simple way of Jimmy Reed, Harpo played a style, along with his Louisiana contemporaries Lazy Lester, Lonesome Sundown and Lightnin' Slim, that has also been called swamp blues. The music was definitely laidback in the style of Jimmy Reed, often featuring reverberating guitars and a slower rhythm and mood that gave it the name swamp blues, which also mixed in elements of other Louisiana music (calypso, gospel, R&B and soul). Not necessarily the most gifted of this genre, Harpo nevertheless had the most success. His records also caught on with white audiences the way few Chicago blues did, with the exception of Jimmy Reed. Harpo continued to have hits way into the 1960s, helped by the Stones and other British bands' covers of his songs.

Harpo was an early influence on the Stones. Mick and Keith were the first to discover him and were already into his music during the pre-Stones era. When they met Brian, they turned him on to Harpo in the same way that they turned him on to Chuck Berry.

The Stones covered Harpo's I'm a King Bee on their first album, and years later also covered Shake Your Hips on Exile on Main Street. Their title for the live album Got Live If You Want It! is a reworking of a Harpo song called Got Love If You Want It.

We'd all go to Dick Taylor's house, in his back room, some other cats would come along and play, and we'd try to lay some of this Little Walter stuff and Chuck Berry stuff. No drummer or anything. Just two guitars and a little amplifier... Then we found Slim Harpo, we started to really find people.

                                             - Keith Richards, 1971, on the pre-Stones days


Our common ground with Brian back (in the early days) was Elmore James and Muddy Waters. We laid Slim Harpo on him, and Fred McDowell.

                                                   - Keith Richards, 1971

 

HOP WILSON  (1927-1975)

Texas-great Hop Wilson started performing in the late 1950s and cutting his own records in the 1960s. A tremendous slide blues guitarist who played in a similar overpowering way as Elmore James, he continued playing in Houston all his life until his death. He has been cited by Ron Wood as one of his great influences.

There's another guitar player called Hop Wilson. I got songs that I wrote like Black Limousine from him, those kinds of licks.

                                                   - Ron Wood, 1994



Written by Ian McPherson, 2000.
Like all files on Time Is On Our Side, it is the exclusive intellectual property
of Ian McPherson and cannot be duplicated, in any form, without his authorization.

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