Junior Wells, ( December 9, 1934-January 15, 1998) was one of foremost players of Chicago Blues harmonica. His early work as a member the Muddy Waters was enough to guarantee him a place in music history. However, Junior Wells was not meant to be anyone’s sideman. He possessed an incredible voice that was matched by his wailing harmonica. In 1965, Junior Wells cut his first full length album called “Hoodoo Man Blues” for the Delmark record label.
Hoodoo Man Blues, is the work a fully realized artist. Junior was only 31 years old when he recorded this album. But his voice and playing communicate an emotional maturity that is ageless. Hoodoo Man Blues is another essential album in the Blues collection of any serious listener.
Hoodoo Man Blues was also the beginning of a great Blues partnership with his collaboration on the album, and eventually on stage, with Chicago Blues legend, Buddy Guy. Under contract to Chess records at time, Buddy Guy is listed on as “Friendly Chap.” Also providing back-up was bassist Jack Myers and drummer Billy Warren.
The choice of material on this album is exceptional and many Rock and Blues musicians have covered the arrangements on this album. Some of the standout cuts include “Snatch it back and Hold it, Ships on the Ocean (Based on Willie Dixon’s “Just to Be With you”), Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Chitlin Con Carne (Written by Jazz Blues guitarist Kenny Burrell), and the title track.
This is a very interesting album sonically also because of Buddy Guy’s use of an organ amplifier for his guitar which gives the guitar a sort of “watery” effect. The tempestuous partnership of Junior Wells and Buddy Guy, on and off stage, has been well documented. On Hoodoo Man Blues they are Blues brothers or, as it has been said, “the original Blues brothers.” But the ultimate star on this album is Junior Wells. A must have album.
My three favorite songs on this album:
1. Hoodoo Man Blues
2. Snatch it Back and Hold it
3. Chitlin Con Carne
Reviews of the youtube videos for this article
1. Hoodoo Man Blues, is a song where the trick is played on the Hoodoo Man. This version of this song is from one of The American Blues Festival European tours. Playing guitar on this live version is Chicago legend, Otis Rush. Junior Wells’ harmonica playing on this song demonstrates how much Sonny Boy Williamson II influenced Junior’s playing.
2. Snatch it Back and Hold it, demonstrates the unusual influence of James Brown on Junior’s voice. This song always got a great response when Junior Wells played it live. It is one of the most covered of the tunes associated with Junior Wells with maybe the exception of the song “Messin’ With the Kid.” The version of Snatch it Back Hold it referenced here is the original version as it appeared on the Hoodoo Man Blues album
3. Chitlin’ Con Carne, is the red herring on the album. It is totally unlike any of the other songs and is faithful to the melody originally written by Kenny Burrell. this is also the original version as it appeared on the Hoodoo Man Blues album.