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Junior Wells (December 9, 1934 – January 15, 1998), born Amos Wells

Blakemore Jr., was an American Chicago blues vocalist, harmonica

player, and recording artist. Wells, who was best known for his

performances and recordings with Muddy Waters, Earl Hooker, and Buddy

Guy, also performed with Bonnie Raitt, the Rolling Stones, and Van

Morrison.

 

Life and career

Junior Wells was possibly born in Memphis, Tennessee, United Statesand

raised in West Memphis, Arkansas, though other sources report that his

birth was in West Memphis, Arkansas. Initially taught by his cousin,

Junior Parker, and Sonny Boy Williamson II, Wells learned how to play

the harmonica by the age of seven with surprising skill. He moved to

Chicago in 1948 with his mother after her divorce and began sitting in

with local musicians at house parties and taverns. Wild and rebellious but

needing an outlet for his talents, he began performing with The Aces

(guitarist brothers Dave and Louis Myers and drummer Fred Below) and developed a more modern amplified harmonica style influenced by Little

Walter. In 1952, he made his first recordings, when he replaced Little Walter in Muddy Waters' band and appeared on one of Muddy's sessions

for Chess Records in 1952. His first recordings as a band leader were made in the following year for States Records. In the later 1950s and

early 1960s, he also recorded singles for Chief Records and its Profile Records subsidiary, including "Messin' with the Kid", "Come on in This

House", and "It Hurts Me Too", which would remain in his repertoire throughout his career. His 1960 Profile single "Little by Little" (written by Chief

owner and producer Mel London) reached #23 in the Billboard R&B chart, making it the first of two Wells' singles to enter the chart.

 

Wells' album Hoodoo Man Blues (1965) on Delmark Records featured Buddy Guy on guitar. The two worked with the Rolling Stones on several

occasions in the 1970s. His album South Side Blues Jam came out in 1971) and On Tap in 1975His 1996 release Come on in This House includes

slide guitarists, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Derek Trucks, and others. Wells made an appearance in the film Blues Brothers 2000, the sequel to The

Blues Brothers, which was released in 1998

 

Junior Wells in Urbana, Illinois, in 1983

From Wells' "Hoodoo Man Blues" album cover Junior gives this story: "I went to this pawnshop downtown and the man had a harmonica prices at

$2.00. I got a job on a soda truck... played hookey from school ... worked all week and on Saturday the man gave me a dollar and a half. A dollar

and a half! For a whole week of work. I went to the pawnshop and the man said the price was two dollars. I told him I had to have that harp. He

walked away from the counter – left the harp there. So I laid my dollar-and-a-half on the counter and picked up the harp. When my trial came up,

the judge asked my why I did it. I told him I had to have that harp. The judge asked me to play it and when I did he gave the man the 50 cents and

hollered "Case dismissed!" (1948)

 

Wells began to have serious health problems, including cancer and a heart attack, in 1997. He died in Chicago on January 15, 1998, and was

interred in the Oak Woods Cemetery, Chicago.

 

Wells was mentioned in the Steppenwolf song, "Tighten Up Your Wig", in which the lyrics explicitly state that they copied the music from Junior

Wells' tune, "Messing with the Kid".

 

 

The Forum post is edited by bninna Aug 12 '15, 11:57AM
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