Cult Classic: T-Bone Walker- Every Day I Have The Blues.

T-Bone Walker was, without doubt, one of the most innovative and influential blues guitarists ever. He was a pioneer of both the jump blues and electric blues and one of the first artists to wield an electric guitar. He honed and tamed the electric guitar and made that sound his own. That is why nearly forty years after T-Bone Walker’s death he’s remembered as one of the best blues guitarists. What some people forget is that T-Bone Walker was also a flamboyant showman.

It was T-Bone Walker that Jimi Hendrix saw playing his guitar with his teeth. This was T-Bone Walker’s party trick. When he decided to showboat, T-Bone could play his guitar above his head, behind his back and with his teeth. A young Jimi Hendrix saw this and was awe struck. Here was  a guitarist who could do things other guitarists could only dream of. For the young  Jimi Hendrix it was as if T-Bone had thrown down the gauntlet. Jimi went away and eventually, was able to play the guitar T-Bone Walker. However, if he’d never seen T-Bone play, would Jimi have ever reached the heights he did? The same can be said of other artists T-Bone influenced.

Apart from Jimi Hendrix, T-Bone Walker influenced several generations of musicians. Among them are B.B. King, The Allman Brothers and Chuck Berry. Then there’s a generation of British musicians who grew up listening to artists like T-Bone Walker. This includes Eric Clapton, John Mayall, The Animals and Rolling Stones. Each and every one of these artists owe a debt of gratitude to the late, great, T-Bone Walker. 

By 1970, T-Bone was entering the fifth decade of his career. His career had enjoyed something of a renaissance during the late-sixties. T-Bone had been enjoying something of an Indian Summer. That’s why Bob Theile signed T-Bone Walker to his newly formed Bluestime label in 1969. It was a subsidiary of Bob’s jazz label Flying Dutchman Productions. T-Bone’s one and only album for Bluestime was Every Day I Have The Blues.

It was recorded on 18th August 1969, with a crack band of session players accompanying T-Bone Walker. Then in 1970, Every Day I Have The Blues was released by Bluestime. Would Every Day I Have The Blues see T-Bone’s Indian Summer continue? He had enjoyed a long and illustrious career.

 T-Bone Walker was born Aaron Thibeaux Walker in May 1910. Both T-Bone’s parents Movellia Jimmerson and Rance Walker were musicians, and  so was T-Bone’s stepfather Marco Washington. Rance, like T-Bone’s mother, was a member of the Dallas String Band and taught T-Bone to play guitar, banjo, violin, ukelele and piano. T-Bone couldn’t have asked for a better of a musical education. By the time T-Bone was a teenager, his career as a musician had already began.

Having left school aged ten, T-Bone Walker became a professional musician when he was a teenager. His mentor was Blind Lemon Jefferson, who was a family friend and helped T-Bone establish himself on the local blues circuit. Then when he was nineteen, he made his recording debut in 1929. Back then, he wasn’t known as T-Bone Walker and instead, was billed as Oak Cliff T-Bone, when he released the single Wichita Falls Blues. This was the first recording in a career that lasted six decades.

By the time T-Bone was twenty-five, he was living in Los Angeles and was married with five children. Sometimes, T-Bone was the guest vocalist for the Les Hite Orchestra. All the time, he was developing his musical style. 

When T-Bone signed to Capitol Records in 1942, this was the start of one of the most important periods in his career. T-Bone’s sound was constantly evolving. So much so, that his single Mean Old World was a game-changer. His sound was totally unique and inimitable and lead to T-Bone being referred to as a flamboyant, innovative and influential. Sometimes, T-Bone would play his guitar with his teeth, above his head or behind his back. Audiences were shocked and awe struck. Nobody had played a guitar like this. Then in 1947, T-Bone released a track that’s since become synonymous with him.

This was Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad). It was released on the Black and While label, which T-Bone has signed to in 1946. For two years between 1946 and 1948, T-Bone was releasing some of the most successful and pioneering music of his career. This included 1946s Bobby Sox Blues and West Side Baby, which gave T-Bone top ten hits. Having released some of the most important music of his career at Black and White, the fifties saw blues music fall out of favour and T-Bone flit between record companies.

Back then, this wasn’t new. Many artists signed one-off deals with labels. This was the case with T-Bone. He released several singles for Imperial and in 1959, released his debut album Sings The Blues. A year later, in 1960, T-Bone Blues was released on T-Bone Blues on Atlantic. It comprised recordings from the fifties. However, T-Bone Blues was a coming of age for T-Bone. Belatedly, record labels realised that blues musicians were no different from jazz or R&B artists, and should be releasing albums. Sadly, T-Bone Blues was T-Bone’s only album for Atlantic. After this, he didn’t release another album until 1965.

That is despite the early sixties seeing a revival in the popularity of blues music,  and he didn’t release a new album until The Blues Of T-Bone Walker in 1965. In 1963, a retrospective collection entitled, The Great Blues Vocal and Guitar Of T-Bone Walker (His Original 1945-1950) had been released. Apart from that, T-Bone wasn’t releasing much in the way of music. Instead, he was concentrating on playing live. However, work was hard to come by for many blues’ musicians. Then in 1967, T-Bone met a man who’d transform his career, Bob Thiele.

Bob ran Impulse, ABC’s jazz label. Then when the jazz revival began, Bob convinced his bosses at ABC to let him found a blues label. This was Bluesway, which Bob signed T-Bone to. He recorded two albums in 1967. Funky Town was released in 1967 and Stormy Monday Blues in 1968. However, Bob left ABC’s employ in 1969. Little did anyone realise that Bob and many of Bluesway’s artists would soon be reunited.

When Bob left ABC’s employ, he decided to form a new label. Through working with some of the most innovative and creative musicians in the history of jazz, Bob must have realised that often, large record companies aren’t the best environment for innovative and creative musicians. Often, these musical mavericks didn’t thrive within such an orthodox environment. Their creativity is restricted, meaning they’re unable to experiment and innovate like they’d like. So, Bob Thiele, created an environment where this would be possible. This was Flying Dutchman Productions and its blues subsidiary Bluestime.

Before long, Bluestime became home to many of the artists formerly signed to Bluesway. This included T-Bone Walker, whose career Bob Thiele had helped revive. So much so, that T-Bone’s career was enjoying something of an Indian Summer. This Bob and T-Bone hoped, would continue at Bluestime.

For what became Every Day I Have The Blues, seven tracks were chosen. T-Bone penned T-Bone Blues Special and Sail On, while Bob Thiele penned Vietnam. Other tracks included Peter Christian’s Every Day I Have The Blues, John Lee Hooker’s Shake It Baby, Jessie Rae Robinson’s Cold, Cold Feeling and Louie Shelton’s For B.B. King. These tracks were recorded by T-Bone accompanied by some top session players.

When the band entered the studio to record Every Day I Have The Blues on 18th August 1968, Bob Thiele had put together a crack band. The rhythm section included drummer Paul Humphrey, bassist Max Bennett and guitarist Louie Shelton. Artie Butler played piano and organ and Tom Scott added tenor saxophone. T-Bone played guitar and sang lead vocals, while Bob Thiele produced  Every Day I Have The Blues.

On the release of Every Day I Have The Blues in 1970, Bob Thiele and everyone at Bluestime  had high hopes for the album. Sadly, that wasn’t to be despite its quality. Neither critics nor record buyers were won over by Every Day I Have The Blues. Only a small coterie of blues aficionados realised that Every Day I Have The Blues was a breathtaking album. They had followed T-Bone’s career for decades and realised that Every Day I Have The Blues was a hidden gem, featuring classics and songs full of social comment. Sadly, since then, Every Day I Have The Blues has remained one of the most underrated albums in T-Bone Walker’s back-catalogue. 

Every Day I Have The Blues opens with the title-track. Straight away, T-Bone unleashes one his guitar solos. His trademark searing guitar is accompanied by the rhythm section and jangling piano. The guitar and piano are panned left, and the rhythm section panned right. This has the effect of narrowing the arrangement. Taking centre-stage is T-Bone’s despairing, lived-in vocal. It’s as if he’s lived the lyrics. T-Bone brings them to life. Then when his vocal drops out, Tom Scott delivers a blistering tenor saxophone solo. It gives to Artie Butler on piano. He’s not going to be outdone, and almost steals the show. After bassist Max Bennett enjoys his moment in the sun, T-Bone returns as the track reaches a crescendo. 

Vietnam was penned by Bob Thiele and features lyrics full of social comment. T-Bone and the band provide a slow, moody, bluesy backdrop. His guitar takes centre-stage, while guitarist Louie Shelton plays around him. The rest of the band provide a shuffling beat. Then washes of Hammond organ add to the atmospheric backdrop. This is perfect for T-Bone’s vocal. He sings about a soldier in Vietnam writing to his girlfriend asking her to protest about the war. Later, T-Bone sings: “if only the President and Congress would hear my plea.” Poignant and heartfelt, this is almost a reinvention of the antiwar song. After all, how many antiwar songs are sung from a soldier’s viewpoint?

John Lee Hooker’s Shake It Baby is reinvented by T-Bone. It’s transformed into a fusion of blues, free jazz and rock. Bursts of tenor saxophone respond to T-Bone’s needy, urgent vocal. Meanwhile, the rest of the band lock into a groove. That’s until T-Bone steps forward and unleashes a crystalline guitar solo. It steals the show. Especially when accompanied by Louie Shelton’s guitar and Max Bennett’s bass. They play their part in this innovative reinvention of Shake It Baby.

Straight away, it’s obvious something special is unfolding. That’s apparent from the opening bars of Cold, Cold Feeling. T-Bone’s searing, bluesy licks, a shuffling rhythm section and washes of Hammond organ provide a moody arrangement. This is perfect for T-Bone’s despairing, heartbroken vocal. He delivers the lyrics as if he’s lived them. It results in one of T-Bone’s best vocals. This seems to inspire the band. They raise their game. A growling tenor saxophone, Hammond organ and rhythm section lock horns. As a result, the years roll back and it’s as if T-Bone is in his musical prime. That’s how good this track is.

Just a slow, bluesy piano opens T-Bone Blues Special. It sets the scene. Then Artie Butler switches to Hammond organ and the arrangement unfolds. Slow, broody and bluesy, the band lock into a groove. Everyone gets their chance to shine. First up is Artie Butler, then a blues masterclass from T-Bone. Louie Shelton veers between jazz and blues, while the rhythm section propel the arrangement along. Next up is a sultry tenor saxophone solo from Tom Scott. Later, the guitars duel, veering between blues and rock. It’s just the latest twist in this nine minute musical adventure, where T-Bone and his all-star band showcase their considerable skills.

For B.B. King was penned by Louie Shelton and features some of the best guitar licks on Every Day I Have The Blues. It marks the return of T-Bone Walker the showman. He plays with flamboyance, his fingers flitting up and down the fretboard. Not once does he miss a beat. Behind him, the band lock into a groove. With the rhythm section providing the heartbeat, Tom Scot’s braying tenor saxophone and Artie Butler’s piano play supporting roles. Taking centre-stage is the man himself, T-Bone Walker as he delivers a blues masterclass.

Sail On, the second track T-Bone wrote, closes Every Day I Have The Blues. He unleashes a crystalline guitar solo, while the rhythm section, stabs of piano and bursts of growling horns accompany him. His lived-in vocal soars above the arrangement. He’s realized that his partner doesn’t love him any more. “Sail On” he sings, his vocal a mixture of bravado, frustration, anger and sadness. Meanwhile, he lays downs another of his searing guitar solos. It’s one of his best. It’s captivating. The band realize this, and take care never to overpower T-Bone as he closes Every Day I Have The Blues on a high, demonstrating that he’s one of the greatest guitarists in musical history.

Every Day I Have The Blues is one of T-Bone Walker’s most underrated albums. On its release in 1970, it was overlooked by both critics and music lovers. Since then, critics seemed to have a downer on all of T-Bone Walker’s late-period albums. That’s unfair as during that period, T-Bone released some of the best music of his career. This started with 1967s Funky Town and Stormy Monday Blues in 1968. They were released on the ABC imprint Bluesway. Then when Bob Thiele parted company with ABC, he signed T-Bone to his newly formed Bluestime label. 

As the recording of Every Day I Have The Blues got underway, T-Bone was accompanied by some of the top session players. They recorded seven tracks, which included a mixture of new material and old favourites. Each of these tracks find T-Bone and his all-star band at the top of their game. T-Bone rolls back the years. His searing., crystalline licks are a reminder of why he’s remembered as one of the greatest blues guitarists ever. Sadly, despite the quality of music on Every Day I Have The Blues wasn’t a commercial success. This could as a result of any number of reasons. 

What definitely didn’t help was that Bluestime was a small label. It probably couldn’t afford to promote Every Day I Have The Blues like major labels could. Then there’s the downturn in the popularity of blues music. This was a huge problem. Ironically, a couple of years earlier, and blues music had enjoyed a renaissance. However, as the new decade dawned, musical tastes changed. Blues music was no longer as popular as it had been  so it’s no surprise that Every Day I Have The Blues wasn’t a commercial success. Sadly, not even the critics recognised Every Day I Have The Blues’ quality. Since then, it’s been overlooked by critics and music lovers alike. That is a great shame.

 For too long, Every Day I Have The Blues has been underrated and overlooked. That seems strange, given the quality of music on Every Day I Have The Blues. It features T-Bone Walker, the Godfather of the electric blues, accompanied by an all-star band. They inspire each other to even greater heights. It’s like a series of blues’ masterclasses, featuring some legendary musicians. This includes the star of the show, T-Bone Walker, one of the most innovative and influential blues musicians who also happened to be a flamboyant showman. Proof of that can be found on very Day I Have The Blues, which is a hidden gem from T-Bone Walker’s illustrious back-catalogue and a cult classic.

Cult Classic: T-Bone Walker- Every Day I Have The Blues.



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