Two of the greatest blues musicians who ever lived, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, will receive a musical tribute next Tuesday when Blues at the Crossroads Two comes to Campbell Hall as part of UCSB’s Arts & Lectures series.
Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf played in the electric Chicago blues style, which was hugely influential on a number of rock ‘n’ roll artists. Consider the following, which is really just the tip of the iceberg. The Rolling Stones took their name from the Muddy Waters song “Rollin’ Stone.” Jimi Hendrix covered Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” in concert. Cream covered Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful” as a single. Led Zeppelin drew from Muddy Waters’ “You Shook Me” for “You Shook Me All Night Long,” and from “You Need Love” for “Whole Lotta Love.” And The Allman Brothers covered Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man.”
Other notable songs by the late blues legends include Waters’ “Mannish Boy” and “Got My Mojo Working,” and Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’” and “Back Door Man.”
The show will be in the spirit of the the Blues at the Crossroads show that visited town two years ago and honored Robert Johnson.
The main band this time is The Fabulous Thunderbirds, which features “Goleta Slim” Kim Wilson on vox and harmonica, with some notable guests joining in, including James Cotton, who played harmonica with both Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, and Bob Margolin, who played guitar with Muddy Waters.
Don’t miss this one! Tickets are available by clicking here.
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show in Santa Barbara?
Kim Wilson: It’s kind of a spontaneous thing. We definitely have a set list, but we do it a little bit different every night. It’s a really nice show, a very nice show. It’s a lot of music by mostly Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.
JM: Can you tell me a little bit about the guest musicians who will be joining you?
KW: We have Tinsley Ellis, who’s a really great player. I’ve known him for a long time, as well as Bob Margolin. I met him with Muddy Waters back in the ‘70s. They’re both great. And then we have Jody Williams, who’s one of the most incredible guitarists of all time. Of course, James Cotton and The Fabulous Thunderbirds on top of that. They’ll be the backing group for all of the musicians. And we get our own set, too. It’s a pretty well-rounded show, not any extreme youngsters in the bunch. It’s a very good show.
JM: I understand that you knew Muddy Waters. Can you tell me about your interactions with him?
KW: Muddy was kind of like a dad to me, like a second father. He was very, very generous to me. I grew up in Santa Barbara. I was playing with a lot of different people in Santa Barbara, a lot of the old guys, you know — Eddie Taylor, Pee Wee Crayton, Albert Collins, George “Harmonica” Smith, a bunch of people.
But I didn’t meet Muddy until I got to Texas. It was just a fantastic experience. The guy was very generous with me. He talked me up all over the world. A lot of the stuff that I did with him is really not stuff I like to talk about that much, to be honest with you. Because it’s pre-YouTube, and I like having these things to myself.
But he was very, very generous, how he spoke about me to the press from very early on. I think it was a big thing for me, a big thing for me in the music world. I’m not sure how much it got across to people because Muddy Waters at that time, and really until way later, was not a world-famous musician himself really. It was a crazy thing. It took people like (Eric) Clapton and the Rolling Stones to really bring him out, and get his name out there into the mainstream.
JM: I associate you with Texas, but like you said you grew up around here, in Santa Barbara and Goleta. What was your Santa Barbara experience like? What there a good music scene going here?
KW: It was a very good scene, actually. Isla Vista was really booming. There was just a lot of stuff going on all over town. A lot of festivals, a lot of club shows. A lot of people playing.
There was a place out on Hollister called The Headband. It was an incredible place for music. It was just packed. Great people like Big Joe Turner. That’s where I met George “Harmonica” Smith, that’s where I met people like Jimmy Reed the first time. Albert Collins played out there. Really, really a lot of people played there. I remember seeing Charlie Musselwhite out there. I would see these guys all over town back then.
There was a place out on the campus, Robertson Gym — they used to have a lot of people play out there. I would see B.B. King and Freddie King playing together at Robertson Gym back in the day. A long time ago, that was the late ‘60s.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.