Educate me on Elmore James

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by cwlivingston, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. cwlivingston

    cwlivingston Member

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    Having studied and absorbed British blues over the last decade or so, I’m now feeling increasingly drawn to the roots in early American blues.

    Never really crossed paths with Elmore James much except Bleeding Heart by way of Hendrix. I started doing a YouTube search last week and loved what I was hearing.

    But I’ve learned that diving into an American blues catalog isn’t the same as doing a deep dive into, say, The Who. Those early blues guys often had chaotic recording schedules, and it can be difficult to piece it together into a coherent linear story.

    So I’m asking for subject matter experts - what do you think are the essential Elmore James tracks (esp for the slide playing even if the song isn’t the strongest)?

    And while we’re at it, would love to know about good covers of his work as well.

    Thanks all!
     
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  2. fretless

    fretless Supporting Member

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    Dust My Broom is one of my favorite all time songs. All his stuff is great. It’s easy to start with a “Greatest Hits” collection and go from there. Plenty of stuff on Apple Music streaming.
     
  3. supergenius365

    supergenius365 Supporting Member

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    Kind of atypical if the rest of his stuff, I love Rolling and Tumbling.

    I don’t know about his recording history/timeline, but I have two Greatest Hits compilations and they have noticeably different versions of some songs.
     
  4. ripgtr

    ripgtr Member

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    I've been listening to Elmore since probably before I even started playing guitar, in the early 70s. Advantage of having older brothers. I couldn't give you a time line if my life depended on it.

    On the slide playing, most of it isn't too technically difficult, though he did a LOT more than the "Dust my broom" lick. His singing is unworldly.

    I've been doing Hurt me Too for decades, still do it regular. Not only one of my fav Elmore songs, probably one of my fav songs to sing, period.
    Shake your money maker is a fun one to play. Hawaiian boogie was the first slide song I ever learned. 12 yr old boy.
    His version of Sky is Crying is definitive to me. I am actually playing in a band where we do Done somebody wrong, the Allman version of an Elmore song, into Sky is Crying, in the Elmore (not Albert King/SRV) way.

    There isn't a whole heck of a lot of stuff. He didn't record all that much. Different labels and stuff got released or re-released on different labels. That was pretty common with a lot of this stuff. He was supposed to go back into the studio and died right before, so we lost all that. This might help -
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmore_James_discography
     
  5. ripgtr

    ripgtr Member

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    Oh, and there is the Chess album, Whose Muddy Shoes, that has Elmore and John Brim, you get not only Madison Blues which is cool, you get the real version of Ice Cream Man. :)
     
  6. Strum und Twang

    Strum und Twang Member

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    A great recommendation. And it also includes one of my favorite cuts:
     
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  7. ripgtr

    ripgtr Member

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    Oh, yea, good call. My records have been packed up for a long time, I haven't played that record in WAY too long, forgot about that one. It's funny, he didn't record a lot of non slide solos. And that sounds like standard tuning, the slide stuff, at least all I remember of it, is open D. So, was he tuning back and forth? I have actually never read anything by anyone who actually saw him play, there isn't a ton of info on the guy that I have ever seen.
     
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  8. mojotele65

    mojotele65 Supporting Member

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    Madison Blues is one of my favs. I was initially drawn to his guitar tone and voice. He spent alot of time playing thru a modified flattop acoustic with a mic i think he wound/made himself from a phone if i recall. Dang it, now i need to find the article.
     
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  9. Blanket Jackson

    Blanket Jackson is Tio's favorite Silver Supporting Member

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    If you have Prime Music, this is a good place to obsess on for a week or two:

    I spend about 3 months at one point in the 90s more or less only listening to Elmore James. That collection is a good cross section.
     
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  10. teleman1

    teleman1 Supporting Member

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    Stomp your foot on a loose floorboard in time. What else do you want to know?
     
  11. tapeworm

    tapeworm Supporting Member

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  12. Mickey Shane

    Mickey Shane apolitical Silver Supporting Member

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  13. Laurence

    Laurence Silver Supporting Member

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    I'd get try to find these two compilations

    1992 Elmore James: King of the Slide Guitar All Fire/Fury/Enjoy recordings Capricorn 9 42006–2 [17][30]
    1993 Elmore James: The Classic Early Records 1951–1956 All Meteor/Flair/Modern recordings Virgin America/Flair 7243 8 39632 2 5 [17][31]

    They're a great mix of very early stuff through about 1960. He passed in '63. The early stuff had a different guitar tone, darker and woodier, while the later stuff had more of a treble edge to it. The big thing for me is that his voice got better and better as he went on.

    Taken too soon.
     
  14. sinner

    sinner Member

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    Elmore is one of the big ones, for sure, the king of the slide guitar!

    I always heard the story went like this: Clapton wanted to sound just like the slide players, but not using a slide. He wanted to achieve that sound with bends and vibrato, and wallah rock guitar was born!
     
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  15. OM Flyer

    OM Flyer Member

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    The first time I ever heard of him was on the Beatles' For You Blue, when George Harrison shouts, "Elmore James's got nothin' on this baby!" during John Lennon's lap steel solo. Further investigation opened up a whole new world for me.
     
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  16. Drew66

    Drew66 Member

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    Hell yeah, love Elmore James. That’s some low down Chicago blues. I have a greatest hits cd around here somewhere. A greatest hits compilation is probably a good place to start.
     
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  17. Srdjr

    Srdjr Member

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    Only thing you need to know about Elmore James is that he built a career shamelessly ripping off Jeremy Spencer of Fleetwood Mac.
     
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  18. Blanket Jackson

    Blanket Jackson is Tio's favorite Silver Supporting Member

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    There's a reason Duane and ABB covered Elmore James, frequently
     
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  19. rwmct

    rwmct Member

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    As to good covers, lots of them. These songs are classics. You can do them in all types of blues based styles.

    Jeremy Spencer fronting Fleetwood Mac for sure. But George Thorogood is may favorite for covers of The Sky is Crying. He has several good live versions out there.
     
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