Magic Sam

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Magic Sam
Birth name Samuel Gene Maghett
Born (1937-02-14)February 14, 1937
Grenada, Mississippi
Died December 1, 1969(1969-12-01) (aged 32)
Chicago
Genres Blues
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1957–1969
Labels Cobra, Chief, Delmark

Samuel "Magic Sam" Gene Maghett (February 14, 1937 – December 1, 1969) was an American Chicago blues musician. Maghett was born in Grenada, Mississippi and learned to play the blues from listening to records by Muddy Waters and Little Walter. After moving to Chicago at the age of nineteen, he was signed by Cobra Records and became well known as a bluesman after his first record, "All Your Love" in 1957. He was known for his distinctive tremolo-guitar playing.[1]

Life and career[edit]

After moving to Chicago in 1950, his guitar playing earned bookings at blues clubs on the West Side. Sam recorded for Cobra Records from 1957 to 1959, recording singles including "All Your Love" and "Easy Baby". They did not appear on the record charts, yet they had a profound influence, far beyond Chicago's guitarists and singers. Together with recordings by Otis Rush and Buddy Guy (also Cobra artists), they made a manifesto for a new kind of blues.[2] Around this time Sam also worked briefly with Homesick James Williamson.[2] Sam gained a following before being drafted into the U.S. Army. He served six months in prison for desertion and received a dishonorable discharge.[3]

In 1963, he gained national attention for his single "Feelin' Good (We're Gonna Boogie)". After successfully touring the U.S., Britain and Germany, he was signed to Delmark Records in 1967 where he recorded West Side Soul and Black Magic. He also continued performing live and toured with blues harp player Charlie Musselwhite and Sam Lay.

Sam's breakthrough performance was at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969,[4] which won him many bookings in the U.S. and Europe. His life and career was cut short when he suddenly died of a heart attack in December 1969. He was 32 years old. He is buried in the Restvale Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. In February 1970, the Butterfield Blues Band played at a benefit concert for Magic Sam, at Fillmore West in San Francisco. Also on the bill were Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite and Nick Gravenites.[5]

His guitar style, vocals, and songwriting ability have inspired and influenced many blues musicians ever since. In The Blues Brothers, Jake Blues dedicates the band's performance of "Sweet Home Chicago" to the "late, great Magic Sam".

The stage name Magic Sam was devised by Sam's bass player and childhood friend Mack Thompson at Sam's first recording session for Cobra as an approximation of "Maghett Sam". The name Sam was using at the time, Good Rocking Sam, was already being used by another artist.[6]

"Magic Sam had a different guitar sound," said his record producer, Willie Dixon. "Most of the guys were playing the straight 12-bar blues thing, but the harmonies that he carried with the chords was a different thing altogether. This tune "All Your Love", he expressed with such an inspirational feeling with his high voice. You could always tell him, even from his introduction to the music."[2]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Partial album discography[edit]

Year Title Label Comments
1967 West Side Soul Delmark recorded Chicago 1967
1968 Black Magic Delmark recorded Chicago 1968
1969 Raw Blues Live 1969 Rock Beat Records recorded Berkeley, CA 1969
1980 The Late Great Magic Sam L+R recorded 1963–1964, 1969
1981 Magic Sam Live Delmark live recordings Chicago 1963–1964 & Ann Arbor 1969
1981 Magic Touch Black Magic live recording Chicago 1966
1989 The Magic Sam Legacy Delmark out-/alternate takes recorded Chicago 1967–1968
1991 Give Me Time Delmark solo demo/rehearsal home recordings 1968
2001 With a Feeling – The Complete Cobra, Chief & Crash Recordings 1957–1966 Westside most pre-Delmark recordings; also available as Out of Luck, P-Vine 2003
2002 Rockin' Wild in Chicago Delmark live recordings Chicago 1963, 1964, 1966, 1968
2013 Live at the Avant Garde June 22, 1968 Delmark recorded live at the Avant Garde coffeehouse, Milwaukee, June 22, 1968

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gillett, Charlie (1996). The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll ((2nd Ed.) ed.). New York, N.Y.: Da Capo Press. pp. 177–179. ISBN 0-306-80683-5. 
  2. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. pp. 143–144. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  3. ^ oldies.com biography - accessed January 2008
  4. ^ casacadeblues.org biography - accessed January 2008
  5. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 209. CN 5585. 
  6. ^ Rowe, M (1981): Chicago Blues: the City and the Music. New York, Da Capo Press. pp. 178-179
  7. ^ "1982 Blues Music Awards". The Blues Foundation. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c "1982, 1984, 1990 Blues Hall of Fame Inductees". The Blues Foundation. Retrieved September 26, 2010.