John Primer

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John Primer
JohnPrimerPromo8x10.jpg
Background information
Born (1945-03-05) March 5, 1945 (age 77)
Camden, Mississippi, United States
GenresChicago blues, soul-blues, electric blues[1]
Occupation(s)Singer, guitarist, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1960s-present
LabelsBlues House Productions
Websitejohnprimerblues.com

John Primer (born March 5, 1945, Camden, Mississippi, United States) is an American Chicago blues and electric blues singer and guitarist who played behind Junior Wells in the house band at Theresa's Lounge and as a member of the bands of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Magic Slim before launching an award-winning career as a front man, carrying forward the traditional Windy City sound into the 21st century.[2][1][3]

Biography[edit]

Childhood[edit]

Born into a family of Mississippi sharecroppers, Primer grew up imbued with a strong work ethic from his forebears and in a farming community that was deeply involved in the blues tradition, singing work songs in the field during the week and spirituals in church on Sundays. Living on the Mansell Plantation in rural Madison County, he lived in a shack with no running water and a leaking roof with his large, extended family. He shared a bed with cousins, and lost his father at age 22 after a truck accident when he was four years old.[4]

He fell in love with the blues in infancy when his father and an elder cousin played guitar and sang at night after a hard day in the fields. His mother subsequently moved to Chicago in order to secure a job and support her family. She promised to bring John and his sister to the big city when they reached age 18, leaving them with family. Depressed and lonely, young Primer frequently went into the neighboring woods, where he cried his troubles away and began singing the blues in solitude. He eventually built himself a diddley bow on the side of his grandmother's house out of broom wire, two nails and a brick and began accompanying himself as he sang, eventually playing for dimes and quarters in his schoolyard. After listening Jimmy Reed, Little Milton, B.B. King, Albert King and Muddy Waters on his grandmother's record player, his biggest dream was to play alongside Muddy Waters one day.[4][5]

Early years in Chicago[edit]

Setting his sights on his dream and with a Harmony guitar in hand, Primer relocated to Chicago in 1963 when he reached 18, just as his mother had promised. He eventually started learning his trade by playing for tips at the legendary Maxwell Street market alongside blues superstars and raw beginners like himself.[6] He eventually landed his first regular gig, joining with Pat Rushing—one of the most iconic performers in the neighborhood—to form The Maintainers and play on Sundays. The band eventually started booking gigs in small bars and clubs on the city's West Side, most prominently The Bow Tie, Lover's Lounge and The Place. In 1968, he left Rushing to join the soul/R&B group, The Brotherhood Band, where he served as front man and began developing the unique singing style he's known for today.[4][7]

Sideman with the greats[edit]

In 1974, he started playing seven nights a week as a member of the house band at Theresa's, the South Side club, learning how to play slide guitar from bandmate and former Muddy sideman Sammy Lawhorn and backing harmonica player Junior Wells, who regularly fronted the unit when off the road, as well as Magic Sam, James Cotton, Magic Slim and others. After seeing him in action at Theresa's, Willie Dixon invited Primer to join his Chicago Blues All-Stars in 1979, touring with him internationally for a year, during which he honed his skills as a slide guitarist, vocalist and songwriter.[4]

Primer's childhood dream came true in 1980, when Muddy Waters formed a new band after the departure of his old unit, which rebranded themselves as the Legendary Blues Band. In addition to serving as Waters' guitarist, he immediately assumed responsibilities as Muddy's bandleader and opening act. Primer held the position until Waters' passing in 1983, during which he received additional training on the six-string and Muddy instilled in him the importance of maintaining the old-school blues tradition.[8] His lengthy recording career as a sideman began as a member of the Waters band in 1980 with Blues Deluxe, a compilation recorded live by radio station WXRT-FM at Navy Pier.[9] He recorded with Muddy and the Rolling Stones at Buddy Guy's Checkerboard Lounge in 1981, a concert that was eventually released as an award-winning DVD.[10] He began sitting in at jams at the Checkerboard in that era, eventually spent two decades as the band leader for Monday night jams, where he began passing on his skills to a younger group of musicians. He maintained the position until 2001, when the original nightclub closed its doors for the final time.[4]

Following Waters' death, Primer also joined Magic Slim's band, The Teardrops, eventually becoming its band leader and teaming on rhythm guitar with Slim's bassist brother, Nick Holt, to create what became as known as the "lump de lump" cadence pattern that became dominant in the Chicago blues sound. During the 13 years Primer spent at Slim's side, the band won contemporary album of the year honors in the Blues Music Awards on three occasions and received two nominations as band of the year.[4][11]

Solo career[edit]

Primer made his recording debut as front man with Poor Man's Blues for Wolf Records, the Austria-based label that was also Magic Slim's longtime home. Stuff You Got to Watch on Earwig Records followed in 1991 with a lineup that included Holt on bass and Mervyn "Harmonica" Hinds on harmonica[12] and The Real Deal on Code Blue/Atlantic four years later with backing from harp player Billy Branch, bassist Johnny B. Gayden and keyboard player David Maxwell, among others.[13] The CD earned him a 1997 W.C. Handy Award nomination for traditional album of the year. He's subsequently enjoyed an enduring relationship with Wolf Records as well as his own Blues House Productions imprint, which was founded in 2008. One of the most honored blues artists of his generation, he's a 2017 inductee into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame, a lifetime achievement award nominee from the Mississippi Valley Blues Society and the Pennsylvania Blues Society. His musicianship and recordings have earned two Grammy Award nominations and dozens of awards and nominations from the W.C. Handy/Blues Music Awards, Blues Blast Music Awards and Living Blues Magazine.[4][14][15]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Album title Record label Accreditation Year of release
Poor Man's Blues Wolf Records John Primer 1991
Stuff You Got to Watch Earwig John Primer 1991
The Real Deal Code Blue/Eastwest John Primer 1995
Code Blue Sampler Code Blue Various Artists 1996
Cold Blooded Blues Man Wolf Records John Primer 1997
Keep on Lovin’ the Blues Code Blue John Primer 1997
Essential Chicago Blues House of Blues Various Artists 1997
Livin’ in the House of Blues: Roadhouse Blues House of Blues Various Artists 1997
Blues Behind Closed Doors Wolf Records John Primer 1998
It’s a Blues Life Wolf Records John Primer 1998
A Chicago Blues Tour Big Chicago Records Various Artists 1998
From West Helena to Chicago: Chicago Blues Session Vol. 8 Wolf Records Various Artists 1998
Hound Dog Taylor: A Tribute Alligator Records Various Artists 1998
Teardrops Blues Jam: Chicago Blues Session Vol. 9 Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 1998
The Best of Slide Guitar Wolf Records Various Artists 1998
Easy Baby Wolf Records John Primer & the Teardrops 1999
Earwig 20th Anniversary Collection Earwig Various Artists 1999
Knockin’ at Your Door Telarc John Primer 2000
Blues for a Rotten Afternoon Telarc Various Artists 2000
Lucerne Blues Festival 2000 Lucerne Blues Festival Various Artists 2000
Mile by Blues Mile Lakeshore Records Various Artists 2000
Telarc’s Got More Blues Telarc Various Artists 2000
Blues Is a Feeling Delmark Records Jesse Thomas with John Primer & Jodie Christian 2001
Hooked on Blues: I Have to Stop Wolf Records Various Artists 2001
All Right Blues Special Records John Primer 2002
Blue Steel: A Tribute to Elmore James Wolf Records John Primer 2003
Wolf Records 20th Anniversary Collection Wolf Records Various Artists 2003
44 Blues Guitar Killers Wolf Records Various Artists 2006
All Original Blues House Productions John Primer 2008
Chicago Blues a Living History Raisin' Music Billy Boy Arnold, Billy Branch, Carlos Johnson, John Primer, Lurrie Bell 2011
Chicago Blues a Living History: The (R)evolution Continues Raisin' Music Billy Boy Arnold, Billy Branch, Carlos Johnson, John Primer, Lurrie Bell 2011
Blues on Solid Ground Blues House Productions John Primer 2012
Knockin’ Around These Blues Delta Groove John Primer and Bob Corritore 2013
You Can Make It If You Try Wolf Records John Primer & the Teardrops 2014
Muddy Waters 100 Raisin' Music Multiple Artists 2015
Classic Chicago Blues: Live & Unreleased Wolf Records Bonnie Lee, Nick Holt, Earl Howell & John Primer 2015
That Will Never Do Wolf Records John Primer 2016
Chicago Blues a Living History: Live at Aulnay All Blues Raisin' Music Billy Boy Arnold, Billy Branch, Carlos Johnson, John Primer, Lurrie Bell 2017
Ain't Nothing You Can Do! Delta Groove John Primer and Bob Corritore 2017
The Soul of a Blues Man Delta Groove John Primer with The Real Deal Blues Band & special guest Billy Flynn 2019
The Gypsy Woman Told Me SWMAF Records/VizzTone John Primer & Bob Corritore 2020

[16][17][18][19][20][21]

Guest/sideman[edit]

Album title Record label Accreditation Year of release
Blues Deluxe XRT Records Various Artists (Muddy Waters Band) 1980
Feel So Good Isabel Records Andrew “Big Voice” Odom 1982
The Blues Is Alright Isabel Records Little Milton 1982
Million Dollar Secret Rooster Blues Valerie Wellington 1984
Chicago Blues Session Vol. 3 Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 1986
Take Me Back Blind Pig Records James Cotton Band 1987
Chicago Blues Session Vol. 4 Wolf Records Alabama Jr. Pettis & the Teardrops 1987
Chicago Blues Session Vol. 14 Wolf Records A.C. Reed & Golden “Big” Wheeler 1987
Magic Slim Live Plymouth House Magic Slim & the Teardrops 1989
Gravel Road Blind Pig Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 1989
John Littlejohn’s Blues Party: Chicago Blues Session Vol. 13 Wolf Records John Littlejohn featuring Willie Kent & Tail Dragger 1980
Daddy, When Is Mama Comin’ Home Earwig Big Jack Johnson 1991
When the Blues Hit You Earwig Lester Davenport 1992
Tell My Story Movin’ Earwig Louis Myers 1992
Big Boy Wolf Records Dana Gillespie & Joachim Palden with Magic Slim & the Teardrops 1992
Call Me Wolf Records Vance Kelly 1994
Living the Blues Gitanes/Verve James Cotton 1994
The Rising Sun Collection Just a Memory Big Mama Thornton 1994
The Trail of Tears Wolf Records Eddie Vaan Shaw 1994
A Tribute to Magic Sam King Records (Japan) Various Artists 1994
Blues Fest: Modern Blues of the ‘90s Rhino Records Various Artists 1995
Earwig 16th Anniversary Sampler Earwig Various Artists 1995
Joyriding in the Subway Wolf Records Vance Kelly 1995
My Little Girl Wolf Records Johnny Laws 1995
Big Sixteen Ace Big Joe Louis & His Blues Kings 1996
The Blues Is Nothing But Good News: Chicago Blues Sessions Vol. 20 Wolf Records Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang 1996
Chicago Blues Harmonica Wolf Records Various Artists 1996
The King of Chicago’s West Side Blues: Chicago Blues Sessions Vol. 21 Wolf Records Willie Kent & His Gents 1996
911 Blues Wolf Records Johnny B. Moore 1997
Spider in My Stew Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 1998
Chicago Blues Session Vol. 1 Wolf Records Boston Blackie & Otis “Big Smokey” Smothers 1998
Chicago Blues Session Vol. 4 Wolf Records Alabama Jr. Pettis & the Teardrops 1998
I’m Good: Chicago Blues Session Vol. 7 Wolf Records Bonnie Lee 1998
Chicago Blues Session Vol. 12 Wolf Records John Brim & Pinetop Perkins 1998
Highway Is My Home Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 1998
Come Back to Me Baby Wolf Records Little Mack Simmons 1998
Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear Wolf Records L.V. Banks 1998
Chicago Blues Session Vol. 22 Wolf Records Hubert Sumlin & Billy Branch 1998
Teardrop Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 1998
Chicago Bound Wolf Records Jimmy Rogers & Big Moose Walker 1998
Chicago’s Finest Blues Ladies Wolf Records Various Artists 1998
Chicago’s Hottest Guitars: Chicago Blues Session Vol. 25 Wolf Records Phil Guy & Lurrie Bell 1998
Morning Rain: Chicago Blues Session Vol. 26 Wolf Records Eddie Vaan Shaw 1998
You Better Watch Yourself Wolf Records Nick Holt 1998
Ramblin’ Man House of Blues Big Daddy Kinsey 1999
This Stuff Just Kills Me Wolf Records Jerry “Boogie” McCain 2000
Shoulder to the Wind Tongue 'N Groove The Matthew Skoller Band 2000
In the Pocket: A Taste of Blues Harmonica Telarc Various Artists 2001
Killer Diller Delmark Records Shirley Johnson 2002
Waiting for You Gig Records Nick Clemons Band 2003
Chicago’s Best West & South Side Blues Singers Vol. 2 Wolf Records Various Artists 2004
They Were in This House AV Records Larry Taylor 2004
44 Blues Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 2005
Sassy Mama Just a Memory Big Mama Thornton 2005
These Blue Nights Wolf Records Dana Gillespie 2006
The Essential Magic Slim Blind Pig Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 2007
Rough Dried Woman Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 2009
Let’s Live It Up Delmark Records Mississippi Heat 2010
Joined at the Hip Telarc Pinetop Perkins & Willie “Big Eyes” Smith 2010
Four Aces and a Harp Swississippi Records Swississippi Chris Harper 2010
Let’s Live It Up Delmark Records Mississippi Heat with special guests John Primer & Carl Weathersby 2010
The Blues Sessions Earwig Tim Woods 2010
The Life I Love Delmark Records Willie Buck 2010
Checkerboard Lounge: Live Chicago 1981 Eagle Vision Muddy Waters & Rolling Stones 2012
Tin Pan Alley Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 2012
Magic Blues: The Blues of the Magic Man Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 2013
Daddy Told Me Wolf Records Shawn Holt & the Teardrops 2013
Gotta Keep Rollin’ Marquis/VizzTone Rob Stone 2014
Pure Magic Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 2014
Live on the Road Wolf Records Magic Slim & the Teardrops 2015
Do the Hip Shake Baby VizzTone Bob Corritore 2019
Porch Sessions VizzTone Tony Holiday 2019

[22][16][17][18][19][20][21]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 1987—W.C. Handy Award honoree for best traditional blues album of the year for Magic Slim & the Teardrops' Chicago Blues Sessions Vol. 3
  • 1990—W.C. Handy Award winner for band of the year as a member of Magic Slim & the Teardrops
  • 1991—W.C. Handy Award winner for band of the year as a member of Magic Slim & the Teardrops
  • 1997—W.C. Handy Award nominee for traditional blues album of the year -- The Real Deal
  • 1997—Awarded the Theresa Needham Blues Award by the Theresa Needham Blues Center for outstanding service to the blues community
  • 2009—Grammy nominee for best traditional blues album -- Chicago Blues a Living History
  • 2009—Blues Blast Music Awards nominee in best traditional blues album category -- Chicago Blues a Living History
  • 2009—Blues Blast Music Awards nominee in best traditional blues album category -- All Original
  • 2009—Blewzzy Award for best blues CD of the year -- All Original
  • 2009—Blues Blast Music Awards nominee for male artist of the year
  • 2010—Honored as male blues artist of the year by Living Blues magazine
  • 2010—Blues Music Awards nominee for traditional male blues artist of the year
  • 2010—Guitarist on Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith's best traditional blues Grammy-winning Joined at the Hip album
  • 2010—Blues Music Awards nominee for traditional blues album of the year -- All Original
  • 2012—Blues Blast Music Awards nominee for traditional blues album of the year -- Chicago Blues a Living History: The (R)evolution Continues
  • 2012—Blues Music Awards nominee for traditional male blues artist of the year
  • 2012—Blues Music Awards honoree for traditional blues album of the year -- Chicago Blues a Living History: The (R)evolution Continues
  • 2012—Blues Music Awards nominee for blues album of the year -- Chicago Blues a Living History: The (R)evolution Continues
  • 2013—Blues Music Awards nominee for traditional male blues artist of the year
  • 2013—Blues Music Awards nominee for acoustic blues album of the year -- Blues on Solid Ground
  • 2013—Lifetime achievement award honoree from the Mississippi Valley Blues Society
  • 2013—Lifetime achievement award honoree from the Pennsylvania Blues Society
  • 2013—Blues Music Awards DVD of the year honoree, Live at the Checkerboard Lounge, included John in action with Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones
  • 2014—Blues Blast Music Awards nominee for traditional blues album of the year -- Knockin' Around These Blues with Bob Corritore
  • 2014—Blues Music Awards nominee for traditional male blues artist of the year
  • 2015—Blues Music Awards nominee for traditional male blues artist of the year
  • 2015—Grammy nominee for best blues album -- Muddy Waters 100
  • 2016—Blues Music Awards honoree as traditional male blues artist of the year
  • 2014—Blues Blast Music Awards nominee for traditional blues album of the year -- Ain't Nothing You Can Do with Bob Corritore
  • 2017—Blues Music Awards nominee for traditional male blues artist of the year
  • 2017—Inducted as a legendary blues artist into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame
  • 2018—Blues Music Awards nominee for traditional male blues artist of the year
  • 2019—Blues Blast Music Awards honoree as male blues artist of the year
  • 2019—Blues Blast Music Awards honoree for soul blues album of the year -- The Soul of a Blues Man
  • 2019—Living Blues Awards nominee for most outstanding musician (guitar)
  • 2020—Blues Blast Music Awards nominee for traditional blues album of the year -- The Gypsy Woman Told Me with Bob Corritore
  • 2020—Blues Music Awards nominee for traditional male blues artist of the year
  • 2020—Living Blues Awards nominee for blues artist of the year
  • 2021—Living Blues Awards honoree as traditional male blues artist of the year

[23][24][25][26][27][28][29]

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  2. ^ Bill Dahl (March 3, 1945). "John Primer | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  3. ^ Mullins, Terry. "Featured Interview – John Primer". Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Biography". Johnprimerblues.com. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  5. ^ Marketing-PR (April 19, 2019). "JOHN PRIMER The Soul Of A Blues Man". Blues Matters Magazine. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  6. ^ Posted by Michael Limnios Blues Network on May 22, 2019 at 2:30pm; Blog, View. "Interview with bluesman John Primer - a powerful force in helping to keep alive the pure and real Chicago blues". blues.gr. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  7. ^ Whiteis, David. "Pat Rushing with Willie James & the Maxwell Street Blues Band". Chicago Reader. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  8. ^ "John Primer & The Real Deal to play the blues Sunday at CSPS". The Gazette. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  9. ^ Blues Deluxe (1980, Vinyl), retrieved February 18, 2021
  10. ^ chicagobluesguide (May 21, 2020). "John Primer Interview: Part 2". chicagobluesguide. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  11. ^ "John Primer is Making a Scene". Making A Scene!. June 1, 2020. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  12. ^ "John Primer – Stuff You Got To Watch (1992, CD)". Discogs.com. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  13. ^ "John Primer – The Real Deal (1995, CD)". Discogs.com. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  14. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues – From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 157. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  15. ^ "John Primer". digital.livingblues.com. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  16. ^ a b "John Primer | Biography, Albums, Streaming Links". AllMusic. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  17. ^ a b "John Primer". Discogs. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  18. ^ a b "Chicago Blues A Living History". Discogs. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  19. ^ a b "John Primer & the Real Deal Blues Band". Discogs. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  20. ^ a b "Magic Slim & The Teardrops". Discogs. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  21. ^ a b "John Primer & The Teardrops". Discogs. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  22. ^ "Daddy Told Me - Shawn Holt & The Teardrops | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  23. ^ "John Primer". GRAMMY.com. November 23, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  24. ^ "Awards Winners and Nominees". Blues Foundation. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  25. ^ "2009 Blues Blast Music Awards – Blues Blast Magazine". Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  26. ^ "2014 Blues Blast Music Awards – Blues Blast Magazine". Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  27. ^ "2019 Blues Blast Music Award Winners – Blues Blast Magazine". Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  28. ^ "13th Annual Blues Blast Music Awards Nominees". Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  29. ^ "John Primer Blues - Timeline & Awards". johnprimerblues.com. Retrieved February 1, 2021.

External links[edit]