Magic Sam

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

Samuel Gene Maghett (February 14, 1937 – December 1, 1969),[1] known as Magic Sam, was an American Chicago blues musician. He was born in Grenada County, 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 19, he was signed by Cobra Records and became well known as a bluesman after the release of his first record, "All Your Love", in 1957. He was known for his distinctive tremolo guitar playing.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Maghett moved to Chicago in 1956, where his guitar playing earned him bookings at blues clubs on the West Side. He recorded singles for Cobra Records from 1957 to 1959, including "All Your Love" and "Easy Baby". They did not reach the record charts but had a profound influence, far beyond Chicago's guitarists and singers. Together with recordings by Otis Rush and Buddy Guy (also Cobra artists), they were a manifesto for a new kind of blues.[3] Around this time Magic Sam worked briefly with Homesick James Williamson.[3]

Magic 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.[4]

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

Magic Sam's breakthrough performance was at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969,[5] which won him many bookings in the U.S. and Europe.

His 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.[6] 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.[7]

His guitar style, vocals, and songwriting have inspired and influenced many blues musicians. In the film 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.[8]

"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."[3]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • 1982, Blues Foundation Blues Music Award for Magic Sam Live in the category Vintage or Reissue Album of the Year (US)[9]
  • 1982, Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, induction as Performer[10]
  • 1984, Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, West Side Soul selected in the category Classics of Blues Recordings – Albums[10]
  • 1990, Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, Black Magic selected in the category Classics of Blues Recordings – Albums[10]

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 in Berkeley, Calif., 1969
1980 The Late Great Magic Sam L+R Recorded 1963–64, 1969
1981 Magic Sam Live Delmark Recorded live in Chicago, 1963–64, and Ann Arbor, 1969
1981 Magic Touch Black Magic Recorded live in Chicago, 1966
1989 The Magic Sam Legacy Delmark Outtakes and alternate takes recorded in Chicago, 1966–68
1991 Give Me Time Delmark Solo demo and 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 Recorded live in Chicago, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1968
2008 Genius: The Final Sessions Intermedia Previously unreleased
2013 Live at the Avant Garde June 22, 1968 Delmark Recorded live at the Avant Garde coffeehouse, Milwaukee, June 22, 1968


  1. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 231. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  2. ^ Gillett, Charlie (1996). The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll ((2nd edn) ed.). New York: Da Capo Press. pp. 177–179. ISBN 0-306-80683-5. 
  3. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. pp. 143–144. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  4. ^ "Magic Sam Biography". Retrieved January 6, 2015. 
  5. ^ [1] Archived February 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.‹The template Wayback is being considered for merging.› 
  6. ^ Magic Sam at Find a Grave
  7. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'n' Roll Years. London: Reed International Books. p. 209. CN 5585. 
  8. ^ Rowe, M. (1981). Chicago Blues: The City and the Music. New York, Da Capo Press. pp. 178–179.
  9. ^ "1982 Blues Music Awards". Blues Foundation. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b c "1982, 1984, 1990 Blues Hall of Fame Inductees". Blues Foundation. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 

External links[edit]