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Magic Sam

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Magic Sam
Background information
Birth nameSamuel Gene Maghett
Born(1937-02-14)February 14, 1937
Grenada County, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedDecember 1, 1969(1969-12-01) (aged 32)
GenresChicago blues
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • Guitar
  • vocals
Years active1957–1969

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]

Life and career[edit]

Maghett moved to Chicago in 1956, where his guitar playing earned him bookings at blues clubs on the West Side.[2] 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), the West Side Sound was a manifesto for a new kind of blues.[5] Around this time Magic Sam worked briefly with Homesick James Williamson.[5] 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.[6]

Magic Sam at the 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival. Photo by Jeff Titon.
Magic Sam at the 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival.

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.[6] He continued performing live and toured with a band that included blues harp player Charlie Musselwhite, future Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen bassist "Buffalo" Bruce Barlow and drummer Sam Lay. Magic Sam's breakthrough performance was at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969,[7] which won him many bookings in the U.S. and Europe. He sometimes performed with his uncle, Shakey Jake Harris.[8]


His career was cut short when he suddenly died of a heart attack in December 1969.[2] He was 32 years old. Magic Sam was buried in the Restvale Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois. He was survived by his wife, Georgia Maghett.[9] 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.[10]


Magic Sam's guitar style, vocals, and songwriting have inspired and influenced many blues musicians. "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."[5]

His recording of the popular blues standard "Sweet Home Chicago" in 1967 has been identified as one of the most accomplished performances of the song. Author Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes:

He [Magic Sam] not only makes "Sweet Home Chicago" his own (no version before or since is as definitive as this), he creates the soul-injected, high-voltage modern blues sound that everybody has emulated and nobody has topped in the years since.[11]

For the performance of the song in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers,[12] John Belushi's character announces, "dedicate[d] to the late great Magic Sam".[13]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Partial discography[edit]


List of singles with title, label, year, and composer
Title Label Year Composer
"All Your Love" Cobra (5013A) 1957 Sam Maghett
"Love Me with a Feeling" Cobra (5013B) Hudson Whittaker a.k.a. Tampa Red
"Everything Gonna Be Alright" Cobra (5021A) 1958 Willie Dixon
"Look Whatcha Done" Cobra (5021B) Maghett
"All Night Long" Cobra (5025A) Dixon
"All My Whole Life" Cobra (5025B)
"Easy Baby" Cobra (5029A) Dixon
"21 Days in Jail" Cobra (5029B) Dixon, L.P. Weaver
"Mr. Charlie"[16] Chief (C7013A) 1960 Maghett
"My Love Is Your Love" Chief (C7013B)
"Square Dance Rock Part 1" Chief (C7017A) Maghett, Boyd Atkins
"Square Dance Rock Part 2" Chief (C7017B)
"Every Night About This Time" Chief (C7026A) 1961 Antoine Domino Jr. a.k.a. Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew
"Do the Camel Walk" Chief (C7026B) Maghett, Mel London
"Blue Light Boogie" Chief (C7033A) Jessie Mae Robinson
"You Don't Have to Work" Chief (C7033B) Maghett
"Out of Bad Luck" Crash (A425) 1966 Maghett, Al Benson
"She Belongs to Me" Crash (B425)


List of albums with title, label, year, and comments
Title Label Year Comments
West Side Soul Delmark 1967 Recorded in Chicago, 1967
Black Magic 1968 Recorded in Chicago, 1968
Raw Blues Live 1969 Rock Beat 1969 Recorded in Berkeley, 1969
The Late Great Magic Sam L+R 1980 Recorded 1963–64, 1969
Magic Sam Live Delmark 1981 Recorded live in Chicago, 1963–64, and Ann Arbor, 1969
Magic Touch Black Magic Recorded live in Chicago, 1966
The Magic Sam Legacy Delmark 1989 Outtakes and alternate takes recorded in Chicago, 1966–68
Give Me Time 1991 Solo demo and rehearsal home recordings, 1968
With a Feeling!: The Complete Cobra, Chief & Crash Recordings 1957-1966 Westside 2001 Most pre-Delmark recordings; also released as Out of Luck, P-Vine (2003)
Rockin' Wild in Chicago Delmark 2002 Recorded live in Chicago, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1968
Live at the Avant Garde 2013 Recorded live in Milwaukee, 1968


  1. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 231. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  2. ^ a b c Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. pp. 267, 269.
  3. ^ Gillett, Charlie (1996). The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll (2nd ed.). New York City: Da Capo Press. pp. 177–179. ISBN 0-306-80683-5.
  4. ^ Rowe, M. (1981). Chicago Blues: The City and the Music. New York City: Da Capo Press. pp. 178–179. ISBN 978-0306801457.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b Larkin, Colin (2011). "Magic Sam". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  7. ^ Johnson, Greg (September 2000). "Magic Sam". cascadeblues.org. Archived from the original on February 3, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  8. ^ Dahl, Bill (1996). "Magic Sam: Magic Touch". In Erlewine, Michael; Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Koda, Cub (eds.). All Music Guide to the Blues. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books. p. 176. ISBN 0-87930-424-3.
  9. ^ Mike, Rowe (1979). Chicago Breakdown. Da Capo Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-0306795329.
  10. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'n' Roll Years. London: Reed International Books. p. 209. CN 5585.
  11. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Magic Sam: West Side Soul – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved October 10, 2022.
  12. ^ Adams, Bret. "The Blues Brothers [Original Soundtrack] – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved October 10, 2022.
  13. ^ The Blues Brothers (1980). "Sweet Home Chicago". The Blues Brothers: Original Soundtrack Recording (Song recording). New York City: Atlantic Records. Event occurs at 0:00. SD 16017.
  14. ^ "1982 Blues Music Awards". Blues Foundation. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  15. ^ a b c "1982, 1984, 1990 Blues Hall of Fame Inductees". Blues Foundation. Archived from the original on May 18, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2010.
  16. ^ listed as "Magic Sam with the Ammons Sisters"