Sam Lay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sam Lay
Born (1935-03-20) March 20, 1935 (age 80)
Birmingham, Alabama, United States
Genres Chicago blues, jazz, rock
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Drums, Vocals
Years active 1957–present
Associated acts Little Walter, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, Siegel-Schwall Band

Sam Lay (born March 20, 1935, Birmingham, Alabama, United States) is an American drummer and vocalist, who has been performing since the late 1950s.[1][2][3][4]

Life and career[edit]

Lay began his career in 1957, as the drummer for the Original Thunderbirds, and soon after became the drummer for the harmonica player Little Walter.[1]

In the early 1960s, Lay began recording and performing with prominent blues musicians such as Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Eddie Taylor, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells, Bo Diddley, Magic Sam, Jimmy Rogers, Earl Hooker, and Muddy Waters. The recordings Lay made during this time, along with Waters' Fathers and Sons album recorded in 1969, are considered to be among the definitive works from the careers of Waters and Wolf.[citation needed]

In the mid 1960s, Lay joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and recorded and toured extensively with them. Bob Dylan, with Lay as his drummer, was the first performer to introduce electric-rock at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Lay also recorded with Dylan, most notably on the Highway 61 Revisited album.[1] (Lay drums on the "Highway 61" track. The majority of the drum tracks are Bobby Gregg.)

Lay's drumming can be heard on over 40 recordings for the Chess Records label, with many notable blues performers.[1] He has toured the major blues festivals around the US and Europe with the Chess Records All-Stars.

In the late 1980s Sam Lay was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis. He was recently inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame in Los Angeles, and the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He was nominated eight times for the coveted W. C. Handy Award for "Best Instrumentalist" including a recent 2005 nomination.

Lay has two recent recordings with his own band on Appaloosa Records and Evidence Records, and two recordings on Alligator Records with the Siegel-Schwall Band.[1] His own 1969 release on Blue Thumb Records, Sam Lay in Bluesland, was produced by Michael Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites. He was nominated in 2000 for a Grammy Award for his performances on the Howlin' Wolf Tribute CD, and was honored by the Recording Academy in January 2002 with a Legends and Heroes Award for his significant musical contributions. He was prominently featured on a PBS-TV broadcast of seven episodes on the 'History of the Blues', produced by Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese.

Lay also shot many home movies of fellow blues performers in small Chicago venues of the late 1950s and 1960s.[5] These home movies were seen in the PBS special History of the Blues and the WTTW production Record Row by filmmaker Michael MacAlpin.

Sam Lay was inducted into the 2015 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e Erlewine, Michael. Sam Lay biography at AllMusic
  2. ^ Sam Lay biography at All About Jazz
  3. ^ Sam Lay biography at, official website of the Siegel-Schwall Band
  4. ^ Sam Lay biography at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame web site
  5. ^ Sam Lay Blues Collection at Historic Films
  6. ^