Son Seals

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Son Seals
Son Seals.jpg
Background information
Birth nameFrank Seals
Born(1942-08-14)August 14, 1942
Osceola, Arkansas, United States
DiedDecember 20, 2004(2004-12-20) (aged 62)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
GenresElectric blues[1]
Occupation(s)Guitarist, drummer, singer
Instrument(s)Guitar, vocals, banjo, drums
Years active1959–2004

Frank "Son" Seals (August 13, 1942 – December 20, 2004)[2] was an American electric blues guitarist and singer.

In 2009, Seals was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.[3]


Seals was born in Osceola, Arkansas, where his father, Jim "Son" Seals, owned a small juke joint, called the Dipsy Doodle Club. He began performing professionally by the age of 13, first as a drummer with Robert Nighthawk and later as a guitarist.[4] At age 16, he began to play at the T-99, a local upper-echelon club,[5] with his brother-in-law Walter "Little Walter" Jefferson. He played there with prominent blues musicians, including Albert King, Rufus Thomas, Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, and Rosco Gordon. Their varying styles contributed to the development of Seals's own playing techniques. While playing at the T-99, he was also introduced to country-western music by Jimmy Grubbs, who occasionally asked Seals to play the drums or guitar with his group. At the age of 19, Seals formed his own band, Son Seals and the Upsetters, to fill in at the Rebel Club, in Osceola.[6] The band members were Johnny Moore ("Old Man Horse") on piano; Alvin Goodberry on drums, guitar, bass, or piano; Little Bob Robinson on vocals; and Walter Lee "Skinny Dynamo" Harris on piano. Shortly thereafter, a man from Little Rock, Arkansas, came to find "Little Walter" for a gig at his club, but when Walter turned it down the offer went to Seals.[7]

In 1971, Seals moved to Chicago.[8] His career took off after he was discovered by Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records at the Flamingo Club on Chicago's South Side.[9] His debut album, The Son Seals Blues Band, was released in 1973. The album included "Your Love Is Like a Cancer" and "Hot Sauce". It was followed by Midnight Son (1976) and Live and Burning (1978). Seals released several albums in the next two decades, all but one on Alligator Records, including Chicago Fire (1980), Bad Axe (1984),[9] Living in the Danger Zone (1991), Nothing but the Truth (1994) and Live: Spontaneous Combustion (1996).[10] He received W.C. Handy Awards in 1985, 1987, and 2001.

The writer Andrew Vachss, a friend of his, used his influence to promote Seals's music. Vachss gave Seals several cameo appearances in his novels,[11] and co-wrote songs with him for his album Lettin' Go, released in 2000.[12] Vachss dedicated his novel Mask Market to Seals's memory.[13]

In 2002, Seals contributed to the Bo Diddley tribute album, Hey Bo Diddley – A Tribute!, performing the song "My Story" (also known as "Story of Bo Diddley").

Seals had a hard life. He survived all but one of his fourteen siblings. In 1997 he was shot in the jaw by his wife, sustaining injuries which required reconstructive surgery.[14] In 1999 part of his left leg was amputated as a result of complications from diabetes. He lost belongings in a fire that destroyed his home while he was away performing, and several of his prized guitars were stolen from his home.[15] After his health began to decline, Seals toured with accompaniment by several different bands, including those of James Soleberg, Jimmy Vivino, and Big Jim Kohler.

The band Phish performed Seals's song "Funky Bitch" and brought him on stage on several occasions. In 1999, Seals performed at Camp Oswego, the only one of Phish's multi-day summer festivals that included performances by artists other than themselves.[16]

Seals died in 2004, at the age of 62, from complications of diabetes. He was survived by a sister and fourteen children.[17][18]

In 2009, Seals was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, in the category 'Performer'.[3]


Seals in 1977
Year Album Label
1973 The Son Seals Blues Band Alligator
1976 Midnight Son Alligator
1978 Live and Burning Alligator
1980 Chicago Fire Alligator
1984 Bad Axe Alligator
1991 Living in the Danger Zone Alligator
1994 Nothing but the Truth Alligator
1996 Live: Spontaneous Combustion Alligator
2000 Lettin' Go Telarc
2002 Deluxe Edition Alligator


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  2. ^ Doc Rock. "2004 July to December". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Performers in Blues Hall of Fame – The Blues Foundation". September 23, 2015. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  4. ^ Robert Palmer (1981). Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
  5. ^ Robert Palmer (1981). Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 270. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
  6. ^ Robert Palmer (1981). Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 271. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
  7. ^ Moon, Thomas D. (2000). "Son Seals: Intensity Is the Key". Living Blues, issue 153, pp. 15–25. ISSN 0024-5232.
  8. ^ Robert Palmer (1981). Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
  9. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1995). The Guinness Who's Who of Blues (Second ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 319. ISBN 0-85112-673-1.
  10. ^ a b "Son Seals | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
  11. ^ "Lettin' Go from Son Seals: True Blues: The Zero 5.0laf – The Official Website of Andrew Vachss". Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  12. ^ Cordle, Owen (2001). "Keepin' On". News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.). March 16, 2001.
  13. ^ Vachss, Andrew (2006). Mask Market. Pantheon. ISBN 9780375424229.
  14. ^ "Chicago Bluesman Son Seals Shot, Wife Charged". Associated Press. January 7, 1997.
  15. ^ Hoekstra, Dave (2002). "Veteran Guitarist Paying the Dues to Play the Blues". Chicago Sun-Times. February 3, 2002.
  16. ^ "Ozomatli, Son Seals To Play Phish's Festival". MTV News. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  17. ^ "Son Seals". Associated Press. December 21, 2004.
  18. ^ Son Seals at Find a Grave

External links[edit]