Charlie Musselwhite, along with Paul Butterfield, will probably be forever linked as one of the most important products of the "white blues movement" to come out of Chicago in the mid-to-late '60s. Both stand out as being especially faithful to the traditional blues style. No less than the late Big Joe Williams said, "Charlie Musselwhite is one of the greatest living harp players of country blues. He is right up there with Sonny Boy Williams 1, and he's been my harp player ever since Sonny Boy got killed." Born in the small town of Kosciusko, Mississippi in 1944, Charlie Musselwhite was destined to be a bluesman. At the young age of three Musselwhite moved to Memphis and grew up in a neighborhood full of musicians that included rockabilly legends Johnny Burnette and Slim Rhodes. He became immersed in the city's diverse musical culture going to parties at Elvis Presley's home as well as soaking up all the music of Memphis. But it was the blues that really captured his soul. "To learn," said Musselwhite, "I would follow street singers and musicians around and watch how they played." As a teenager, the young guitarist and harmonica player began establishing a name for himself as he became friends with famous local bluesmen such as Will Shade, Furry Lewis, Gus Cannon, Earl Bell and many others, all of whom he learned from. At the age of 18 he moved to Chicago and discovered the rich musical heritage of urban blues. Hanging out at the numerous smoky blues bars he soon found himself sitting in with legends like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, Sony Boy Williamson, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Robert Nighthawk and a slew of others. Charlie's sound is firmly rooted in a mixture of country blues and the more urban Memphis and Chicago-style blues, but it is also injected with the high energy of rock 'n' roll. After recording a duet with Big Walter Horton in 1965, Musselwhite came to the attention of Vanguard Records who recorded his first album "Stand Back" in 1966. The success of that album helped establish Charlie as a worldwide touring artist being booked into places like the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco where he performed on the same bill will Cream and Paul Butterfield. He settled in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1967 where he still lives today. With his raw, authentic driving blues sound and complex virtuoso solos, Musselwhite continues to set the standard for blues excellence.
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Copyright © 1998 by Ray M. Stiles
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