Junior Wells
@ the Blues Saloon, March 21, 1997

Junior Wells
Photo © 1997 by Tom Asp. All rights reserved.
Junior Wells took the stage at the Blues Saloon for two days in March with some high expectations from fervent Twin Cities blues fans. No one was disappointed! Junior was primed and pumped for this show. He was up front on the stage (and even out in the audience) playing to his fans. The varied expressions on his face were priceless. He was mugging for the photographer, playing some pleasing harp riffs, singing in his unmistakable growl of a voice while making those entertaining (when done in moderation that is) popping, noises with his mouth with the occasional grunts, growls, snorts and hollers.

Introduced as the "godfather" of the blues Junior was living up to that description with the support of his very tight band. I mean these guys were very good. Leading the band was one of the best 3 piece horn sections I have heard in recent years. These guys were cookin' with a capital C! Joe Burton on trombone, Mike Barber on trumpet and Douglas Fagan on tenor saxophone could have put on a show by themselves. The rhythm section was in the groove with fine drumming by Vernal Taylor and Vamp on bass. On guitars were Steve Lizard from Philly with a nice funky sound and Andy Wahloff from Sweden who has that classic Chicago electric sound. Steve Utting from New Zealand was rocking on keyboards. This was a big band with an even bigger sound. I have to complement these guys. Sometimes when you get that many musicians playing at one time the sound can get a little mushy and just become loud noise. Not with this band. You could distinctly hear each instrument and the arrangements were outstanding -- just a pleasure to listen to.

The show opened with a long funky instrumental allowing each member to step forward on solo and display their talent before Junior joined them. When Junior was introduced he started playing and singing from the back of the room as he made his way to the stage through the packed house using his remote mike. He was dressed as dapper as ever with his trademark hat, jewelry and tailored suit. I was a little surprised at how thin he looked but he was looking and sounding fine.

He opened with a rousing Hoodoo Man Blues that set the tone for what we could expect for the rest of the night - just plain good ol' blues music. His harp playing was sounding real good with that nice fat tone and the horn section just shined with this classic Chicago blues. He then sang I Shoulda Been Dead a song dedicated to his mother who had passed away recently. He followed with many of the classic Chicago blues standards like Got My Mojo Working, Messin' With The Kid, and The Blues Is All right. He even did the Merle Haggard song Today I Started Loving You Again - a country song that became the blues done by Junior. The packed house was on its feet most of the night dancing and thoroughly enjoying this fine blues performance.

For his encore we had a special treat as Junior came back out on stage with just his keyboard player and one guitar player for several semi solo acoustic numbers that was just icing on the cake.

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at: mnblues@aol.com

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Copyright © 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
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