Sam Lay Blues Band
@ Orries, November 9, 1996

Legendary drummer Sam Lay paid one of his infrequent visits to the Twin Cities at Orries recently -- and even though the weather was turning cold outside it was steaming hot inside. Sam said he was ready to "boogie woogie", and boy did he ever. His band played a little jazz, a little rock 'n' roll, some rhythm & blues, and a whole lot of straight Chicago blues to the very appreciative audience.

In case you don't recognize the name Sam Lay, just look at almost any record made during the 1960' or 70's coming out of Chicago and you will probably find Sam's name listed as the drummer. The people Sam Lay has played drums for reads like a who's who of modern day Chicago blues. In fact, after moving to Chicago from Birmingham, Alabama via Cleveland, Sam played with Howlin' Wolf from 1959 to 1965. He played with Little Walter, Muddy Waters, the Chambers Brothers, Eddy Clearwater and was one of the founding members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He went on to perform with just about every other Chicago musician who played in the windy city during the 60' and 70's including a 30 year association that continues to this day with the Siegel-Schwall Band. An interesting side bar -- Sam was the drummer who played with the "electric" Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and was even the un-credited drummer on the song Highway 61 Revisited on Dylan's album by the same name.

During the first set at Orries Saturday night Sam played several songs from his new CD on Evidence, Stone Blues, including a great slow blues called Jelly Jelly featuring some outstanding keyboards by Ceilia Rice. Sam's lead guitar player was B.B Jones. The nickname B.B. is for good reason. This guy plays great guitar just like B.B. King, has the same wicked vibrato, has many of the same gestures and even looks and sounds like him (spooky)...his excellent playing and singing added a delightful dimension to the show. Also playing in the band were Louis Marina on bass and Jesse Scinto on sax.

Sam's deep bluesy voice was in great form the entire night whether he was singing straight blues with the likes of Got My Mojo Working or good ol' rock 'n' roll from Fats Domino or Little Richard. At the start of the second set Sam sat down and played solo guitar on two traditional blues numbers from John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters and even finished off with a great rendition of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues. There was also a lot of good natured bantering going on back and forth between band members the whole night. At one point Sam asked B.B. how old he was and when B.B. replied with 49, Sam said he wasn't asking for his shoe size!

Sam's drumming is such a pleasure to listen to. He keeps impeccable timing and knows how to add just the right touch to any song -- there is a reason he is called the shuffle master. He is famous for the double shuffle which he says was learned from his early days at church listening to the hand-clapping and tambourine playing. He later incorporated this rhythm into his drum playing and the rest is history. You can even listen to a great demonstration of this on his new album on a song appropriately called The Shuffle Master.

I am continually amazed at how nice and gracious these blues performers are. Sam was very open and easy to talk to. When asked what song he enjoyed most playing the drums on -- he replied with Walkin' Thru the Park a Muddy Waters song found both on his new CD Stone Blues and on the Muddy CD Fathers & Sons. He said he has the most fun playing with the Siegel-Schwall Band. When asked how he got to Chicago from Cleveland, he simply said he followed a great little lady...who just happens to still be his wife.

This was a diverse and fun evening of music from a great Chicago blues veteran. I'm looking forward to his return visit next year. Keep The Blues Alive!

Copyright 1997 by Ray M. Stiles. All rights reserved. All reviews are copyright protected. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.