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Junior Wells

He was one bad dude, strutting across the stage like a harp-toting gangster, mesmerizing the crowd with his tough-guy antics and rib-sticking Chicago blues attack. Amazingly, Junior Wells kept at precisely this sort of thing for over 40 years; he was an active performer from the dawn of the '50s until his death in the late '90s. Born in Memphis, Wells learned his earliest harp licks from another future legend, Little Junior Parker, before he came to Chicago at age 12. In 1950, the teenager passed an impromptu audition for guitarists Louis and David Myers at a house party on the South Side, and the Deuces were born. When drummer Fred Below came aboard, they changed their name to the Aces.

Little Walter left Muddy Waters in 1952 (in the wake of his hit instrumental "Juke"), and Wells jumped ship to take his place with Waters. That didn't stop the Aces (who joined forces with Little Walter) from backing Wells on his initial sessions for States Records, though -- his debut date produced some seminal Chicago blues efforts, including his first reading of "Hoodoo Man," a rollicking "Cut That Out," and the blazing instrumentals "Eagle Rock" and "Junior's Wail." More fireworks ensued the next year when he encored for States with a mournful "So All Alone" and the jumping "Lawdy! Lawdy!" (Muddy Waters moonlighted on guitar for the session). Wells was already exhibiting his tempestuous side -- he was allegedly AWOL from the Army at the time.

In 1957, Wells hooked up with producer Mel London, who owned the Chief and Profile logos. The association resulted in many of Wells' most enduring sides, including "I Could Cry" and the rock & rolling "Lovey Dovey Lovely One" in 1957, the grinding national R&B hit "Little by Little" (with Willie Dixon providing vocal harmony) in 1959, and the R&B-laced classic "Messin' with the Kid" in 1960 (sporting Earl Hooker's immaculate guitar work). Wells' harp was de-emphasized during this period on record in favor of his animated vocals. With Bob Koester producing, the harpist cut an all-time classic LP for Delmark in 1965. Hoodoo Man Blues vividly captured the feel of a typical Wells set at Theresa's Lounge, even though it was cut in a studio. With Buddy Guy (initially billed as "Friendly Chap" due to his contract with Chess) providing concise lead guitar, Wells laid down definitive versions of "Snatch It Back and Hold It," "You Don't Love Me," and "Chitlin' con Carne."

The harpist made his second appearance on the national R&B lists in 1968 with a funky James Brown-tinged piece, "You're Tuff Enough," for Mercury's feisty Blue Rock logo. Wells had been working in this bag for some time, alarming the purists but delighting R&B fans; his brass-powered 1966 single for Bright Star, "Up in Heah," had previously made a lot of local noise. After a fine mid-'70s set for Delmark (On Tap), little was heard from Wells on vinyl for an extended spell, though he continued to enjoy massive appeal at home (Theresa's was his principal haunt for many a moon) and abroad (whether on his own or in partnership with Guy; they opened for the Rolling Stones on one memorable tour and cut an inconsistent but interesting album for Atco in the early '70s).

Toward the end of his career, Wells just didn't seem to be into recording anymore; a pair of sets for Telarc in the early '90s were major disappointments, but his last studio session, 1997's Come on in This House, found him on the rebound and the critics noticed: the album won the W.C. Handy Blues Award for Traditional Blues Album in 1997. Even when he came up short in the studio, Wells remained a potent live attraction, cutting a familiar swaggering figure, commanding the attention of everyone in the room with one menacing yelp or a punctuating blast from his amplified harmonica. He continued performing until he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in the summer of 1997. That fall, he suffered a heart attack while undergoing treatment, sending him into a coma. Wells stayed in the coma until he passed away on January 15, 1998. A handful of compilations were released shortly after his death, as was the film Blues Brothers 2000, which featured a cameo by Wells. ~ Bill Dahl
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Authentic Blues

Disc 1

1. Boogie Chillen

2. Blues After Hours

5. Big Fine Girl (Live)

6. T-99 Blues

7. Jake Head Boogie

8. Thrill Is Gone

9. Riding In The Moonlight

10. Driftin' From Town To Town

12. No More Doggin'

14. All The Blues All The Time

15. Three Hours Past Midnight

16. Standing At The Crossroads

17. W-O-M-A-N

19. Love At First Sight

Disc 2

1. Figure Head

2. The Duck Walk

3. Some Time I Wonder

4. From My Heart

5. Going Or Coming

6. Forget It

7. It's Bad To Make A Woman Mad

8. You Better Stop

9. Hard Times (Follow Me)

10. Like Heaven To Me

11. I Feel So Good

12. I'd Rather Fight Than Switch

13. Just Got Some

14. Too Many Cooks

15. Crossroads

16. I Have Made A Change

17. She's A Sweet One

18. Through All Your Faults

19. Call My Job

20. Momee, Momee

21. Something Can Go Wrong

22. I'm Not Going Home

23. Say You're Leavin'

24. My Baby's Sweet

25. Honky Tonky

26. Good Things

x

Track List: Big Boss Men A Chicago Blues Collection

1. Double Trouble

2. Mojo Boogie

3. Sit And Cry (The Blues)

4. My Baby's Sweet

5. Big Boss Man

6. I Had It So Hard

7. Country Boy Blues

9. Like Heaven To Me

10. Baby, Please Don't Go

11. The Getaway

12. I'm Not Going Home

14. Easy Baby

15. Blue Guitar

17. I Just Got Some

18. My Love

19. Fishin' In My Pond

20. Too Many Cooks

x

Track List: Blues Harp Heroes

3. Real Fine Boogie

4. Little Girl

6. If The Four Winds Dont Change

7. When The Cats Gone The Mice Play

8. Honky Tonk

9. Runnin' Drunk

10. Harp And Soul

11. Need My Baby

12. I'm Getting Tired

15. Put It All In There

x

Track List: Essential Blues Anthems

1. You Done Lost Your Good Thing

2. Ice Pick

3. I Got A Woman

4. Born Under A Bad Sign

5. Boom Boom

6. Got My Mojo Working

7. Messin' With The Kid

8. I'd Rather Go Blind

9. Shake Your Moneymaker

10. Crossroads

11. Dust My Broom

13. I'm Ready

14. I Got My Mojo Working

15. I'm A Man

16. Knock On Wood

17. Mustang Sally

18. Polk Salad Annie

19. Steamy Windows

20. Shame, Shame, Shame

21. C C Rider

22. My Starter Won't Start This Morning

23. Spoonful

24. Sweet Home Chicago

x

Track List: Evil Woman Blues

1. Baby Don't Do Me Wrong

2. Fannie Mae

3. I Can't Quit You Baby

4. Devil Got My Woman

5. Kissing In The Dark

6. Drinking Woman

7. Street Walking Woman

8. Evil Woman Blues

9. Bad Affair

10. Open House At My House

11. Right On Jody

12. Evil Hearted Woman

13. Two Headed Woman

14. Baby Please Don't Go

15. Good Woman Go Bad

x

Track List: Hoodoo Blues

1. Mojo Hand

2. Roots Woman

3. I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man

4. Voodoo Woman

5. Hoodoo Queen

6. Voodoo Daddy

7. Hoodoo Moon

8. The Seventh Son

9. I Got My Mojo Working

10. Casting My Spell

11. Voodoo Man

12. Voodoo Spell

13. Hoodoo She Do

14. Double Eyed Whammy

15. Mojo Boogie

16. Black Cat Bone

x

Track List: Legendary Rockin' R&B

2. Hi Fi Baby

4. Lovey Dovey Lovey One

7. Tarzan

9. You Better Dig It

11. Little Girl Of Mine

12. Flipping Their Top

14. Pretty Please

15. The Bear

16. No Time

19. That's A Pretty Good Love

x

Track List: Penitentiary Blues: Songs To Do Hard Time By

1. Penitentiary Blues

2. He's In The Jailhouse Now

3. Midnight Special

4. Parchman Farm Blues

5. Chain Gang Blues

6. Christmas In Jail, Ain't That A Pain

7. Ball & Chain For Me

8. Alabama Prison Blues

9. Doin' A Stretch

10. Prison Blues Come Down On Me

11. Bad Luck Soul

12. County Jail Special

13. Your Funeral & My Trial (Live)

14. Chain Gang Blues (Live)

15. Violent Love

16. Prison Bars All Around Me

x

Track List: Willie Dixon - Boss Of The Chicago Blues

1. I Can't Quit You Baby

2. I Don't Care Who Knows

3. Hidden Charms

4. Too Many Cooks

5. Axe And The Wind

6. Just Got Some

7. Easy Baby

8. Fishin' In My Pond

9. Two-Headed Woman

10. Have A Good Time

11. Sit And Cry (The Blues)

12. My Love

13. Spider In My Stew

14. Satisfied

15. My Babe

16. All Night Long

17. She's A Sweet One

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Would give 5 star if i was able pick song i want to hear. Ij
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Love the blues...
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rkptreed
it is so cool to get a sophisticate d playlist by suggesting an artist. ingenious. I am having so much fun.
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I am new to Pandora, but I am beginning to think it sucks.
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dougettheblu e s
Hey where is junior wells music??????? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Did it get eaten by the dog?
Report as inappropriate
Is there a reason why we can't be privvy to Junior Wells' music? Reading posts since 2008 and still no Junior Wells? Hm...
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wallstreetbu l l s
Prison bars All Around me is one song the Great JR. Wells does as a Master.
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Write that bio....
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i have junior wells book marked and pandora never plays any of his music
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junior wells was one of the blue sing that i like very much his music is my music
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where can you find junior wells LP undisputed god father of the blues
Report as inappropriate
I MET JUNIOR WELLS BACK IN 87 AT A GIG WITH BUDDY GUY @ THE GOLDEN SAILS IN SEAL BEACH. THEY PUT ON ONE HECK OF A PERFORMANCE. AFTER THE SHOW WE MET HIM TRYING TO CROSS THE COAST HIGHWAY FOR CIGARETTES, HE WAS A LITTLE TIPPY SO MY FRIEND GAVE HIM HIS CIGS AND MADE HIM PROMISE US HE WOULDN'T CROS THE COAST HIGHWAY. WE SAT ON THE CURB AND TALKED FOR A WHILE. A GREAT PERFORMER HE GAVE ME ONE TIP ON PLAYING THE HARMONIC. jUST PICK THE DAMN THING UP AND BLOW.
Report as inappropriate
diggsk6
Can we get some Junior Wells up in here?
Report as inappropriate
Junior Wells was one of the greats of Chicago Blues. He was known for his singing, mouth harp playing, and the feeling with which he sang, reputedly caused by big-time marital troubles. I can't believe there is no bio for an artist of this stature.

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