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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: Blues Legend

1. Little By Little

2. Messin' With The Kid

3. Come On In This House

4. One Day

5. You Don't Care

6. Cha Cha Cha In Blue

7. Two Headed Woman

8. I'll Get You, Too

9. She's A Sweet One

10. You Sure Look Good To Me

11. I'm A Stranger

12. Universal Rock

13. I Could Cry

14. When The Cats Gone The Mice Play

15. Love Me

16. The Things I'd Do For You

17. So Tired

18. Calling All Blues

19. Lovey Dovey Lovey One

20. Galloping Horses A Lazy Mule

21. It Hurts Me, Too

22. Prison Bars All Around Me

23. I Need Me A Car

24. I Could Cry (Alternate Take)

25. Cha Cha Cha In Blue (In A Session)

x

Track List: Blues Six Pack

1. Give Me One Reason

2. Messin' With The Kid (2009)

3. Sweet Sixteen

4. Mystery Train

5. Shaky Ground

6. Got My Mojo Working

x

Track List: Vanguard Visionaries

1. Help Me

2. It Hurts Me Too (When Things Go Wrong)

3. Messin' With The Kid

4. Vietcong Blues

5. It's My Life, Baby

6. Everything's Going To Be Alright

7. Shake It Baby

8. Tobacco Road

9. Mystery Train

10. All Night Long

x

Track List: Live At Theresa's 1975

1. Little By Little

2. Snatch It Back And Hold It

3. Talk Pt. 1

4. Love Her With A Feeling

5. Talk Pt. 2

6. Juke

7. Talk Pt. 3

8. Happy Birthday

9. Talk Pt. 4

10. Scratch My Back

11. Help The Poor

12. Talk Pt. 5

13. Come On In This House

14. Talk Pt. 6

15. What My Mama Told Me

16. Key To The Highway

17. Talk Pt. 7

18. Goin' Down Slow

19. Talk Pt. 8

20. Messin' With The Kid (Live)

x

Track List: An Introduction To Junior Wells

1. I Could Cry

2. Two Headed Woman

3. Lovey Dovey Lovely One

4. Little By Little (I'm Losing You)

5. Come On In This House

6. Prison Bars All Around Me

7. Calling All Blues

8. Messin' With The Kid

9. So Tired

10. The Things I'd Do For You

11. Help Me (Live)

12. Look Over Yonder (Live)

13. Messin' With The Kid (Live)

14. I Can't Help Myself (Live)

x

Track List: Calling All Blues

1. Two Headed Woman

2. Lovey Dovey Lovey One

3. I Could Cry (1957 Version)

4. Cha - Cha - Cha In Blue (Cut My Toe Nail)

5. Little By Little (I'm Losing You)

6. Come On In The House

7. You Don't Care

8. Prison Bars All Around Me

9. Calling All Blues

10. Galloping Horses A Lazy Mule

11. Messin' With The Kid

12. You Sure Look Good To Me

13. So Tired

14. Universal Rock

15. I Could Cry (1961 Version)

16. I'm A Stranger

17. The Things I Do For You

18. Love Me

19. It Hurts Me Too

20. I Need Me A Car

21. I'll Get You Too

22. One Day (Every Goodbye Ain't Gone)

23. She's A Sweet One

24. When The Cat's Gone The Mice Play

x

Track List: Blues Hit Big Town

1. Hoodoo Man (Originally Titled Hoodo Man))

2. Cut That Out

3. Junior's Wail

4. Tomorrow Night

5. Ways Like An Angel

6. Eagle Rock

7. Please Throw This Poor Dog A Bone

8. Blues Hit Big Town

9. Lord Lord

10. 'Bout The Break Of Day

11. So All Alone

12. Can't Find My Baby

13. Please Throw This Dog A Bone (Alternate Take)

14. Junior's Wail (Alternate Take)

15. Eagle Rock (Alternate Take)

16. Lord Lord (Alternate Take)

17. Blues Hit Big Town (Alternate Take)

x

Track List: Best Of The Vanguard Years

1. Help Me

2. It Hurts Me Too (When Things Go Wrong)

3. Messin' With The Kid

4. Vietcong Blues

5. All Night Long

6. It's My Life, Baby

7. It's So Sad To Be Lonely

8. Country Girl

9. Stormy Monday Blues

10. Shake It Baby

11. Checking On My Baby

12. Early In The Morning

13. (I Got A) Stomach Ache

14. Look How Baby

15. I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man

16. Slow, Slow

17. Shotgun Blues

18. You Know That I Know

x

Track List: Live At Buddy Guy's Legends

1. Broke And Hungry (Live)

2. Messin' With The Kid (Live)

3. Hoodoo Man (Live)

4. Little By Little (Live)

5. The Train (Live)

6. Sweet Sixteen (Live)

7. What My Momma Done Told Me (Live)

8. Got My Mojo Working (Live)

9. Love Her With A Feeling (Live)

10. Help Me (Live)

11. Today I Started Loving You Again (Live)

x

Track List: Junior Wells 1957-1963

1. Come On In This House

2. Little By Little

3. So Tired

4. She's A Sweet One

5. It Hurts Me Too

6. Universal Rock

7. Messin' With The Kid

8. Prison Bars All Around Me

9. You Couldn't Care

10. I Could Cry

11. You Sure Look Good To Me

12. When The Cats Gone The Mice Play (Take 1, 2, 3) (Feat. Willie Dixon)

13. Two-Headed Woman

14. Cha Cha Cha In Blues

15. Lovey Dovey Lovey One

16. I'm A Stranger

17. The Things I'd Do For You

18. I Need Me A Car

19. I'll Get You Too

20. One Day (Every Goodbye Ain't Gone)

21. Calling All Blues

22. Love Me

23. Galloping Horses A Lazy Mule

x

Track List: Chicago / The Blues / Today! Vol. 1

1. Help Me

2. It Hurts Me Too (When Things Go Wrong)

3. Messin' With The Kid

4. Vietcong Blues

5. All Night Long

x

Track List: On Tap

1. What My Mama Told Me

2. So Long

3. Key To The Highway

4. You Gotta Love Her With A Feeling

5. The Train I Ride

6. Watch Me Move

7. Someday Baby

8. Junior's Thing

9. Goin' Down Slow

x

Track List: Southside Blues Jam

1. Stop Breaking Down

2. I Could Have Had Religion

3. I Just Want To Make Love To You

4. Baby, Please Send Me Your Love

5. You Say You Love Me

6. Blues For Mayor Daley

7. I Wish I Knew What I Know Now

8. Trouble Don't Last Always

x

Track List: Sings Live At The Golden Bear

1. So Tired (I Could Cry) (Live)

2. Fever (Live)

3. The Goat (Live)

4. My Babe (Live)

5. Driving Wheel (Live)

6. Don't Start Me Talking (Live)

7. How Many More Years (Live)

8. I'm Ready (Live)

9. Please, Please, Please (Live)

10. Elevate Me Mama (Live)

x

Track List: It's My Life Baby

1. It's My Life, Baby

2. It's So Sad To Be Lonely

3. Country Girl

4. You Lied To Me

5. Stormy Monday Blues

6. Shake It Baby

7. Checking On My Baby

8. Early In The Morning

9. (I Got A) Stomach Ache

10. Look How Baby

11. Slow, Slow

12. Everything's Going To Be Alright

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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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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