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Luther Allison

An American-born guitarist, singer, and songwriter who lived in France since 1980, Luther Allison was the man to book at blues festivals in the mid-'90s. Allison's comeback into the mainstream was ushered in by a recording contract with an American record company, Chicago-based Alligator Records. After he signed with Alligator in 1994, Allison's popularity grew exponentially and he worked steadily until his death in 1997.

Born August 17, 1939, in Widener, AR, Allison was the 14th of 15 children, the son of cotton farmers. His parents moved to Chicago when he was in his early teens, but he had a solid awareness of blues before he left Arkansas, as he played organ in the church and learned to sing gospel in Widener as well. Allison recalled that his earliest awareness of blues came via the family radio in Arkansas, which his dad would play at night. Allison recalls listening to both the Grand Ole Opry and B.B. King on the King Biscuit Show on Memphis' WDIA. Although he was a talented baseball player and had begun to learn the shoemaking trade in Chicago after high school, it wasn't long before Allison began to focus more of his attention on playing blues guitar. Allison had been hanging out in blues clubs all through high school, and with his brother's encouragement, he honed his string-bending skills and powerful, soul-filled vocal technique.

It was while living with his family on Chicago's West Side that he had his first awareness of wanting to become a full-time bluesman, and he played bass behind guitarist Jimmy Dawkins, who Allison grew up with. Also in Allison's neighborhood were established blues greats like Freddie King, Magic Sam, and Otis Rush. He distinctly remembers everyone talking about Buddy Guy when he came to town from his native Louisiana. After the Allison household moved to the South Side, they lived a few blocks away from Muddy Waters, and Allison and Waters' son Charles became friends. When he was 18 years old, his brother showed him basic chords and notes on the guitar, and the super bright Allison made rapid progress after that. Allison went on to "blues college" by sitting in with some of the most legendary names in blues in Chicago's local venues: Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Howlin' Wolf among them.

His first chance to record came with Bob Koester's then-tiny Delmark Record label, and his first album, Love Me Mama, was released in 1969. But like anyone else with a record out on a small label, it was up to him to go out and promote it, and he did, putting in stellar, show-stopping performances at the Ann Arbor Blues Festivals in 1969, 1970, and 1971. After that, people began to pay attention to Luther Allison, and in 1972 he signed with Motown Records. Meanwhile, a growing group of rock & roll fans began showing up at Allison's shows, because his style seemed so reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix and his live shows clocked in at just under four hours!

Although his Motown albums got him to places he'd never been before, like Japan and new venues in Europe, the recordings didn't sell well. He does have the distinction of being one of a few blues musicians to record for Motown. Allison stayed busy in Europe through the rest of the 1970s and 1980s, and recorded Love Me Papa for the French Black and Blue label in 1977. He followed with a number of live recordings from Paris, and, in 1984, he settled outside of Paris, since France and Germany were such major markets for him. At home in the U.S., Allison continued to perform sporadically, when knowledgeable blues festival organizers or blues societies would book him.

As accomplished a guitarist as he was, Allison wasn't a straight-ahead Chicago blues musician. He learned the blues long before he got to Chicago. What he did so successfully is take his base of Chicago blues and add touches of rock, soul, reggae, funk, and jazz. Allison's first two albums for Alligator, Soul Fixin' Man and Blue Streak, are arguably two of his strongest. His talents as a songwriter are fully developed, and he's well-recorded and well-produced, often with horns backing his band. Another one to look for is a 1992 reissue on Evidence, Love Me Papa. In 1996, Motown reissued some of the three albums worth of material he recorded for that label (between 1972 and 1976) on compact disc.

Well into his mid-50s, Allison continued to delight club and festival audiences around the world with his lengthy, sweat-drenched, high-energy shows, complete with dazzling guitar playing and inspired, soulful vocals. He continued to tour and record until July of 1997, when he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Just over a month later, he died in a hospital in Madison, WI; a tragic end to one of the great blues comeback stories. 1998's posthumous Live in Paradise captured one of his final shows, recorded on La Reunion Island in April 1997. Thomas Ruf, who was inspired by and became a friend of Allison's shortly before the bluesman's death, issued Underground on Ruf Records in 2007. ~ Richard Skelly, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

amazing! thank you pandora :)
sheree.camel
Will have to look into Luther Allison .... and that pianist ain't no joke...
SWEET!
This guy can jam, love him already
Love blues music. Where my followers
kimm55
1977- North Carolina blues joint. First time I heard the blues---live acoustic- he snagged me for good right then n there!!! legend!
loefflerjame s
Saw home at his 2nd last concert,so powerfully done, no way would you have any hint that he was less than 30 days away from the end. A performer to the Max. RIP Luther
I had the pleasure of seeing him in concert in 1972. Was great !! Just unbelievable , really. There are videos available of him in concert that kinda' capture him and what he could do and be (as one who channels that energy...). Last summer saw his son, Bernard play. That, too....a joy. Another great blues experience.
this is my life right her
damn my man is awesome at soloing at the guitar and his name is luther allison
baddasss good blues guitar
saw him in 97. he showed up late (his band played alone for an hour), but when he got there he unleashed on us for the next 2 and a half and it was awesome
i know it is a cliche but he was a livewire. sparks and arcs flying everywhere
mo072986
I still miss him whenhis song come up
kgillim9
When I first heard him, I was hooked!
mjstar97
I got to know Luther in 1980 when I worked in a club (Cabooze) in Minneapolis. Not only a great guitarist, but a great man. Fame did not affect him. He loved people and life.

I feel so dumb!! i wished i had listen to this guy before!! He's awesome!!
I love this man's music it touches my soul as his namesake shall always touch my heart. Much love for the Allisons.
R.I.P. Allison ur son is ripping up the blues scene in england and cats like me are playing the blues in the states im playing my guitar right now brother
I knew Luther. I was a bouncer at the Cabooze in Minneapolis in the '70's. He played there so often, I thought he was the house band. Before wireless, he played with a 100' cord, and would strut around the place and even up on the bar tables. He was breathtaking . Bob Dylan came to see him while he was recording Blood on the Tracks here. Luther brought me as his guest to the Chicago Blues Fest one year. I truly loved that guy. If never saw him, you don't know what you were missing.
Mitch Omer
darrell58
Just listen, that's all that needs to be said!
I just love the way he make that guitar talk, I know y'all can hear it too!
schtickon66
I heard him at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival (circa 1969 or so) and at a blues bar in Kent, Ohio (home of Kent State U) down on Water street. At the Kent venue there was a young woman who was yelling, throughout his performance, Let's boogie! All night long! Luther finally yelled at her, Shut the f*** up! She did.
Love it, soulful, makes life meaningful, LOL
Let's try again is the song or cherry red wine
My brother Donald Hye Pockets Robertson-hi s drummer played with luther and went on tour to europe with him... Great memories-
Good Chicago Sets. Love. his friend & adopted baby sister,
Ann
This guy was big in wisconsin
Saw in May, 1973; Rites of Spring, in the quad at ISU. The front row, getting loaded on Ripple! What a show!
kvons1
Tragic loss of a true blues great. Howlin Wolf's -- Little Red Rooster---be s t rendition by the Stones in '64 and followed closely (if not excelled) by Bob Weir and the Dead's version---op i n i o n .
mrschaffins
he was one of the greatest
not black not white just the BLUES
i met luther in our music store, GREAT GUY!!!
da man!
Is it me or does Luther's blues make you just want to take everything off?
im playin air guitar and makin those faces while i squeeze out the tones.
chrsroc
is that a joint or a cig that he's smoking on?
If you haven't listened to the double cd live in Chigaco...pl e a s e pick it up think it is one of the best live blues cd's out there..... just amazing..Che r r y Red Wine!!!
boogiespeed
memories of Luther, pt. II :

I remember we spoke about his song "Ya got to get out of the Hood" of which he meant every word -about the tough spot every inner-city black child is born into...

And as I said before,.. a nice man. ~ R.I.P. Luther Allison ~
boogiespeed
memories of Luther, pt. I

I met Luther the summer before we lost him, at the Albany NY Fleet BluesFest... After a wild, strung out, out in the crowd,and back up on the stage again performance, he was soaked with sweat -and patient with every last fan who wanted to have a word with him -including me, a columnist for "Bluesprint" the rag of the 'Northeast Blues Society'...

And what I found was a genuinely nice man. And what a musician.
Luther Allison is one of the most talented blues artist I've ever heard. I became a fan in 2005, thru a blues guitarist in Aurora,CO, thank you Bruce Lord, which I am so grateful and I am so enjoying all his music from back in 1973, just wish I knew it earlier in life, its ok tho cause I know and love it now.
scscooter320 6
awsome,cant say more.!!!!
dpasq2
Evil is going on!
WOW!!! This is FREAKIN' AMAZING!!!! How could I NOT know about this guy! Now, I want all his music!
tabeta1820
Sweet Home CHICAGO, yeah. Love it, Miss CHICAGO
Amen, King Dunn,Amen
Go see his son Bernard,you won,t want the concert to end.
Wish I would have discovered this sweet sounding axe man years ago. Thanks Pandora, I have book marked him.
The blues is the truth. If it's not the blues, it's not the truth.





















Willie Dixon said, "The bLUES IS THE TRUTH," and, "if it's not the blues, it's not the truth."






willie Dixon
Exceptional. Love ya, Luther man!
misslovelyco t t o n
Just can't get enough of good blues, thank you Luther
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