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Pradinis puslapis S Arthur "Big Boy" Spires - Chicago Blues
Arthur "Big Boy" Spires - Chicago Blues
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Arthur "Big Boy" Spires

Biography

The exploits of the bluesmen named Arthur who share the nickname "Big Boy" would lead one to believe that "big trouble" is what its all about. The better known Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup spent much of his life battling to get royalties for one of his songs that Elvis Presley recorded, while Arthur "Big Boy" Spires had to cut his own blues career short due to arthritis. After all, while most blues guitarists like to wince whenever they bend a note, this facial expression is normally a result of dramatics, not physical pain. Despite the truncated career and the commonly shared opinion that Spires was something of a lesser bluesman in the scheme of things, he did manage to positively influence many younger players such as harmonica king Junior Wells and was a part of several important blues groups in their early formation, even if at least one of them drummed him out for not keeping time well enough. Like many bluesmen from the Chicago scene he hailed from Mississippi but unlike many of peers he didn't start playing blues as a child. Spires was a latecomer to music, beginning the guitar at the age of 18, heavily influenced by Son House first and Muddy Waters later.Spires finally arrived in Chicago in 1943 and began playing at house-rent parties during the decade, considered a notch below regular club gigs in status on the blues scene. It was not until the early 50's that he stepped up to nightclubs, which was where talent scouts for Checker noticed him, leading to his first recording session in 1952. Prior to this happening he could still say he was at the thick of things when the distinctive sounds of the Chicago blues bands were born. In the late 40's, still playing the house parties, Spires recruited two newcomers named David and Louis Myers as part of his rhythm section. It was a case of a leader putting together a band that was better than he was, because while the Myers clan provided perfect back-up for the downhome Mississippi blues, they would leave the leader wading in the mud when it came time for an up-tempo boogie number, more and more what the crowd wanted. The young Wells also came into the picture around then, as did legendary drummer Fred Below. Out of these collaborations developed the most famous rhythm section in blues history, the Aces, also known as the Four Aces. Unfortunately for Spires, he was not part of any of this, but carried on nonetheless. He first recorded for Checker in 1952, producing his best known song, "Murmur Low". Vocally, he could be compared favorably with Son House at this point, but rhythmically there was something askew about his performance. This flaw was corrected somewhat with the good rhythm section provided for his sessions for Chance the following year, as the label was apparently not willing to leave the rhythm of the song to chance. These new recordings aimed for a Muddy Waters feel; it was a time when all the blues labels were trying to come up with their own answer to this incredibly popular bluesman. Spires cut songs such as "Some Day Little Darling" and "My Baby Left Me" as part of four marathon Chance sessions that also included J.B. Lenoir, Sunnyland Slim, Johnny Shines, Homesick James, the obscure Little Hudson Shower and Floyd Jones. These are the famous "Al Smith basement tapes", literally recorded in that producer's basement in Chicago. The music that came out of these recording sessions is some of the purest Chicago blues in existence, the recording sound more like garage bands, lacking the slightest trace of studio polish and heading in a direction that has never been on the hitmaker's compass. The Spires' "cuts are even more stripped down and gnarled," a blues critic writes, all the encouragement a blues fan would need to add these tracks to the treasure chest. According to newspaper ads from this period, Spires seems to have been moving forward in his career. Near the end of 1953, Big Boy Spires and His Rhythm Rocking Three was promoted as the feature act in the grand opening celebration of the Palace Inn. About a year later he was recording once again, with one of his best line-ups, including Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on harmonica, guitarist Edward El, drummer Ted Porter and pianist Willie "Long Time" Smith on piano and singing some of the numbers, his nickname important in order to tell him apart from Willie "The Lion" Smith. All of these players were members of Spires' working group of the time, now known as the Rocket Four. This group broke up in 1959 and Spires made only one more recording session, an unissued Testament project in the mid 60's. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, All Music Guide
 

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