Sunday, September 25, 2011


You know how it goes. One of your friends posts a video that it never occurred to you to look for, and it leads to digging out the records, rereading profiles, and basically boning up on someone you haven't listened to in a while. In this case it was the Son House video below, posted by my friend Joe. (Surprisingly, it was not Ray "the guy who always finds the cool shit on YouTube.")

Practically everything that's written about Son House touches on the fact that he played with Charlie Patton, and knew Robert Johnson, and that he influenced Muddy Waters (among many others). This was after doing two years (of a fifteen year sentence) for killing someone who had gone on a shooting spree in a juke joint he was playing. But, probably the most interesting thing about his career is one that involves a 22 year old Alan Wilson, who would later end up in Canned Heat. House had been recorded, in 1930 by Paramount's Art Laibly, and twice by Alan Lomax, in 1941 and 1942, for the Library of Congress. He moved to Rochester, NY in 1943, and retired from music, working as a railroad porter and as a chef. In the early sixties there was blues revival of sorts, and the hunt for Son House's current whereabouts was on. Once House was found, John Hammond Sr. recruited the young Wilson, an insanely learned blues freak, to head up to Rochester to reteach Son House the songs he'd recorded in the forties. New recordings and tours would follow, until he re-retired in 1974, due to health problems. Wilson died of an overdose in 1970.

Son House - Death Letter Blues mp3 at Those Who Dig
Son House - Grinnin' In Your Face mp3 at Those Who Dig
Son House - Levee Camp Moan mp3 (via at Dr. Mooney's 115th Dream
Son House - Yonder Comes My Mother mp3 at Moistworks
Son House - Downhearted Blues mp3 at Moteldemoka

Son House - Grinnin' In Your Face at YouTube
Son House with Buddy Guy - My Black Mama at YouTube

Son House at Wikipedia
Alan Wilson at Wikipedia
Honey, Where You Been So Long? - Excellent pre-war blues site
Hell Hound on My Tail - Another humdinger, all eras of blues

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for remembering Son House and Alan Wilson's role in his rediscovery! I've covered this subject in a Blues Access article from the late 1990s; it's available online here:
Alan was always looking to educate listeners about the influences that inspired him. I am sure he would be happy to see that people around the world are still listening to the classic blues of Son House!

You can read more about Wilson's role in the blues revival in my book-length bio of him, available through my website at A portion is available online through Google Books; see the link posted on my home page.

Fans of Wilson and his music may also wish to check out the new family-authorized website established in his honor. It’s at and features rare photos, essays, links and other resources, as well as music downloads. I've been honored to make a few contributions to this site, and recommend it to anyone looking for more information on Wilson's oft-overlooked musical genius.

I also operate a few social networking fan sites dedicated to Wilson. I’ll be sure to share your blog with other Canned Heat fans there.

To dig deeper into the life and music of Son House, there's a new book out by Daniel Beaumont: "Preachin' the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House". I've recently picked up this bio and it looks excellent!

Thanks again for remembering Son House and Alan Wilson with this post. Don’t forget to boogie!