Henry’s Virtual Blueshouse Tuesday 31st March 2020

If the lockdown has you crawlin’ up the walls, well brother we’ve got the cure! Tonight, we’re premiering two brand new videos over on our Youtube channel.

First up at 7:45pm, we’ve got Jim sharing his recollections of the Harmonica Boss himself – Doctor Isiah Ross. Part of Big Bear Records’ American Blues Legends lineup way back in 1974, the good doctor became a cult hero after Cream covered his classic number Cat Squirrel.  As well as Ross’ tale of meeting Clapton & Co, check the video for the story behind his LP on Big Bear.

Then at 8pm we’ve got Henry’s stalwarts The Nitecrawlers with a tribute to Johnny Guitar Watson from one of their recent Henry’s gigs.

The Nitecrawlers were all set to launch their new album Unlock The Blues at The Bull’s Head earlier two weeks ago when they became Henry’s first coronavirus cancellation. Don’t worry – as soon as we get the green light to reopen, they and their new CD will be back at Birmingham’s Home of The Blues.

In the meantime, here’s a message from Chris, the band’s drummer:   If that old delta showman Howlin’ Wolf was telling the truth when he sang “I ain’t superstitious” then he was just about the only old bluesman who wasn’t.

Be assured Robert Johnson was far from the first to go down to the crossroads just before midnight, play his guitar and wait for the devil to arrive so that they could do a deal, and there were many who kept a little graveyard dirt in their pocket or a rattlesnake’s rattle in their guitar to make them play better.

Superstition, black magic and voodoo played a big part in the ways of the deep South, ancient beliefs that had come over from Africa with the first slaves and had become deeply embedded within the ideas of an inherently ignorant people. Superstitions that were regularly acknowledged in the songs the bluesmen sang, long after such matters were considered an outdated throwback to those old days of servitude.

Mysterious charms played a big part in these superstitious beliefs, dispensed to people (at a price) by the “doctor”, the “conjure” and the “gypsy,” the most powerful was the Black Cat Bone. Referred to by many older blues singers like Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, and Kokomo Arnold, a single bone carefully selected after an extremely elaborate and horrific ceremony was considered the most potent magic of all.

And when Muddy Waters sang about getting his mojo working, what he was actually referring to a small red flannel bag full of symbolically magical items that guaranteed success, while John the conqueroo was actually the root of the Jalepa plant, High John the Conqueror, which if picked at the correct time brought good luck, protection, and sexual success.

Numbers were also important “on the seventh hour of the seventh day—seven doctors say” intoned Muddy again, while after Lizzy Smith sat in the thirteenth row at church bad luck, she sang, followed her everywhere. And there were many other signs like the howling of a dog, black water, a rabbit’s foot and the hoot of the night owl.

So next time you hear the blues remember as you listen that you are hearing echoes of a long-gone age where superstitious reigned. Irrational of course, and it’s all gone now, just don’t walk under a ladder!

So there you have it. Check out this video from back in October, when Chris was our featured guest at Blues Talkin’, and explained the similarities between the Mississippi Cotton Belt and Gornal to us.

Meanwhile, the man who makes Henry’s The Home of Happy Feet is Chico White, who dropped us this message: Check out this video of Fleetwood Mac when they were at their best playing Blues/rock, well before Rumours album – 40 odd minutes of sheer pleasure for Henry’s Blueshouse fans.

I was 16 in ’68, the blues was in my soul and to see this clip still sends shivers down my back. This was about the time they played at Digbeth Civic Hall with Muddy Waters headlining, if I remember rightly.

So…all you lovely blues people who come to Henry’s every Tuesday night….sit down and enjoy those fine, heady days.

Just to say thank you to the crowd who turn up each week and see me dancing away and getting you all up to dance! It really does lift the atmosphere for the band and yourselves and the place is then really alive!
As soon as Henry’s return, I hope Jim puts Dance With Me Henry on the first night, to give you another Lindy Hop dance lesson. Until then, enjoy Fleetwood Mac!

Henry’s Blues Emporium

If you find your pocket’s feeling a bit heavier from stopping in, then why not treat yourself to some bona fide Henry’s merchandise?    Our CD selection includes albums from Henry’s favourites Tipitina and The Whiskey Brothers, plus the red hot blues rock of Will Johns (son and nephew of legendary producers Andy and Glyn Johns).

Meanwhile our vinyl section features the last in the sought-after series of American Blues Legends LPs, the snapshot of the Brum music scene in 1980 that was Live At The Barrel Organ and the second album from High Wycombe cult heroes Brewers Droop, featuring a young Mark Knopfler.

Or if you’re after a feast for the eyes as much as the ears, check out recently published book Don’t Worry About The Bear. The story of Big Bear Records, the book is packed with anecdotes covering the Birmingham music scene of the 1960s and the original Henry’s Blueshouse, managing Black Sabbath through their first two albums, and Jim’s work with the likes of Tommy Tucker, Willie Mabon, Lightnin’ Slim, Mickey Baker and Homesick James on the American Blues Legends tours and albums. Read what the reviewers have been saying here!   And if you need something fresh to wear when t-shirt weather finally comes round again, you can’t do much better than one of our exclusive Henry’s Blueshouse T-shirts