Friday, September 1, 2006

Junior Wells

Junior Wells

Since being introduced to the blues while in college back in the early 80's, I had been fortunate enough to see Junior Wells perform several times prior to moving from Chicago to California in 1987. After relocating, I didn't get out to see many blues shows. In 1990, Junior was scheduled to play a one nighter at JJ's Blues Lounge in Mountain View and I knew it was a show that I couldn't miss.

The night of the show, my wife and I got there early so we could get a good seat. Gary Smith, a local harp player, opened the show with his band. They played the opening set.

During the break, Junior was pacing back and forth like a caged animal. Something was wrong. This seemed very out of character. Junior's regal presence transcended "cool". About twenty minutes later, Junior's band took the stage. The band consisted of two guitars, bass and drums. There was no horn section to be found. George Baze led a couple of songs and then called Junior up. For the next 45 minutes, Junior played traditional blues and blew a lot of harp. He played more harmonica than I had ever seen him play before. It was incredible. He put on one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.

At the next break, four guys walked in carrying black cases. It was the horn section, they had accidently driven to JJ's in San Jose about 15 or 20 miles away by mistake. Junior looked pretty upset with them. I thought Junior was going to kill them and from the looks on their faces, they were thinking the same. The next set featured Junior more soul-based material. I enjoyed this side of Junior, but it was really nice to have been able to see him in the more traditional setting. That is a show that I will never forget.

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