Tuesday, November 3, 2009

James Cotton

The following might interest Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. And we know he can get a date!
Harmonica player James "Superharp" Cotton will perform at a jazz festival in Buenos Aires on November 24.
Cotton, 74, grew up the youngest of eight siblings in Tunica,Mississippi. He recalled hearing his mother make chicken and egg sounds on her harmonica, and tried to imitate those sounds when he received a 15-cent harmonica as a Christmas present.
He realized that the instrument could do more after listening to Sonny Boy Williamson play it on the King Biscuit Time radio program.
Both of Cotton's parents had died by his ninth birthday. His uncle then took him to Sonny Boy Williamson, and the two harmonica players began to tour the Mississippi-Arkansas juke joint circuit. James--too young to play inside--often provided "an opening act" for Williamson on the steps of the clubs. Cotton was so good that he sometimes made more money playing outside of the clubs than Sonny Boy Williamson made inside.
Williamson left to rejoin his estranged wife, and the teen-aged Cotton went to Beale Street in Memphis, where he supported himself with his harmonica and by shining shoes. Also during his teen-age years, he played juke joints in Missouri and Mississippi with Howlin' Wolf, whom he had met at an Arkansas club.
At 17, Cotton had a 15-minute radio on KWEM of West Memphis, Arkansas, located across the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee.
He also started playing with Muddy Waters, who showed up at one of Cotton's gigs and introduced himself. Cotton would remain with Muddy for 12 years.
Cotton first became a bandleader himself in 1967. He played the Fillmore East in New York, the Fillmore West in Los Angeles, and venues in-between,opening for or sitting in with Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Santana and B.B. King, among others.
In the 1980's Cotton received a series of Grammy nominations. His first, for "Live From Chicago: Mr. Superharp Himself," came in 1986. He received the second the following year for "Take Me Back." A third nomination came in 1988 for "James Cotton Live."
In 1994 he had throat surgery and radiation treatments, but was on the road with his James Cotton Trio soon afterwards.
This year--his 65th in the business--Cotton tours with a band consisting of Slam Allen on guitar and vocals; Tom Holland on guitar and vocals; Noel Neal on bass; and Kenny Neal Jr. on drums.