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Lead Vocal: Juanita Mankuleo

"Thank you -- you make me want to play again."

                        --Eric Clapton

The centrality of the electric guitar in rock music started in Chicago. when blues music got electrified. The industrial cities in the North needed workers after the Second World War. Large numbers of African Americans were more than happy to leave the racist South to fill this void. One particular trail led from the Delta up the Mississippi river to Chicago. Muddy Waters plugged his guitar into an amplifier one day, and suddenly blues had one more way of expressing emotion.

The first generation of electric blues guitarists like T-Bone Walker, Lightning Hopkins and Elmore James remained relatively unknown outside a circle of other musicians and guitarists who learned and stole from them. These pioneers were succeeded by a group of true electric blues masters like BB King, Albert King, and Buddy Guy. These artists, in turn, heavily influenced the first group of virtuoso rock guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page.

Every decade has its 'guitar heroes,' who are schooled in the blues idiom and go on to transform guitar playing and / or achieve mainstream success. Here is my personal list in rough chronological order: Jimi Hendrix ->  Jimmy Page ->  Eddie Van Halen  --> Stevie Ray Vaughn ->  Robert Cray ->  Kenny Wayne Shepherd ->  John Mayer -> Gary Clark Jr.

Plus Eric Clapton, of course, who in my opinion straddles it from beginning to end.

Gary Clark Jr came out of the Austin music scene, getting his start playing in the dives on Sixth Street. He was 'discovered' when Eric Clapton invited him to the 2010 Crossroads music festival where his performance elicited the Eric Clapton quote above, with Buddy Guy adding "...he's as good as it gets ... he reminds me of T-Bone Walker..."  While he started out as a blues shredder, his repertoire has grown over the years. From hip-hp to deeply felt protest songs like "This Land" to Beatles covers like the thundering "Come Together" for the Transformers movie soundtrack.


I really started appreciating the blues roots of rock during my graduate school years in Chicago. The Checkerboard Lounge on 43rd and King in the Southside of Chicago was my favored spot. The music was loud and raw, and the crowd an eclectic mix of locals, students, and European blues tourists. One year I managed to crash owner LC Thurman's birthday. Musicians kept showing up and jamming through the night. Buddy Guy, Phil Guy, Magic Slim, Junior Wells, John Primer ... it was an all nighter / crash course on electric blues and still one of my favorite nights of live music ever.

Given the direct connection from blues to rock what better way to start and end this collection than with a '12 bar blues'?


The killer opening riff, plus two intense Gary Clark guitar solos, defines "When My Train Pulls In." Juanita sings lead, I reproduce the tamer mid-song guitar solo, and Bobby solos on the outro. Listen for the keys and bass playing dueling Star Wars motifs near the end there. Parthiv also finally got his back-ordered Red Witch fuzz bass pedal and decided to re-record the bass line to match the song's grittiness. That was the final recording session.

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Gary Clark Jr @The LA Forum, 2019

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