Junior Wells – Hoodoo Man Blues


It’s late September 1965, and the crispy Junior Wells sets himself up in the studio with Buddy Guy, Jack Myers, and Billy Warren. Even though Buddy’s legendary guitar is here, it’s not supposed to be, something to do with a contract with Leonard Chess at Chess Records. Because of this, Buddy goes on this record under the name “Friendly Chap” (Get it? Buddy/Friendly Guy/Chap). The country is going head over heels for shit like The Beatles, the Stones, or any other version of pretty harmonizing bobblehead white boys. Dylan just released Highway 61 Revisited last month and people are going fucking nuts over “Like a Rolling Stone”. By any measure, there couldn’t be a worst time to release a debut Blues record. But Junior Wells don’t give a fuck. He doesn’t pay attention to any of this shit. If you cut the motherfucker, he’ll bleed blue. 

Junior Wells, born Amos Wells Blakemore Jr., plays the harmonica like a straight baller. He learned how to play from his cousin the legendary Junior Parker. He learns how to mess hard with the mouth organ by the time he was seven. At 14, he moves with his mom from Memphis to Chicago after her divorce. By 18, the guy is playing clubs with Muddy Waters. 

This album is, easily, one of the greatest blues records ever made. It’s rawer than sushi and colder than ice. You can hear the smoke’s silky stream off the end of a cigarette, the claustrophobic thickness in the room, and the warmth that can sometimes emanate off of great moments. It’s that down and dirty style that makes you want to chug whiskey, smoke like a train, and kiss someone so hard that your teeth grind together. It’s odd to think that Junior’s thick and talented harmonica was playing at the same time as Dylan’s I’m-using-this-shit-as-a-scuba-mask style. They don’t even sound like the same instrument. This album is Chicago Blues, through and through. The interplay between Junior’s organ and Buddy’s guitar is the golden fucking standard of Chicago blues. I’m not sure anyone has ever done it better. The album is uptempo, funky, and it’s one of those few albums that will always be cool. Kids in the year 2500 will listen to this album from their Apple i-slave quarters and whisper, “Oh my sweet Jobs, that’s the coolest fucking music I’ve ever heard”. This album goes to show that, no matter what the style is that day, be authentic. Because trends come and go, but motherfuckers with real style never die. 

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