Blues: Guitar & Piano
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Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -

Buddy Guy Willie Dixon Chess Box Set

Guitar & Piano
Blues

Muddy Waters AnthologyHowlin' Wolf - Chess Collection

 
Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -

Blues: The Guitar and Piano

Many of the great blues artists were masters at successfully incorporating guitar and piano into their arrangements, perhaps most prolifically by the Chicago blues masters.  This page will highlight some of the better artists in this tradition. Stop back for updates. We'd love your suggestions.  

Willie Dixon  /  Buddy Guy  /  Elmore James  /  Muddy Waters  /  Howlin' Wolf

Unlike rock groups where personnel frequently stay together or at least the  main core does, many blues artists used several different back-up bands. As a result, many of best blues pianists have performed with many artists so you'll see names like Lafayette Leake and Otis Spann seemingly everywhere.  A few of the music greats they've recorded with include Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, among many others.

For many of the great blues artists we have found that the compilations are a great way to collect their music, and there are usually choices between single or  multi-disc options to satisfy all tastes.  A live album is typically the perfect supplement.

The Ultimate Blues Sampler 
The best album that overviews the Chicago blues scene era is Willie Dixon's two disc box set on Chess records.  This is a celebration of Willie Dixon's songwriting, which is what he is known for.  His compositions were made famous by the likes of such blues legends as Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Lowell Fulson, Koko Taylor, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley, and others whom Willie wrote songs for.  

Beyond the influence Willie Dixon had in blues, his mark on rock is quite deep. The artists would be too numerous to name them all, but would include the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, and the Grateful Dead. On Willie Dixon's Box Set there are at least eight songs that the Grateful Dead performed in concert. A persuasive argument could be made that Led Zeppelin would not have been without Willie Dixon. On their first two albums they have four of his songs if you include the rip off of "You Need Love" that incepted "Whole Lotta Love." 

Websites  

The history of Chess Records from the History of rock of rock website

The history of Chess records from Both Sides Publications

Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -
Leroy Carr

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The Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell recommendations come from my friend and musical recording artist Tim Penn (Tim Penn and The Strange Sins - Down In The Deep)

Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell were pretty much the founders of the guitar / piano duet style. And were probably after Bessie Smith the most popular blues artists in the 20s / 30s - certainly in urban areas.

Single discs:
Prison Bound Blues 
How Long How Long Blues

Double Disc
Whiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave: The Best of Leroy Carr

Box-set - 4 discs
Vol. 1, 1928-1934: How Long Blues

Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -

How Long How Long Blues seems to have most of their best early stuff on -- including " Blues Before Sunrise," " How Long How Long," " When The Sun Goes Down" (aka In the Evening -- which is their masterpiece track) and Sloppy Drunk. They were pretty prolific...

Vol. 1, 1928-1934: How Long Blues is a generous box-set of nearly 100 songs by the fabulous JSP label. 

Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -
Willie Dixon 

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Willie Dixon is  best known for his songwriting contributions to the great Chicago blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Koko Taylor and countless others.  

Do any of the songs below seem familiar? 
"I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man," "Evil," "Mellow Down Easy," "I just Want to Make Love to You," "Spoonful," "I Ain't Superstitious," "You Need Love" (The riff that is the foundation of Led Zeppelin's track "Whole Lotta Love"), "Little Red Rooster," "Back Door Man," "You Shook Me," "Bring it on Home," Wang Dang Doodle," "The Same Thing."  They are all Willie Dixon compositions.  You can get all of these songs performed by the respective blues legends all on Chess' two disc Willie Dixon Box Set

If I had to limit myself to one blues album, The Willie Dixon Chess Box Set would be it.  

Read a brief Willie Dixon biography provided by Djangomusic.

Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -

The Willie Dixon Chess Box Set  is the definitive blues album bar none.  See above for additional comments.  

The Big Trio is a taste of Willie Dixon's start. Not a straight blues album. 

Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -
Buddy Guy

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Buddy Guy is undeniably one of the best blues guitarist.  Below are some great orientations to his music if you are not familiar with his work.  Buddy has included pianist such as Lafayette Leake, Otis Spann, Leonard Caston, Little Brother Montgomery, and others in his recordings.  

Read a brief Buddy Guy biography provided by Djangomusic.

Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -

Live: This is Buddy Guy is a superb live Buddy Guy record. It is included in its entirety in the three disc The Complete Vanguard Recordings.

Buddy's Blues (Chess 50th Anniversary Collection) is the best single disc introduction to Buddy Guy.

Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -

Damm Right I've Got the blues  Won  a Grammy and includes guest appearances with Eric Clapton, Mark Knofler, and others.

 

Alone and Acoustic Buddy Guy and Junior Wells perform acoustic street-corner blues at its best.

Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -
Elmore James

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Elmore James is best known for his innovation with the slide guitar. His influence extends to such legends as Duane Allman, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Keith Richards, and B.B. King. His back up band the Broomsters featuring Little Johnny Jones on piano is top tier.  Better known tracks include Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom," "The Sky is Crying," and "Done Somebody Wrong," a song that appears on the Allman Brothers The Fillmore Concerts.

Read a brief Elmore James  biography provided by Djangomusic.

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The Sky is Crying is a superb compilation of Elmore James' best tracks.  

Shake Your Moneymaker: The Best of the Fire Sessions - recorded in New Orleans, Chicago, and New York City between 1959 and 1961.

Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -
Big Maceo and Tampa Red

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The Big Maceo and Tampa Red recommendations come from my friend and musical recording artist Tim Penn (Tim Penn and The Strange Sins - Down In The Deep)

Big Maceo and Tampa Red (who was BB Kings uncle I think) -- c 1941 - 1950 - Big Maceo suffered a stroke. the early stuff is better generally because on some of the later tracks Big Maceo is just singing and Eddie Boyd is playing piano... Big Maceo very much a precursor to Otis Spann -- more Blues less Boogie. 

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Guitar & Piano Duets is a collection of 24 duets recorded between 1941 and 1946. 

Great Piano/Guitar Duo 1941-1946 collects 22 tracks and has very little overlap with the other recommendation. 

Blues  Greats - Guitar and Piano -
Muddy Waters

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Muddy Waters, born McKinley Morganfield, started his musical legacy in Mississippi and across the Delta.  He ventured to Chicago in 1943 and the rest is history.  In 1953 he teamed up with pianists Otis Spann forming a partnership that would yield treasure after treasure in the years to follow. 

We included four ideas for Muddy Waters.  The best value is the two disc Anthology.  Close behind are the Chess compilations that are single disc chronological collections.  

Muddy Waters discography and reviews.

Read a brief Muddy Waters biography provided by Djangomusic.

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Anthology is a two disc compilation of Muddy Waters music and the best value.  

Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live -  A solid but short collection of Muddy Waters.
  

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His Best: 1947 to 1955 - Part one of the Chess 50th Anniversary series honoring Muddy Waters. 

His Best: 1956 - 1964  The second Muddy Waters installment of the Chess 50th Anniversary. 

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Howlin' Wolf 

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Howlin' Wolf's, aka Chester Burnett, material includes some of the best sideman such as Buddy Guy, Herbert Sumlin, Otis Spann, Lafayette Leake, Johnny Jones and others backing him up.  His song list have became staples and covers for both blues and rock artists.  A few of Wolfs' better known tracks are "Smokestack Lightning," "Sitting on Top of the World," "Wang Dang Doodle," "Back Door Man, "Spoonful," "Red Rooster," "I Ain't Superstitious," and "Killing Floor."

Read a brief Howlin' Wolf biography provided by Djangomusic.

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His Best from the 50th Anniversary Chess series is a superb collection of his work where the songs titles are household names. 

Box Set  A three disc comprehensive look; not for the casual fan.  

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