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Everyone's a Critic

The Observer's culture blog

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Staredown and a Turning Point

Many if not most blues lovers in southeastern Michigan have a John Lee Hooker story to tell, but last month at the Ark the veteran South Carolina folk singer and guitarist Jack Williams had one that was new to most of us.

The role of the Southern university towns in the musical revolutions of the third quarter of the twentieth century is insufficiently appreciated. Williams got his start in Athens, Georgia, playing fraternity houses and backing the blues musicians who were booked in to perform there. (The recollections of Ike Turner pertaining to this scene are also valuable.) One night Hooker came through and took the stage amid the beer and the booze. "The fraternity boys and sorority girls realized that someone was staring at them," Williams recalled, "and that those eyes had seen things they couldn't even imagine." The crowd fell silent.

"And at that moment," said Williams, "I realized I'd never be a blues singer."

-- James M. Manheim

posted by Jim Manheim at 10:54 a.m. | 0 comments


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