There have been some amazing blues performance videos released over the years that thankfully catch some of our heroes in top form.  My favorite, which I consider to be essential viewing, is the American Folk Blues Festival series. 

Four DVD's have been released to date covering highlights from the years 1962 to 1969.   Two German promoters presented many of the top American blues artists each year across Europe.  Willie Dixon was their man in Chicago who helped put the amazing lineups together and backed many of them on bass. Artists included Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, T-Bone Walker, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton, Lightnin' Hopkins, Little Walter and dozens of others. German, Danish and British television filmed high quality productions of these performers at their best. The festivals had a huge influence on British musicians like Eric Clapton, The Yardbirds, and Stevie Winwood who had a chance to see and meet their blues heroes for the first time.    

A regional R&B television series called “The !!!Beat,” was recorded in Dallas in 1966.  All 26 episodes are available in living colour, uncut, on six DVD's via Bear Family Records. The swinging house band, The Beat Boys, were led by Texas guitar legend Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown. Artists performed with the amazing band or lip-synced to their hits.  Etta James, Joe Tex, Little Milton, Esther Phillips, Barbara Lynn, Carla Thomas and Mighty Joe Young all performed on the show.  Local resident Freddie King appeared often and tears it up with Gate and band. Host Bill “Hoss” Allen was a local Dallas disc jockey who championed the music of these artists, and helped break the colour barrier in Texas and beyond.  It's fun to watch him get suspiciously tipsy towards the end of each shooting day.  And 1966 was a big year for go go dancers.

Freddie King and Gatemouth Brown swapping licks on The !!!Beat.

Related Links:
The Blues Brothers
Johnny Otis
Saturday Night Blues

posted by Chris Martin on Apr 03, 2012