The 10 Greatest Dallas Blues Artists
Face off: Smokin' Joe Kubek (left) and Bnois King.
Courtesy of Delta Groove
The Lone Star State has long produced some of the greatest blues legends to ever pick up a guitar or stand behind a microphone. Legends like Albert Collins from Leona, Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins from Centerville and Johnny Winter from Beaumont all have found the blues in Texas. Hell, we even have a Grammy Award-winning Austin blues artist Marcia Ball playing opera houses, town halls and beer and BBQ festivals across the country, and the Godfather of the Blues Robert Johnson recorded one of his albums in Dallas.
But Dallas has also had more than its fair share of legendary names leaving their mark on the blues world. Freddie King, T-Bone Walker, Blind Lemon Jefferson and, of course, Oak Cliff's own Stevie Ray Vaughn all have dominated blues charts across the web. But what about the other Dallas blues artists who've been blazing local and national stages for decades, slowly building their own legends yet somehow staying underneath the mainstream media's radar?
To help keep that name at the forefront of our online collective consciousness, here's a list of our favorite Dallas-based blues artists:
1. Mike Morgan A man wearing a patch over his eye in the media evokes images of a pirate, an outlaw biker or an injured vet forever scarred fighting for our freedom, depending on your perspective. Now give that patched-eye man a guitar, and the images reach a whole new level of bad ass that's even sexier than Johnny Depp's Keith Richards' impersonation. Since the mid-'80s, Mike Morgan has been slinging his Fender Strat with local and regional bands and teaching other people how to sling their own guitars. His band Mike Morgan and The Crawl was once considered one of the best contemporary blues bands in Texas, releasing such hits as Raw & Ready, Full Moon Over Dallas and The Road. Mike is currently fronting a three-piece version of his band.
2. Andrew "Jr. Boy" Jones No one knows the blues better than Andrew "Jr. Boy" Jones. He's played guitar with Freddie King's backing ensemble until the blues king death in 1976, and also jammed with the likes of blues vocalist Johnnie Taylor and local Dallas legend the "Reverend" R.L. Griffin. For eight years "Jr. Boy" led the Charlie Musselwhite Band and took part in winning Band of the Year at the W.C. Handy Awards. In 1997, he released his first solo album I Need Time, followed by Watch What You Say a year later, Mr. Domestic in 2001, Jr. Boy Live in '06 and Gettin' Real in '09. Although mainstream success has somehow missed him for most of his life, Jr. Boy's contributions to the blues will long be remembered by fans worldwide.
3. Miss Marcy In a musical genre dominated too often by men, Miss Marcy is at the forefront of the Dallas blues scene, wowing blues aficionados with a voice that sounds one part angelic/two parts devilish, which nearly caused this listener's heart to stop as I fell into her words. Graduating from the University of North Texas in 2001, Miss Marcy has spent the last decade playing club gigs, festivals and private parties across the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In 2010, she released her first album Miss Marcy and the Texas SugarDaddy's. Harnessing blues divas like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Big Mama Thorton, Miss Marcy is living proof that the blues are timeless.
4. Jim Suhler Since the early '80s, Jim Suhler has been slinging Texas blues with the likes of Johnny Winter, AC/DC, Billy Gibbons and Buddy Guy. In the late '90s, he became George Thorogood's right-hand man in the Destroyers, but he's been tearing up the Dallas scene with his band Monkey Beat since the early '90s, and even recorded a DVD at the Granada. Radio Mojo ('92), Shake ('95) and my personal favorite Tijuana Bible (2009) exhibit Suhler's scorching leads, satisfying any rabid fan's thirst for blues that make guitars bleed.
5. R.L. Griffin "The Reverend" For more than 30 years, blues enthusiasts have traveled into the heart of Dallas to join the R.L. Griffin's congregation at R.L.'s Blues Palace (1 & 2) where the club's namesake would jam with the Blues Palace Show Band and promote aspiring blues artists from across Texas, Louisiana and anywhere else feeling the heartbeat of the blues. The club even hosted KKD-AM 730's Soul 73 broadcast live ever Saturday night, not to mention the dozens of national acts who've crossed the Reverend's stage. Although mostly known as a preforming artist, R.L. Griffin has released a number of 45s over the years, including "I'll Follow You," "It Don't Have to Be This Way" and "I Smell Trouble." The Dallas Morning News once called Griffin, "High holy priest of blues in Dallas," a fitting title for a man who's spent more than 45 years establishing a blues legacy that will resonate long after he's gone.
6. Wanda King A blues list just wouldn't be a blues list without a king representing it, and who better than the daughter of Freddie King, one of the Three Blues Kings. Separating yourself from a famous parent's shadow is a hard act to accomplish, but Wanda King has been stepping out of her father's shadow since she fronted her brother Fred Jr.'s band in grade school. Later, she opened for David Sanborn, Johnny Winter and The Blues Brothers. In 2002, she released her first album From A Blues Point of View, followed by '08's Songs in the Key of Blues and her latest release Bridges.
7. Anson Funderburgh In the '80s, while blues legends like John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Jimmy Rogers were releasing instant blues classics, Dallas blues guitarist Anson Funderburgh was searching for a new singer for his band the Rockets. Enter Mississippi blues legend Sam Myers, a masterful harmonica player whose song "Sleeping in the Ground" was recorded by a variety of artists from Robert Cray to Steve Windwood and Eric Clapton. After joining the Rockets, Myers moved to the Dallas area in 1986 where he'd remain until his death in 2006. Together, the blues powerhouse recorded eight CDs - including two of my favorites Change in My Pocket and Which Way Is Texas? - and won nine W.C. Handy Awards.
8. Smokin' Joe Kubek Smokin' Joe Kubek is an adopted Texan and grew up in the Dallas area. The blues guitarist has played with the likes of Freddie King, but it wasn't until he met the other king - Bnois King - that his playing style reached "killer" status. Wielding Fender Strats like weapons, Smokin' Joe has slayed fans across the world with his magical shuffle sound. Smokin' Joe has released more than a dozen albums since 1991's Steppin' Out Texas Style with Bnois King, but it's his latest release 2012's Let That Right Hand Go that captures the history of the blues in Dallas and includes songs by Howlin' Wolf Burnett, Hound Dog Taylor, Squeeze Difford, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmy Reed, Bruce Bolin and Freddie King as well as two tracks by Austin blues legend Doyle Bramhall Sr.
9. Hash Brown - The King of the Dallas Blues Jams Mentoring thousands of aspiring blues artists, playing Schooner's Sunday night jam for more than nine years and hosting a Tuesday jam at The Bone for more than 13 years are just some of the reasons Hash Brown is known as "The King of the Dallas Blues Jams." Brown has played and recorded with a diverse group of artists, including Zuzu Bollin, Big Al Dupree and Sam Myers, whom he also stayed with for a time. Brown is an accomplished guitar and harmonica teacher. It's also been said that he slings a mean guitar, while many aficionados claim that he's the "heart and soul" of the Dallas blues scene. So just press play on the YouTube video above and let Hash Brown's guitar do the talking.
10. Doyle Bramhall II Playing with the likes of Eric Clapton is sure to peak any blues enthusiast's interest. But then throw in a collaboration with artists like T-Bone Burnett, Roger Waters, Derek Trucks and Gregg Allman and a Austin blues legend father who played drums for Lightnin' Hopkins and Freddie King, and you have all the ingredients you need to create the blues guitarslinger topping this list. Doyle not only plays a mean guitar but the left-handed slinger sometimes plays his guitar upside down in the style of such greats as Albert King, Otis Rush and Bobby Womack, which gives him a unique sound that stands out among his contemporaries. Since beginning his career at the age of 15, playing with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Doyle has released two albums - Arcangels and Living in a Dream - with his other band the Arcangels and three solo albums - Doyle Bramhall II, Jellycream and Welcome - with a fourth soon-to-be released.
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