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Blues artists deaths in 2013

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In recent years the blues community has lost some great artists. Those lost include Pinetop Perkins, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Honey Boy Edwards, Koko Taylor and Louisiana Red. The year 2013 was no different. Magic Slim, Jimmy Dawkins, Aaron Moore and Eric “Guitar” Davis were some of Chicago’s biggest loses. On a global level there was Bobby “Blue” Bland, Alvin Lee, T-Model Ford and Ann Rabson.

Probably the most tragic is the murder of 41 year old Eric “Guitar” Davis. He was found shot behind the wheel of a car in the early morning hours of December 19th. He was an up and coming blues guitarist who had just signed a recording contract with Chicago’s Delmark Records.

Aaron Moore (2-11-18 to 11-27-13) was a local Chicago treasure who worked for the city of Chicago driving a garbage truck for 36 years and playing blues piano only on the weekends. Some of the greats he played with/for included B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lonnie Brooks, Hound Dog Taylor and Little Walter.

Jimmy Dawkins (10-24-36 to 4-12-13) was known as Fast Fingers, but never really cared for that name. He was part of the west side sound, which also included Otis Rush, Luther Allison and Magic Sam.

Magic Slim (8-7-37 to 2-21-13) born Morris Holt passed away at a hospital in Philadelphia. He had health problems and they worsened while on tour. His manager said he had bleeding ulcers that sent him to the hospital, but he also suffered from heart, lung and kidney problems.

Bobby “Blue” Bland (1-27-30 to 6-23-13) was born Robert Calvin Brooks in Rosemark, Tennessee. Strictly a singer, Bobby started on Beale Street in Memphis with B.B. King, Roscoe Gordon, Junior Parker and Johnny Ace. They took the name the Beale Streeters. A 1992 member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his first chart success was in 1957 with the R&B chart No. 1 hit “Farther Up the Road”.

T-Model Ford (? to 7-16-13) was born James Lewis Carter Ford in Forest, Mississippi. His exact age is not known. His record company Fat Possum Records stated he was 94 at the time of his death, but others say he was born between 1921 and 1925. He couldn’t remember when he was born. Fat Possum reported he died at home in Greenville, Mississippi of respiratory failure after a prolonged illness.

Alvin Lee (3-19-44 to 3-6-13) was born Graham Anthony Barnes in Nottingham, England. He was best known as the lead guitarist and singer for the blues-rock band Ten Years After. Ten Years After gained fame for Alvin’s performance at Woodstock. It was captured on film in the documentary. The band had one early hit called “I’d Love to Change the World”. Lee didn’t care for that tune and he never played it.

Ann Rabson (4-12-45 to 1-30-13) was a blues singer, piano and guitar player. She started playing professionally in 1962. She was part of Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women who recorded for Chicago’s Alligator Records. Ann died in Fredericksburg, Virginia, after a long battle with cancer.

Don't forget to click the slide show for more on each artist.

Eric Guitar Davis @ 2011 Chicago Blues Fest
Eric Guitar Davis @ 2011 Chicago Blues Fest Joe Skotnicki

Eric Guitar Davis @ 2011 Chicago Blues Fest

Eric was the son of blues drummer Bobby “Top Hat” Davis. Eric began playing drums at  age 5.  He was playing in the Checkerboard Lounge at the age of 10 , but switched to guitar when Buddy Guy handed him a guitar and said if he wanted to get the girls he’d have to play this.

Eric's dad played for Muddy Waters, Otis Rush and Matt "Guitar" Murphy.  He accompanied Ray Charles in the Blues Brothers 1980 movie.

Aaron Moore @ 2007 Chicago Blues Festival
Aaron Moore @ 2007 Chicago Blues Festival Joe Skotnicki

Aaron Moore @ 2007 Chicago Blues Festival

Only when he retired did Aaron make blues his full time job. He released albums for Delmark Records.  In 1996 there was “Hello World” and in 1999 “Boot ‘Em Up”. He also played on many Earwig Music Recordings including Rob Stone’s “Back Around Here” and Tim Woods “The Blues Sessions”.

Aaron's last public appearance was at Buddy Guy's.  His wife Katie did see him entertaining folks at the nursing home.  She said they were all gathered around him.  They never heard anyone play the piano like Aaron. 

Jimmy Dawkins @ 2007 Chicago Blues Festival
Jimmy Dawkins @ 2007 Chicago Blues Festival Joe Skotnicki

Jimmy Dawkins @ 2007 Chicago Blues Festival

Jimmy played sold out shows to standing ovations in Europe and Japan. He preferred playing better paying jobs with adoring audiences than the smoky little clubs of Chicago. He was serious on stage and had a hard driving sound. Among his admirers were Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was the best guitar hero that most people never heard of.
Magic Slim @ 2008 Chicago Blues Festival
Magic Slim @ 2008 Chicago Blues Festival Joe Skotnicki

Magic Slim @ 2008 Chicago Blues Festival

Magic Slim was posthumously awarded the Blues Music Award for “Traditional Blues Male Artist”. His son Shawn has stepped up to take his father’s place. They are now known as Shawn Holt and the Teardrops.

T-Model Ford @ 2008 Chicago Blues Festival
T-Model Ford @ 2008 Chicago Blues Festival Joe Skotnicki

T-Model Ford @ 2008 Chicago Blues Festival

Ford worked for a lumber company when he was sentenced to ten years on a chain gang for murder. He only served two years. 

Reportedly he has fathered twenty six children. He taught himself how to play guitar when his fifth wife left him and gave him a guitar as a leaving present. He recorded five albums for Fat Possum. He recorded a couple more with Alive Naturalsound Records with the band GravelRoad.

Ford had a pacemaker inserted in 2008, but continued to play. He suffered a stroke in 2010 and a second in 2012. He did somehow manage to perform at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in October of 2012.

Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women @ 2006 Chicago Blues Festival
Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women @ 2006 Chicago Blues Festival Joe Skotnicki

Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women @ 2006 Chicago Blues Festival

Ann had been nominated eight times for a Blues Music Award. She also did solo work. Her first was called “Music Makin’ Mama” which was nominated for Album of the Year in two categories. The song “Elevator Man” from that album also was nominated for Song of the Year. Her last work was a collaboration with Bob Margolin titled “Not Alone”. It received the 2013 Blues Music Award for Acoustic Album.

Alvin Lee
Alvin Lee USA Today

Alvin Lee

TYA would occasionally regroup. In 1989 they put out the last album with Alvin, “About Time”. The last Chicago appearance that this writer attended and can remember was in August of 1999 at Chicago’s House of Blues. Lee put out a number of solo releases. His first was in 1973 called “On the Road to Freedom”. His last in 2012 was called “Still On the Road to Freedom”. He also put out a couple of records as Ten Years Later in the late 1970s. He often collaborated with George Harrison and Mick Taylor. He died of complications during what was called routine surgery in Marbella, Spain where he had been living.  Rock on Alvin.

Bobby Blue Bland
Bobby Blue Bland Reuters

Bobby Blue Bland

Most of Bobby’s success was on the R&B charts, where he had 23 top ten hits. The song “Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City” off his “Dreamer” album was covered by the rock band Whitesnake in 1978. Van Morrison was also a big fan of Bobby’s. Van recorded a couple of Bobby’s songs and had him as a guest singer at his concerts. Bobby teamed up with B.B. King often. For many years they played the Star Plaza together in Merrillville, In. on Good Friday.
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