James Cotton - vocals, harmonica; Luther Tucker - guitar; Sam Lay - drums; Bobby Allison - bass; Albert Gianquinto - piano
The dynamic blues master James Cotton's story reads like a Hollywood bio, written with deliberate embellishments in order to give it the happy ending everyone wants. Orphaned at age nine and sent to live with a family friend (who happened to be blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson), Cotton was hosting a blues radio show by his early teens, and eagerly honing his skills on the harmonica with a number of Southern Delta bluesmen.
In 1954, he replaced Junior Wells in the Muddy Waters Blues Band, where he remained for almost a dozen years. Eventually he got the legendary blues master to feature his extraordinary harmonica skills. In the early 1960s, Waters recorded "Got My Mojo Working," after Cotton had insisted he cut it. It became his signature song and a huge blues hit.
By 1966, Cotton was ready to go solo. He left Waters to form the James Cotton Blues Band, with the initial lineup featured here. Sam Lay was a seasoned blues drummer who was able to give the band its real cohesive fusion, and guitarist Luther Tucker lays down a number of exceptional blues guitar solos. This recording was made in November of 1966, around the time Cotton was touring with Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin. Joplin was determined to see Cotton get the recognition he deserved, and she helped bring him to the attention of Bill Graham, who ended up booking Cotton at both Fillmores.
Graham often placed him on eclectic triple bills with acts such as the Yardbirds, Country Joe and the Fish and the Grateful Dead, and he was quickly embraced by rock audiences. At the time, blues bands headed by harp players were very popular, and Cotton often crossed paths with Junior Wells and Paul Butterfield. This recording was made at the Fillmore West during a three night stand that also included Moby Grape and the Jefferson Airplane on the bill, with Cotton sandwiched in the middle.
On this recording, you can expect to hear a mix of Cotton originals and blues classics and standards such as his old Waters classics "Got My Mojo Workin'" and "Woke Up This Morning." This smoking blues set closes with "Sweet Sixteen."