Luke "Long Gone" Miles - vocals; Bernie Pearl - guitar
Born in Lachute, Louisiana in 1925, Luke "Long Gone" Miles is a distinctive blues singer with a rich, extraordinarily powerful voice. Miles spent his youth working on a cotton plantation, becoming enamored with the blues through listening to the radio as a teenager. Sonny Boy Williamson was his initial inspiration and when his older sister married a Texan with a large record collection of blues, he began devouring the rough aggressive sounds emanating out of Texas. Miles soon set his sites on Houston, relocating there in 1952 with the sole intention of meeting the most prolific of all the Texas bluesmen, Lightnin' Hopkins. Soon enough, he accomplished just that and Hopkins became his mentor, giving him the name "Long Gone" and the encouragement to perform on the Texas club circuit. Miles also sang on several of Hopkins' late 1950's recordings. In 1961, Miles again relocated, this time to Los Angeles. He recorded a series of 45s with guitarist Brownie McGhee and harmonica player Sonny Terry, further establishing his reputation. The following year, he teamed up with guitarist Willie Chambers, who he would perform with regularly during 1962 and 1963, often at Sugar Hill in San Francisco and at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, two West Coast venues that developed strong affiliations with the blues artists of the era. In 1964, Long Gone Miles recorded Country Born, the album he's best remembered for. The first album recorded under his own name, Country Born was a colorful mix of the swampy sounds he grew up on in Louisiana mixed with Lightnin' Hopkins unique form of Texas flavored country blues.
This remarkable live recording of Long Gone Miles at the Ash Grove in 1966 is a wonderful example of his engaging personality and highly expressive vocal power. This recording is also notable for the inclusion of a young Bernie Pearl, who accompanies Long Gone Miles on acoustic guitar throughout the set. Bernie Pearl (brother of Ash Grove owner Ed Pearl) took up guitar in the 1950s and through his affiliation with the venue, studied blues guitar directly with the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Brownie McGhee, and Mance Lipscomb, among the others who regularly frequented the Ash Grove. Three years after this performance, Pearl would make his recording debut with Long Gone Miles and their chemistry is quite obvious on this recording. Although he plays acoustic guitar here, Pearl often reflects a more biting amplified style of playing that always retains a true empathy with Miles' vocal. The blues is primarily a vocal based form, and Pearl pays close attention to Miles, consistently achieving the perfect complimentary sound. Despite having a limited time on stage, this set features a diverse range of material and is a stellar example of Long Gone Miles' vocal prowess in addition to being an excellent glimpse of Pearl developing into a blues guitarist capable of a wide variety of styles.
Bernie Pearl sets the stage for Long Gone Miles entrance, beginning the set with a tasty guitar intro, before introducing Miles to the small but enthusiastic Ash Grove audience. They begin with the title track to Country Boy, a song that wouldn't see the light of day until a 1984 album release (of a 1962 recording), which was given the same title nearly two decades later. Originally recorded by Miles with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee accompanying him, this is a prime example of the country blues that established Long Gone Miles reputation as a true master of blues vocals. This slower relaxed opener and the strident walking blues of the following "Lena Mae," a b-side of Miles' 1965 single "38 Pistol," both display what a deep expressive singer he was, as well as the sheer power of his vocal. Miles' stage banter during the latter also reveals his sense of humor as he states, "Do unto others and then split!" to the amused audience at the Ash Grove.
No Long Gone Miles set would be complete without honoring his mentor Lightnin' Hopkins, and this set features several examples, including excellent performances of "Last Night Blues" and the unreleased "Blues For Gamblers," which contains a hilarious monologue about Miles' own gambling experiences with Hopkins. However, what will likely be of greatest interest to fans of Long Gone Miles with be his remarkably dynamic take on Willie Dixon's classic "Hoochie Coochie Man" (featuring wonderfully jagged guitar breaks from Pearl) and his unique interpretation of one of the classic automobile songs of the era, Robert Geddins and K.C. Douglas' "Mercury Blues," neither of which was issued on any Long Gone Miles release. After thoroughly enjoying himself, which Miles acknowledges to the Ash Grove audience, he and Pearl reluctantly bring the set to a close. Due to tape stock running out, only half a minute is heard, but they wind it up with another Lightnin' Hopkins number, the appropriately titled "Walk On."
Despite his obvious talent, Long Gone Miles was sadly under-recorded and this high quality Ash Grove recording will be a welcome addition to Miles' catalogue. Over half of this material was never officially released by Miles himself, treating listeners to a wider perspective on the man and his music.
Written by Alan Bershaw