- PINETOP PERKINS & WILLIE ''BIG EYES'' SMITH -
''Joned At The Hip''
Pianist Pinetop Perkins is one of the true originals. With his 100th birthday on the not-too-distant horizon, he is one of the last blues musicians who can legitimately claim direct roots in the Delta blues of the 1930s – a period that spawned such giants as Robert Johnson, Honeyboy Edwards and other titans of the of the deep South who laid the foundation for the blues as we know them today.
From 1969 through the early 1980s, Perkins was an integral part of Muddy’s powerhouse combo that dominated the urbanized, electrified post-World War II blues scene. It was during these years that he forged an enduring friendship and prolific creative bond with Willie ''Big Eyes'' Smith, then the drummer in Muddy Water's band.
The most recent chapter in this longstanding alliance is ''Joined At The Hip'', a collaborative project shared by Pinetop Perkins and Willie Smith that’s set for release on June 8, 2010, on Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group. It was at the suggestion of manager Patricia Morgan that the two collaborate, with producer Michael Freeman offering the inspired title. The album is a mix of material written by Smith, along with a few chestnuts from the annals of Delta and Chicago blues.
Produced by Michael Freeman
Recorded at Blaise Arton at Joyride Studios, Chicago, Illinois
Mixed by Michael Freeman at Tone Zone Recording, Chicago, Illinois
Interview by Terry Lickona
Audio by Stuart Sullivan at Wire Recording, Austin, Texas
Camera/DP - Ed Fuentes
Gaffer/Grip - Dusty Sexton
JOE WILLIE "PINETOP" PERKINS - Perkins began his career in music playing the guitar behind Willie Love in the Mississippi Cafe in Leland, Mississippi. He was born on July 7, 1913 in Belzoni, 30 miles South-East of Leland.
Whilst working with Willie Love, Perkins also learned to play drums and piano. When Love went off to join Rich Miller, Perkins formed a brief partnership with Boyd Gilmore before going to work with Robert Nighthawk. Eventually, Sonny Boy Williamson II summoned him to join the King Biscuit Boys in Helena, Arkansas.
Since Joe Willie Wilkins was already in the band, and Perkins would often play "Pinetop's Boogie-Woogie", he became known as Pinetop Perkins.
Leaving the King Biscuit Time, Perkins made his way to Memphis, where he accompanied B.B. King on a programme sponsored by Lucky Strike. Perhaps his previous connection with Boyd Gilmore brought him to Sam Phillips Sun studio to accompany Boyd Gilmore and Earl Hooker, and on a session from July 15, 1953, Perkins recorded "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie". Soon after, he rejoined Robert Nighthawk and came north to Chicago, playing on Nighthawk's recording of "Jackson Town Girl". He spent the next couple of decades moving between Chicago, St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois, working with Nighthawk, Albert King and Earl Hooker.
In 1969, Muddy Waters asked him to replace Otis Spann in his band and Perkins remained until 1980, when he, Jerry Portnoy and Little Willie Smith left to form the Legendary Blues Band. After recorded two albums, Perkins left the band and entered a semiretirement from which he still regularly emerges to play gigs and records.
At age 97, he won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Joined At The Hip, an album he recorded with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. Perkins thus became the oldest-ever Grammy winner, edging out comedian George Burns who had won in the spoken word category 21 years earlier (he had tied with Burns, at the age of 95, in 2004). A little more than a month later, Perkins died on 21 March 2011 at his home in Austin, Texas. At the time of his death, the musician had more than 20 performances booked for 2011. Shortly before that, while discussing his late career resurgence with an interviewer, he conceded, "I can't play piano like I used to either. I used to have bass rolling like thunder. I can't do that no more. But I ask the Lord, please forgive me for the stuff I done trying to make a nickel." Along with David "Honeyboy" Edwards, he was one of the last two original Mississippi Delta blues musicians, and also to have a personal knowledge of and friendship with Robert Johnson.
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