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Luther Allison

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An American-born guitarist, singer, and songwriter who lived in France since 1980, Luther Allison was the man to book at blues festivals in the mid-'90s. Allison's comeback into the mainstream was ushered in by a recording contract with an American record company, Chicago-based Alligator Records. After he signed with Alligator in 1994, Allison's popularity grew exponentially and he worked steadily until his death in 1997. Born August 17, 1939, in Widener, AR, Allison was the 14th of 15 children, the son of cotton farmers. His parents moved to Chicago when he was in his early teens, but he had a solid awareness of blues before he left Arkansas, as he played organ in the church and learned to sing gospel in Widener as well. Allison recalled that his earliest awareness of blues came via the family radio in Arkansas, which his dad would play at night. Allison recalls listening to both the Grand Ole Opry and B.B. King on the King Biscuit Show on Memphis' WDIA. Although he was a talented baseball player and had begun to learn the shoemaking trade in Chicago after high school, it wasn't long before Allison began to focus more of his attention on playing blues guitar. Allison had been hanging out in blues clubs all through high school, and with his brother's encouragement, he honed his string-bending skills and powerful, soul-filled vocal technique. It was while living with his family on Chicago's West Side that he had his first awareness of wanting to become a full-time bluesman, and he played bass behind guitarist Jimmy Dawkins, who Allison grew up with. Also in Allison's neighborhood were established blues greats like Freddie King, Magic Sam, and Otis Rush. He distinctly remembers everyone talking about Buddy Guy when he came to town from his native Louisiana. After the Allison household moved to the South Side, they lived a few blocks away from Muddy Waters, and Allison and Waters' son Charles became friends. When he was 18 years old, his brother showed him basic chords and notes on the guitar, and the super bright Allison made rapid progress after that. Allison went on to "blues college" by sitting in with some of the most legendary names in blues in Chicago's local venues: Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Howlin' Wolf among them. His first chance to record came with Bob Koester's then-tiny Delmark Record label, and his first album, Love Me Mama, was released in 1969. But like anyone else with a record out on a small label, it was up to him to go out and promote it, and he did, putting in stellar, show-stopping performances at the Ann Arbor Blues Festivals in 1969, 1970, and 1971. After that, people began to pay attention to Luther Allison, and in 1972 he signed with Motown Records. Meanwhile, a growing group of rock & roll fans began showing up at Allison's shows, because his style seemed so reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix and his live shows clocked in at just under four hours! Although his Motown albums got him to places he'd never been before, like Japan and new venues in Europe, the recordings didn't sell well. He does have the distinction of being one of a few blues musicians to record for Motown. Allison stayed busy in Europe through the rest of the 1970s and 1980s, and recorded Love Me Papa for the French Black and Blue label in 1977. He followed with a number of live recordings from Paris, and, in 1984, he settled outside of Paris, since France and Germany were such major markets for him. At home in the U.S., Allison continued to perform sporadically, when knowledgeable blues festival organizers or blues societies would book him. As accomplished a guitarist as he was, Allison wasn't a straight-ahead Chicago blues musician. He learned the blues long before he got to Chicago. What he did so successfully is take his base of Chicago blues and add touches of rock, soul, reggae, funk, and jazz. Allison's first two albums for Alligator, Soul Fixin' Man and Blue Streak, are arguably two of his strongest. His talents as a songwriter are fully developed, and he's well-recorded and well-produced, often with horns backing his band. Another one to look for is a 1992 reissue on Evidence, Love Me Papa. In 1996, Motown reissued some of the three albums worth of material he recorded for that label (between 1972 and 1976) on compact disc. Well into his mid-50s, Allison continued to delight club and festival audiences around the world with his lengthy, sweat-drenched, high-energy shows, complete with dazzling guitar playing and inspired, soulful vocals. He continued to tour and record until July of 1997, when he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Just over a month later, he died in a hospital in Madison, WI; a tragic end to one of the great blues comeback stories. 1998's posthumous Live in Paradise captured one of his final shows, recorded on La Reunion Island in April 1997. Thomas Ruf, who was inspired by and became a friend of Allison's shortly before the bluesman's death, issued Underground on Ruf Records in 2007. ~ Richard Skelly
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Stations Featuring
Luther Allison

    Modern Blues

    Modern Blues
    5 songs

    All Blues

    All Blues
    17 songs

Albums by
Luther Allison

Top Songs by
Luther Allison

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Luther's Blues
  3.   Medley: I'm Gonna Miss My Baby/Bad News/The Thrill is Gone (Live ...)
  4.   Driving Wheel
  5.   Sweet Home Chicago
  6.   Rock Me Baby
  7.   Raggedy and Dirty
  8.   Little Red Rooster
  9.   It Hurts Me Too
  10.   Move from the Hood
  11.   Cherry Red Wine
  12.   Pain in the Streets
  13.   I Believe in You
  14.   All the King's Horses
  15.   Bad Love
  16.   Easy Baby
  17.   Now You Got It
  18.   Evil Is Going On
  19.   What's Going on in My Home?
  20.   The Stumble
  21.   Soul Fixin' Man
  22.   Just as I Am
  23.   Dust My Broom
  24.   Someday Pretty Baby
  25.   Part Time Love
  26.   Cut You A-Loose
  27.   Everything's Gonna Be All Right
  28.   Low Down and Dirty
  29.   Living in the House of the Blues
  30.   Should I Wait?
  31.   You Can't Always Get What You Want
  32.   You Can Run But You Can't Hide
  33.   San-Ho-Zay
  34.   It's Been a Long Time
  35.   Take My Love
  36.   Life Is a Bitch
  37.   You're Gonna Make Me Cry
  38.   Serious
  39.   You Can, You Can
  40.   Will It Ever Change?
  41.   What Have I Done Wrong?
  42.   Walking Papers
  43.   Time
  44.   There Comes a Time
  45.   Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
  46.   Party Time
  47.   Nobody But You
  48.   Love String
  49.   K.T.
  50.   Into My Life
  51.   Give Me Back My Wig
  52.   Give It All
  53.   Gave It All
  54.   Freedom
  55.   Drowning at the Bottom
  56.   Down South
  57.   Big City
  58.   Bad News Is Coming
  59.   We're on the Road
  60.   Think With Your Heart
  61.   You're the One
  62.   You Been Teasin' Me
  63.   The Thrill Is Gone
  64.   The Things I Used to Do
  65.   Stay With Me
  66.   Show Me a Reason
  67.   She's Fine
  68.   She Was Born That Way
  69.   Playin' a Losin' Game
  70.   One More
  71.   Middle of the Road
  72.   Messin' With the Kid
  73.   Meet Me in My Own Hometown
  74.   Medley: Gambler's Blues/Sweet Little Angel
  75.   Lightning Bolt
  76.   Let's Have a Little Talk
  77.   Just My Guitar (And Me)
  78.   It's a Blues Thing
  79.   I'm Back
  80.   I Want to Know
  81.   I Need a Friend
  82.   I Can't Tell You What To Do
  83.   Hand Me Down My Moonshine
  84.   Good Morning Love
  85.   Farmers Child
  86.   Don't Burn My Bread
  87.   Compromizing For Your Needs
  88.   Castle
  89.   Cancel My Check
  90.   Bloomington Closing - Early Version
  91.   Just Memories
  92.   Parking Lot
  93.   Backtrack
  94.   It's Partyin' Time
  95.   Midnight Creeper
  96.   Reaching Out
  97.   I Wanna Be With You
  98.   You're Doing A Super Homework