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Harmonica Lessons: "Born in Chicago"

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Any of you have
ever heard Paul Butterfield,
you all know that tune.
It’s called born in Chicago, and
it was from the very first
Paul Butterfield Blues Band album.
This is one of my favorite records.
It was made sometime in the mid,
late 60's, maybe 65, 66?
Recorded, I'm not sure where,
but for Electra Records
which was a very adventurous label.
That put out a lot of blues and jazz and
folk music, run by a man named
Jac Holzman, who had great ears.
And so the Butterfield band was one of
the very first integrated blues bands
in the 1960s.
The blues scene in Chicago and
in most other places was pretty much,
there were,
it was mostly black people's music, and
there weren't many white
people playing it.
Especially not white blues band leaders.
And Paul Butterfield was
a great band leader.
Fantastic harmonica players.
And I liked his singing.
he used to sit in with a lot of groups
on the south side, and the west side.
I'm not here to give you a blues history
lesson about Paul Butterfield and
the early blues scene in Chicago.
You can watch the quirky single interview
and you can learn a little bit about that.
But this is a very simple tune.
It's a 12 bar blues.
I'm playing it in G on a C harp.
And it starts out with
that very simple lick.
And you can play it one
of two ways [SOUND].
It's one draw to two draw bend,
to two draw [SOUND].
You can slide
Because the guys in the,
the guitar players were doing that but
usually the harp player doesn't exactly
follow the lines of the guitar.
You could be a little more subjective.
Then it goes to the fourth chord.
Then back to the one.
Like that.
Except that Butterfield never went
up to the four with that same lick,
never went to the five with the same lick,
he just played a solo over it.
I was born
in Chicago,
in 1941.
Like that, and
than it went into the singing I mean
the great blues harp players singers,
the harp is their horn just like
the trumpet was Louis Armstrong's horn.
It set up the vocals.
So, all these guys when
they play those lines and
sing, they're setting up their vocals.
Like playing an introduction for
themselves to sing.
You know?
And that's why the music,
Paul Butterfield's stuff sounded so
natural, and Walter, and all those
other guys cuz they were playing
introductions for themselves.
It was one side of
the personality was the harp side
and the other side is the vocal side.
And everybody sounds different.
Everyone has their own personality and
their own way of playing the blues.
My blues style is a combination of all
the blues that I've ever heard and
all the blues I've ever felt.
So and the same thing with everybody.
I don't wanna play Paul Butterfield's
solo note for note.
I could probably go back and learn it.
But you can listen to that record,
if you want that.
I'm just gonna play a solo,
that's reminiscent of it.
You can look up the words, it's all
about how rough it was in Chicago.
My father told me,
son you'd better get a gun.
And it talks all about how,
his friends were shot down.
And you know, things haven't
changed that much in Chicago.
Maybe different people doing the shooting.
But there's a lot of violence and
street crime in Chicago.
There's a lot of gang violence,
and guys getting shot.
And so, [LAUGH] I'm sorry to say,
this isn't a very cheerful tune.
And then
it goes,
I was born
in Chicago in
then the solo
commenting on
the lyrics.
I put the little
Chicago blues
ending on it.
That was a very, very common ending in
all different kinds of blues tunes.
[SOUND] less commonly that.
Usually it went [SOUND].
Like a show lounge band,
ending almost like a lounge band.
It's funny the things that crept into
blues from jazz and swing and from playing
shows, the guys had to figure out more
impressive ways of ending a blues tune.
So go back and
listen to these original recordings.
And start understanding what it's like to
play fills if someone else is singing.
I was born in Chicago in 1941.
Sometimes you just have to play the lick.
I was born in Chicago in 1941.
You don't always have to make a verbal
comment sometimes you're just part of the
background when someone else is singing.
You can play a
a lot of different things you can do
besides playing licks
between someones lines.
Yeah baby, I love you so
Sometimes its good play licks and
sometimes its good to just
sort of stick out a little from
the rhythm section and set up
your solo just with some with simple
simple thing.
Sometimes it's good not
to play anything at all.
That's something that you learn from time,
from playing in blues bands.
And also if the leader telling you, Hey,
don't play so much behind my vocals or
play more behind my vocals.
[LAUGH] or whatever it might be.
But you have to figure out
a good way of fitting in.
And then sometimes it's a volume thing.
If you guys are playing off, using
a bullet mic, or something like that,
that has a volume control on it.
Sometimes you might want to
turn that volume knob down,
while you're playing fills,
while the singers singing,
and boost it up a little bit,
when it's time for you're solo.
So that you don't feel like
you're walking on eggshells and
having to play too soft
when you play your fills.
Just some hints from a pro here.
All right, guys have fun.