Remembering music legends James “Mr. Superharp” Cotton and Chuck Berry

The blues world lost another legend Thursday with the passing of harmonica great James Cotton. Here’s a good obituary on Cotton from Alligator Records, with whom the harmonica player first recorded in the mid-80s and then returned for the final stretch of his career. It was from this Alligator post that we first learned of this sad news, with the piece nicely detailing Cotton’s career, including learning his craft from Sonny Boy Williamson II and playing in the bands of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf before moving on to a long and successful career fronting his own band.

The first time we saw Cotton was a 2008 show at Pittsburgh’s Rex Theater; we didn’t take pictures and hadn’t yet founded this blog, so the only memories we have of that show is that it was a terrific one.

Fortunately, we did get to see Cotton perform again a half dozen years later at the 2014 Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival, when he shared the stage with another since-departed bluesman in guitarist Johnny Winter.

Here’s a video we thought you might enjoy of Cotton and his old pal Muddy performing the slow blues of “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had”:

Our condolences also to the family, friends and fans of rock n’ roll pioneer and Muddy Waters protégé Chuck Berry, who died Saturday, decades after helping to define the genre with classics like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven”, and whom we had the pleasure of seeing perform a few years back at the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival.

Rest in peace, old friends, but know that your influence and music will long live on.

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