Home » Jazz Musicians » Junior Wells

Junior Wells

Junior Wells was considered the direct musical descendant of modern blues harmonica legends John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, "Sonny Boy" Williamson II (Rice Miller) and Little Walter Jacobs. An exponent of blues, funk and soul music, Wells developed a style incorporating all of those genres, and was a consummate stage performer who could back it all up.

Born Amos Blakemore in 1934, Junior was raised on a farm in rural West Memphis and Marion, Arkansas. He became intensely interested in the music flowing from the fertile blues culture of Memphis and learned harmonica from his cousin Little Junior Parker. After his parents separated, the wild and rebellious Junior moved with his mother to Chicago in 1946. There he discovered that music would be the most important thing in his life.

His teenage years were spent playing hooky from school, scrambling change from odd jobs and practicing his harmonica. His interest in the local blues musicians found the underage Junior sneaking into various clubs, vying to "sit-in" with bands. His earliest such escapade was in 1948 sneaking into the C & T Lounge where Tampa Red and Johnny Jones let the young harpist show his skills. A now famous incident was when Junior convinced his sister and her then-boyfriend, a Chicago policeman, to escort him to Sam's Ebony Lounge where the celebrated Muddy Waters band (with Little Walter Jacobs and Jimmy Rogers) were playing. "I went up to Muddy and told him I played harp...Muddy said he'd let me try. Little Walter said, "That little shrimp." They stood me on a coke box to reach the mike and I made $45 in tips....Walter asked me if I ever played the sax before!"

When Little Water left the Muddy Waters band to tour with his new found fame, Junior was called to replace him. Junior stayed on with Waters until 1952. In 1953, Wells was inducted into the army, but he didn't let this get in the way of his music career - some of his first recording sessions done for the States label were done while he was AWOL. Upon his return from the army in 1955, Willie Dixon introduced Junior to Mel London, who recorded classic Wells' songs "Messin' With The Kid," "Come On In This House," and "Little By Little" for the Chief and Profile labels.

The 1960's found Junior working frequently with Chicago blues guitarist Buddy Guy. The duo gigged the clubs and became a regular fixture in the city. In 1965, Delmark Records released Junior's first album, the classic “Hoodoo Man Blues,” with Buddy Guy on guitar. The celebrated duo of Wells and Guy toured the world with the Rolling Stones in 1970, and went into the Atlantic studios in ’72 to record “Buddy Guy & Jr. Wells Play the Blues.” This album garnered them recognition, and the pair continued a long association of recording and playing through the late 1980's.

Read more

Tags

Album Review
Read more articles

Photos

Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Hoodoo Man Blues

Delmark Records
2011

buy

Live In Boston 1966

Delmark Records
2010

buy

Live at Theresa’s...

Delmark Records
2007

buy

Vietnam-Blues /...

London Records
1967

buy

Similar

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.