Tampa Red was born in 1904, passing in 1981. His real name was Hudson Woolridge. Born in Georgia, his parents died when he was young and he moved to Tampa, Florida to live with his grandparents. He the took their surname and became Hudson Whitaker.
Red moved to Chicago in the 20’s, taking his silky smooth bottleneck guitar style with him. He went on to influence a generation of Chicago Blues players. He teamed up with Georgia Tom, creating most of his music with him. I will be doing a piece on Georgia Tom next week. Although they were best known as a team. they were the sum of 2 distinct parts. Each was a giant. To continue Red’s story, he kicked around the Chicago scene until he started recording in 1928. His first recording was “It’s Tight Like That”. In recording this song,, he started (created) a style of blues that became known as “hokum”.
It’s Tight Like That
His partnership with Georgia Tom ended in 1932 and Red went on to become a much in demand session player. He played on recordings by Memphis Minnie and Sonny Boy Williamson, among others. By the 1940’s, he had moved on to the electric guitar. He recorded “Let Me Play with Your Poodle” which hit #4 on Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade. A nice little blues tune which contained many elements of 50’s rock. The piano is especially early rock like. The title and lyrics are typical of the era for its bawdiness and innuendo.
“Let Me Play With Your Poodle”
His story, as did many of these early blues-men, ended tragically. His wife died in 1953 and he turned to alcohol. He became an alcoholic and died destitute at 77 in 1981. Let’s do a few cover versions. This first gem covers th Tampa Red tune, “Don’t Lie To Me’”, with Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn. A terrific video.
This another interesting cover of “Mean Mistreater Blues” by the rather eclectic combo of Johnny Winter and Dr John. Brilliant!!
Next week, I will take a look at Georgia Tom, Tampa Red’s partner in the early 30’s.
- Let’s Explore The Blues – Memphis Jug Band (therealcanadianmusicblog.wordpress.com)