Well, it’s a cold, bright Sunday morning here in Bryan. Time for some more music from another Texas boy who made good.
Sam ‘Lightnin’’ Hopkins was an old-school acoustic bluesman, with every damn credential imaginable. He chopped cotton, did time on the chain-gang, and drank like he meant it. He was also incredibly talented at what he did. He cut about a million albums and played about a million gigs, from high-profile arenas to gut-bucket juke-joints. He was a major influence on many Texas musicians.
The most famous story about him is this one, told by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, excerpted from an excellent Guitar Player magazine article about him:
To accompany Hopkins meant doing things his way, as Gibbons quickly learned: “We were playing a traditional blues and we all went to the second change, but Lightnin’ was still in the first change. He stopped and looked at us. Our bass player said, ‘Well, Lightnin’, that’s where the second change is supposed to be, isn’t it?’ Lightnin’ looked back and said, ‘Lightnin’ change when Lightnin’ want to change.’ And we knew — don’t do that no more!”
“You had to know and feel Lightnin’ and follow him,” seconds Johnny Winter. “I guess he played a lot by himself, and he didn’t worry about changes. It didn’t hurt a damn thing, either. Lightnin’ might not change on time all the time, but he was technically a damn good guitar player when he wanted to be. He could play his butt off, and he was always his own man.
I saw him play multiple times during the Sixties and Seventies. The details of those memories are blurred, as usual. But I do remember one glorious night in a hole-in-the-wall joint over in Houston’s Fifth Ward when Lightnin’ was obviously completely drunk on his ass. So drunk that he played the same song twice in a row. He did a hell of a job both times.
Here’s a YouTube cut from the DVD ‘The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins’. Long, long ago, my old buddy Brian ‘Dr. Mojo’ Robertson gave me a copy of the tape of this. It’s an amazing showcase of a uniquely talented bluesman, and will repeatedly blow your mind.
You might want to also try this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PILGaerSSEk
There are quite a few of his songs on YouTube, and many of them are haunting, with their deep-reverb late-at-night vibe. I have about a dozen of his albums on old cassettes, and really must transfer them over to the computer Real Soon Now. I heartily encourage you to check them out.
Also – I’m about ready to get in the wind to Austin to hang with She Who Is Awesome and then come back here with her on our bikes, either this afternoon or tomorrow. Not sure how all that will play out, or how tired I’ll end up being, so I may or may not make another post today.