The Avant Garde was a coffeehouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that played host to a variety of rock, blues, and folk performers in the '60s, and Windy City guitar wizard Magic Sam (aka Sam Maghett) rolled in to play a few sets in June 1968. A local kid with an interest in recording named Jim Charne showed up with a reel-to-reel machine and a couple of microphones, and he captured Magic Sam's show on tape; 45 years later, those tapes have finally been made public on the album Live at the Avant Garde, and given the relatively small amount of material that's surfaced on the late blues legend (who succumbed to a heart attack when he was just 32), this set is a very welcome find. Live at the Avant Garde has a decidedly different feel than Magic Sam Live, which preserved radio broadcasts from 1963 and 1964 and a 1969 appearance at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival; while those recordings blazed with intensity, this captures Magic Sam and his band in more laid-back form, playing a small, booze-free venue rather than a rowdy bar or a festival audience in the thousands.
Recorded on October 23 and November 6, 1968 Black Magic was released only days before Magic Sam's untimely passing on December 1, 1969. He was only 32! The album went on to win a W.C. Handy Award in the classic blues album category. This Digipak Deluxe Edition contains more than an hour of west side Chicago blues at its finest, re-mastered from the original analog tapes. The 16-page booklet contains never before seen photos at the recording session, additional color photos from the Ann Arbor Music Festival, the original liner note from the LP and a new note by producer Bob Koester.
This raw-boned LP captures Slim's unpretentious houserocking sound about as well as any studio set possibly could. Among its highlights: the hard-shuffling "Early Every Morning," and a surreal "Scuffling," and Slim's tribute to his late pal Magic Sam, "She Belongs to Me."–by Bill Dahl
Magic Slim & the Teardrops proudly uphold the tradition of what a Chicago blues band should sound like. Their emphasis on ensemble playing and a humongous repertoire that allegedly ranges upwards of a few hundred songs give the towering guitarist's live performances an endearing off-the-cuff quality: you never know what obscurity he'll pull out of his oversized hat next. Born Morris Holt on August 7, 1937, the Mississippi native was forced to give up playing the piano when he lost his little finger in a cotton gin mishap. Boyhood pal Magic Sam bestowed his magical moniker on the budding guitarist (and times change as Slim's no longer slim). Holt first came to Chicago in 1955, but found that breaking into the competitive local blues circuit was a tough proposition. Although he managed to secure a steady gig for a while with Robert Perkins' band (Mr. Pitiful & the Teardrops), Slim wasn't good enough to progress into the upper ranks of Chicago bluesdom.
Magic Slim & the Teardrops proudly uphold the tradition of what a Chicago blues band should sound like. Their emphasis on ensemble playing and a humongous repertoire that allegedly ranges upwards of a few hundred songs give the towering guitarist's live performances an endearing off-the-cuff quality…
Chicago guitarist Jimmy Dawkins would have preferred to leave his longtime nickname "Fast Fingers" behind. It was always something of a stylistic misnomer anyway; Dawkins' West Side-styled guitar slashed and surged, but seldom burned with incendiary speed. Dawkins' blues were generally of the brooding, introspective variety – he didn't engage in flashy pyrotechnics or outrageous showmanship. It took a long time for Dawkins to progress from West Side fixture to nationally known recording artist. He rode a Greyhound bus out of Mississippi in 1955, dressing warmly to ward off the Windy City's infamous chill factor. Only trouble was, he arrived on a sweltering July day! Harpist Billy Boy Arnold offered the newcomer encouragement, and he eventually carved out a niche on the competitive West Side scene (his peers included Magic Sam and Luther Allison).