Something Else! Featured Artist: Blues pianist Willie Love

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NICK DERISO: You’ll the find the best of this underappreciated, high-style Mississippi blues pianist on 1950s-era Trumpet Records reissues put out beginning in 1989 by Chicago’s Alligator Records.

Run out of a Jackson, Miss., record store, Lillian Shedd McMurry’s locally legendary Trumpet label caught several blues greats just before their moment — including Sonny Boy Williamson II. Love is the guy, more often than not, standing behind them — in particular on Williamson’s “Clownin’ With the World” and on “Delta Blues — 1951,” which also features Big Joe Williams and Luther Huff.

Harpman Williamson, whose real name was Aleck “Rice” Miller, is the most famous of those featured. He’d gotten is start as host of King Biscuit Time on the Helena, Ark., radio station KFFA — which broadcast through the Mississippi Delta at 12:45 p.m. daily.

His occasional sidekick on the program, as on these two discs, was Love. Solo, he’s a gas. Love’s backing band, called His Three Aces, was a rotating, loose group of hotshots — some famous, indeed. Check the liner notes, and you’ll find Elmore James on one. Little Milton Campbell (just 17 during the 1951 sessions), meanwhile, appears six times on “Clownin'”, and four times on “Delta Blues.”

These early recordings are houseshakers. But by the time Love died just a few short years later in 1953, the victim of drinking-induced ills, something had changed. His last Trumpet sides, recorded that year, are forlorn, echoing statements.

“I believe, I believe I’ll leave tis town; seem like nobody, nobody wants me ’round,” Love sings in “Lonesome World Blues.” The loose-limbed clowning is over.

It’s hard to let go of Love’s former self, though, even in these dark moments. We see him, forever, as the spats-wearing, cane-carrying showman. That’s likely the way he would have wanted it.

Lucky for us, the fine dust of Love’s imminent demise never settles on “Delta Blues.” He’s forever tapping his foot under a standup piano — knees knocking, the whole place rocking.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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