Robben Ford, in an exclusive video premiere, discusses the journey that brought him to a powerful update of Atlanta-born Chicago bluesman Big Maceo Merriweather’s “Poor Kelly Blues”: “I’m always looking for a great blues,” Ford says, “and one that has not been heard before. Every record I ever do, I definitely make an effort to find myself a really good blues.”
This has gotten increasingly difficult as the guitarist’s storied career continues into decade after decade of recording and touring. Then, in the runup to Ford’s just-released A Day in Nashville, he stumbled across Merriweather, a largely forgotten pianist perhaps best known — if he’s known at all — for his original “Worried Life Blues,” after it was covered by Chuck Berry.
“I went looking in my vinyl,” Ford says. “I actually found some records that I’d had for years that I had not listened to, or maybe listened to once — and one of them was a Big Maceo Merriweather album. It was pristine! [Laughs.] I had maybe played it once. It just didn’t click with me, in those days. I was more interested in electric guitar — the Butterfield Blues Band, B.B. King. Maceo Merriweather is just piano and vocal.”
Merriweather died in 1953, having never achieved the fame he so rightly deserved as an architect of the Chicago blues sound. His initial take on “Poor Kelly Blues” is widely available on a best-of compilation called The King of Chicago Blues Piano, which also finds Big Maceo collaborating with Tampa Red.