Dinah Washington (real name Ruth Jones) was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and became known as one of the most versatile and distinctive vocalists in American popular music history. Dinah made legendary recordings in jazz, blues, R&B and pop, and could have likely done the same in gospel had she chosen to record in that genre. Washington's penetrating voice, incredible sense of timing, crystal clear enunciation and equal facility with sad, bawdy, or rousing material enabled her to sing any and everything with fine results. However, she was only 39 when she died from an accidental overdose of diet pills and alcohol in 1963. Dinah Washington remains a big influence on most black female singers (particularly in R&B and soul) who have come to prominence since the mid-'50s. Virtually all of her recordings are currently in print on CD's including a reissue series of her Mercury and EmArcy sessions. Her big pop hits were duets with the smooth Brook Benton ("What a Difference a Day Makes" and "Baby, You've Got What It Takes").
Just who in the heck are the Drive-By Truckers? Their web site describes them as "Four big, loud Southern men, one purty Southern gal. Four from Alabama, one from South Carolina, two of whom now reside in Athens, GA; one in Birmingham, AL; and two in Center Star, AL (just outside of Muscle Shoals)." Whether you choose the CDs "Decoration Day" or "Southern Rock Opera," prepare to become totally "Dixie-fried!" A classic lyric of the Truckers declares, "Rock 'n' roll means well, but it can't help tellin' young boys lies." Amen, brothers – and sister! Truck on over to www.drivebytruckers.com.
After a less than successful start in the Country music genre, Shelby ( a Mobile native) hit her musical stride with the critically acclaimed recording, "I Am Shelby." Her sound is a soulful style reminiscent of Dusty Springfield's legendary Memphis recordings. Her CD release, "Love, Shelby," contains the hits "Wall In Your Heart" and "Killin' Kind." The collection includes some tasty slide guitar from Louisiana master Sonny Landreth. Check out her website at www.shelbylynne.com.
NAT KING COLE
Cole was born in Montgomery and went on to become a worldwide recording star. His first efforts of note were with the Nat King Cole Trio, a jazzy combo featuring Cole on piano and vocals. The success of the trio led to a solo career and more mainstream material like "Mona Lisa," "Nature Boy," and "Ramblin' Rose." Start your Nat King Cole collection with "The Best of the Nat King Cole Trio" on Blue Note. Other must-haves are Capitol's "Greatest Hits" collection and Nat's enduring Christmas Album featuring "The Christmas Song."
DAN PENN & SPOONER OLDHAM
Penn and Oldham were vital contributors to the birth of Southern Soul and the Muscle Shoals Sound. Penn was (and still is) a stellar songwriter. He penned hits such as “I’m Your Puppet,” Aretha’s “Do Right Woman,” and the Box Tops’. He also produced the smash “The Letter.” Oldham was often Penn’s co-writer and an accomplished keyboard player to boot! Look for Dan Penn’s “Do Right Man” solo CD or Penn and Oldham’s live release “Moments from this Theater.” Great stuff … especially the track “Memphis Women and Fried Chicken,” which appears on both collections. (www.danpenn.com). Dan's release, "Blue Lite Lounge," is a fine collection of demo recordings composed during a fishing trip in rural Louisiana. The CD's liner notes make mention of Oyster Po-Boys, Mississippi Tamales, Seafood Gumbo, Venison Sausage, and Blackberry Pie - sounds like my kinda trip!
BLIND BOYS FROM ALABAMA
Terrific, soul-stirring gospel from one of the best groups in the business. Pick up the “I Brought Him with Me” (Live CD) or the studio effort “Holdin’ On” … both on House of Blues records.
Sledge’s most recognizable hit (by far) is “When a Man Loves a Woman.” But Percy is by no means a one hit wonder. For proof, go out and buy “The Very Best of …” compilation on Rhino Records. Standout tracks include “Out of Left Field,” “Warm and Tender Love,” “It Tears Me Up,” and “True Love Travels on a Gravel Road.”
Arthur was one of Soul music’s most underrated and unappreciated performers. However, many Hall of Fame recording artists, including the Beatles, often listed Alexander as a major influence. The Fab Four even recorded some of Alexander’s tunes, most notably “Anna.” If you can’t find his original recordings, seek out his “Lonely Just Like Me” CD (Elektra Nonesuch). Recorded just before Arthur’s untimely death, this collection gives you a good glimpse of the talent this soft-spoken man possessed.
“THE MUSCLE SHOALS SOUND”
This is the title of a CD collection, not a name of a musical act. Rhino Records has done a great job compiling this historic grouping of vintage tracks. It includes classic tunes by Arthur Alexander, Percy Sledge, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Wilson Pickett, and others. You’ll love Clarence Carter’s “Making Love (at the Dark End of the Street).”
HANK WILLIAMS, SR.
What can you say about this guy that hasn’t already been said a million times? The “20 Greatest Hits” collection (Polydor) is perhaps the best place for the uninitiated to begin their worship of the “King of Country Music.” This CD features all the hits … including “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “Jambalaya’” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Williams may have died young (29), but his legacy will last for years to come.
THE LOUVIN BROTHERS
Charlie and Ira, born in rural Northern Alabama, recorded some classic country music for Capital Records in the 40s and 50s. Their tight harmonies pre-dated groups like the Everly Brothers. “When I Stop Dreaming – The Very Best of …” (Razor and Tie) is a tremendous grouping of the Louvin’s work. “Radio Favorites; ’51 –‘57” is another good set.
Glen was one of 12 children raised in rural Billstown, Arkansas. The child prodigy had mastered the guitar by age 10. At 16, Glen left school to pursue music full time. In 1961, Glen hit Los Angeles and quickly became a sought-after studio picker. Phil Spector used him for many of his projects and the Beach Boys even invited him to join their group in the mid-60s. In 1967, Campbell released “Gentle On My Mind.” The single initially only made it to #30 in Billboard. More than a year later, after Glen had become a crossover smash with “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” and “The Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife,” “Gentle On My Mind” made an incredible second chart climb. His success continued with 1968’s “Wichita Lineman,” which hit #1 country and #3 on the pop charts. “Galveston” revisited that crossover success in early 1969.
Cash was born and raised in rural Arkansas, not far from the banks of the Mississippi River. Any collection of his early Sun recordings is a good place to start. Most of these recordings should include his smash hit “Folsum Prison Blues.” Many of Johnny’s Columbia recordings are also noteworthy. Favorites include the tunes “I Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire,” and “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down.” His more recent efforts (“American Recordings” or “Unchained”) are both surprisingly powerful. Of course, it’s hard to go wrong with the comprehensive “Man in Black” box set.
Reverend Al is perhaps the perfect musical choice for any down home BBQ. Our personal favorites are the CDs “Explores Your Mind” and “Gets Next to You.” The collection called “Greatest Hits Volume 1” is a good starting point for those not familiar with Green’s vocal mastery. Al’s gospel outing “One in a Million” is also worth seeking out, as is the video documentary entitled "The Gospel According to Al Green” (WinStar Home Entertainment).
Louis and his Tympani Five were light-years ahead of their time. Jordan is most famous for his hits “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town,” “Five Guys Named Moe,” “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” and, of course, “What’s the Use in Getting Sober (When You Gonna Get Drunk Again)?” Pick up the “Let the Good Times Roll” anthology. A must have!
Although Buffett was born in Mississippi and raised in Alabama, most people continue to most closely associate Jimmy with the Sunshine State. Go right out and get the Buffett Box Set collection (“Boats, Beaches, Bars and Ballads”) if you can afford it. For those on a budget, pick up the greatest hits collection called “Songs You Know By Heart.” “Banana Wind” is one of Jimmy’s better contemporary efforts. Now fire up the blender and start the shrimp a boiling!
They are often classified as a country act, but Miami’s Mavericks are very difficult to pigeonhole into one specific genre. They are fronted by the talented lead vocalist, Raul Malo. Malo can sing a soaring, dramatic ballad like Roy Orbison or rock n’ roll like Elvis Presley. Check out the CDs “Trampoline,” “What a Crying Shame,” or “Music for All Occasions.” One of the more unique and daring groups in all of Country Music.
Born in Florida, Graham was one of the founding fathers of the Country/Rock movement. His work influenced the Eagles, Emmylou Harris and many others. Look for Parsons’ solo albums or his work with the Flying Burrito Brothers. Check out the albums “GP” or “Grievous Angel.” You may get lucky and find the two packaged together on one CD. Rhino’s Burrito collection is another good place to begin your introduction.
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS
What more can you say about this band that hasn’t already been said? Pick up the MCA greatest hits offering for the cream of the crop. “Damn the Torpedoes” is a classic and Petty’s “Southern Accents” is also an appropriate choice (if only because of the name!)
They may have popularized “Sweet Home Alabama,” but this group hailed from Florida. Other familiar hits include “Free Bird” and J.J. Cale’s “They Call Me the Breeze.” Many people consider the album “Street Survivors” to be a classic.
KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND – Yes, this is a predominantly disco-oriented CD. Call it a guilty pleasure if you must, but many folks can’t resist tracks like “Shake Your Booty,” “Get Down Tonight,” and “That’s the Way (I Like It).” Go straight for Rhino Records’ “Best of …” collection.
SAM AND DAVE
These Florida natives made it big in Memphis as Stax recording artists. Their smash hits included “Soul Man,” “Hold On I’m Comin’,” and “I Thank You.” Seek out the “Best of Sam and Dave” on Atlantic Records.
A well-known jazz singer who performed with the mighty Count Basie Band and, later, frequently appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was born Joseph Goreed in Cordele, Georgia and moved to Chicago as a child. He was raised by his mother and grandmother. He grew on the rough south side of Chicago, surrounded by jazz, blues, and gospel music. In the 1930s, as a teenager, he was a member of the gospel-based "The Jubilee Boys" and performed in many Chicago churches. He worked as a singer and bouncer in the Windy City in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He rose to national prominence as the singer for Basie's Orchestra around 1954. He remained with Basie for several years. "Everyday I have the Blues" is perhaps his biggest hit. Check out the CD "Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings" on Polygram.
South was born Joe Souter in 1940. A native of Atlanta, Joe was the consumate singer/songwriter in the 1960s. His first real taste of success was as a tunesmith - penning the Tam's #1 hit "Untie Me" in 1962. Flush with that taste of success, South moved to Nashville that same year and was soon in demand as a writer and session guitarist. He wrote such notable hits as "Rose Garden," "Down in the Boondocks," and "Walk a Mile in My Shoes." "Hush," another South composition, later became a rock smash for Deep Purple. Joe released his first solo LP ("Introspect") in 1968. The album included the classic cut "Games People Play," which eventually won a Grammy for Song of the Year. For a good introduction to the South sound, pick up the 23-track "Anthology: Mirror of his Mind." Hey, how could we leave him off our list with a name like South?
Otis, a native of the Macon area, exploded onto the music scene in the 60’s and left us way too soon. His powerful voice lives on in his legendary Stax recordings. You can’t go wrong with “The Very Best of … Volumes 1 or 2” (Rhino Records). Volume 1 contains the super-hit “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” We are also quite fond of the rollicking “Hard to Handle,” which was later covered by the Black Crows.
JB is the undisputed Godfather of Soul music. If you don’t believe it, pick up the CD of JB or the CD of JB II (Polygram). Volume 1 is highlighted by tracks like “It’s a Man’s World,” “I Got You (I Feel Good),” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” “I’ll Go Crazy,” “Think,” and the fabulous “Night Train” appear on the latter collection. Check out Brown’s spirited performance on “Live at the Apollo,” hailed by many music critics as the best concert recording in the rock era.
THE ALLMAN BROTHERS
Brothers Duane and Gregg Allman were once in a band called “The Allman Joys.” The blond-haired siblings later teamed with guitarist Richard “Dicky” Betts and a powerful rhythm section to become one of the best loved bands in the genre known as Southern Rock. “Live at the Fillmore” or Polydor’s “Decade of Hits” showcase the group at the peak of their creative powers. Lovers of AOR should look for the CDs “Brothers and Sisters” or “Eat a Peach.”
Savannah’s favorite musical son, Mercer was a first-rate tunesmith and sometime recording artist. If you’re looking for some swinging 40s and 50s pop crooning with a decidedly Southern touch, Mercer is your man. We really like “Blues in the Night” (Blue Moon Records). This hard to find collection of 23 tunes features the standards “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Sante Fe,” “Glow Worm,” and “Accentuate the Positive.” His music is also featured prominently on the “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” soundtrack.
This is the band that truly put Athens on the musical map. We like just about everything they have done. You may want to start by picking up “Automatic for the People” (their tribute to Dexter “Weaver D” Weaver) or the incredible “Murmur,” which first broke the band to a worldwide audience.
Brother Ray was born in the Albany, GA area. Despite his well-documented disability, Charles made a big name for himself in the diverse fields of Jazz, Soul, and, yes, even Country and Western. We really like his “Genius + Soul = Jazz” CD or “The Atlantic Years” collection on Rhino Records. His worthwhile “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” was a watershed recording.
That “other band” from the college town of Athens. This band started almost as an inside joke, but soon evolved into one of the New Wave era’s most durable acts. Their self-titled debut CD was anchored by the unstoppable “Rock Lobster.” Their wildly successful “Cosmic Thing” release yielded the equally potent party anthem “Love Shack.” Great fun!
A native of Louisville, was an outstanding jazz bandleader and percussionist. He was the first jazz vibraphone player and arguably the greatest ever. "Hamp" ranks among the great names in jazz history, having worked with a who's who of jazz legends from Benny Goodman to Charlie "Yardbird" Parker to Quincy Jones. Hampton was known for his tireless energy and skill on the vibes, drums, and two-fingered piano. The bars on the vibraphone are laid out like the piano; Hampton played both instruments the same way. Quincy Jones once stated that Hamp was like a rock and roll star in that "Hamp would go for the throat every night and the people would freak out". Start out with the affordable "The Lionel Hampton Story" box set from Proper (UK).
Singer, songwriter, and master musician born in Rosewood, Kentucky. His lyrics could be humorous, but often discussed the exploitation of coal miners. Some of the songs he wrote or performed include: "Sixteen Tons", "So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed", and "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette"; however, it is his masterful guitar playing that he is best known for today. The "Travis Picking" style is named after him. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1977.
The Coal Miner's Daughter from Butcher's Hollow, KY is one of Country Music's most enduring legends. She is captured in all her twangy glory on the Country Music Hall of Fame Collection (MCA) and the 3 CD compilation "Honky Tonk Girl." Both discs are a great way to become acquainted with LL.
THE EVERLY BROTHERS
Don and Phil out of Brownie, KY married bluegrass harmonies with rock rhythms to create hit after hit in the late 50’s and early ‘60s. The husband and wife songwriting team of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant penned many of their best songs. “Golden Hits” (Warner) or “Cadence Classics” (Rhino) are must haves for any true student of the country-rock genre. These guys were certainly pioneers in that vein.
Monroe is nothing short of a giant in the Bluegrass State. His mandolin playing and “high lonesome” vocals inspired legions of fans and musicians. We recommend the CD “Essential 1945-1949” or “16 Gems” (both on Sony).
The mother/daughter team of Naomi and Wynonna Judd created a string of country hits in the 1980s. Try the “Greatest Hits Volume 1” disc, which features the tracks “Why Not Me,” “Mama, He’s Crazy” and “Give a Little Love.” Naomi is also a very good down-home cook with her own cookbook to show for it. Naomi’s other talented daughter, Ashley, is an award-winning actress in Hollywood.
Whether he’s playing Country or Bluegrass, Skaggs is very much a traditionalist. He is a terrific instrumentalist and accomplished singer. Look for his “Ancient Tones” or “Soldier of the Cross” CDs. “Highways and Heartaches” (Epic) was his big crossover album.
This Kentucky native is indeed a “Honky Tonk Man.” Greatly influenced by the Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, Dwight has played a major role in putting the twang back in Country Music. His “Just Lookin’ for a Hit” greatest hits collection is an excellent collection of Yoakam’s early work. 1995’s “Gone” is another solid outing.
HUDDIE "LEADBELLY" LEDBETTER
A legendary folk and blues musician who was known for his clear and forceful singing, his mastery on the 12-string guitar, and the rich songbook of folk standards he introduced to the world. He is best known as "Leadbelly" or "Lead Belly." The topics of Leadbelly's music covered a wide range of subjects, including gospel songs, blues songs about women, liquor, racism, folk songs about cowboys, prison, work, cattle herding, dancing, and songs concerning the newsmakers of the day. Influencial recordings include "Goodnight Irene," "House of the Rising Sun," and "The Midnight Special" (later covered by CCR). Look for the "Absolutely the Best" collection on the French Varese Sarabande label.
Lucinda was born in Lake Charles and now spends most of her time in Austin, TX. Her twangy vocals and thoughtful lyrics have captured a large legion of fans worldwide. We suggest you start with her self-titled CD, "Sweet Old World," or "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road." These songs are simple and straight from the heart --- filled with character and Southern imagery. Lucinda is indeed "2 Kool 2 be Forgotten."
The first family of New Orleans Funk and R & B, the Neville’s best stuff is showcased on “Uptown Rulin’” (A & M). “Live at Tipitina’s” is another great choice, as is the 1989 release “Yellow Moon.”
The one and only “Satchmo” used to close his letters with the phrase “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.” Yes, Armstrong loved his New Orleans cuisine. And we love the sound of his raspy voice and magical trumpet. Check out “The Essential …” CD on Verve or “Satch Plays Fats,” Armstrong’s salute to Fats Waller.
DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND
Brass bands are a big part of New Orleans street culture and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band has won fans throughout the world by adding a modern twist to traditional music. Our top picks are “The New Orleans Album” or 1999’s “Buck Jump.”
BEAU JOCQUE AND THE HI ROLLERS
These Louisiana natives rock as hard as any zydeco band around. Go for the CD “Pick Up on This” (Rounder). Toss this disc on when boiling up a mess of crawfish.
Boozoo hails from Lake Charles. He is one of Zydeco’s true legends. Start with his self-titled release on Elektra Nonesuch records. The popular cult band NRBQ honored Chavis with their tribute song “Boozoo That’s Who!” This is great music for cooking up a pot of gumbo or a mess of boudin.
TONY JOE WHITE
Born near Oak Grove, LA, Tony Joe has more soul than any white man alive. If you don’t believe it, grab yourself a copy of “The Best of …” (Warner Archives). One listen to songs like “Polk Salad Annie,” “Willie and Laura Mae Jones,” and “Roosevelt and Ira Lee” will make a true believer out of you. Another good choice is Tony's 1993 release "Closer to the Truth" on Swamp Records. Choogle on over to www.TonyJoeWhite.Net for mo' info.
Michael Doucet and the boys have gained an international following with their fresh spin on traditional Cajun music. Virtually everything they’ve done is first rate. We especially enjoy Rhino’s “L’Amour ou la Folie,” “The Best of …,” or “Vintage BeauSoleil.”
Mahalia was a child of the Crescent City who became the top performer in all of Gospel music. This prolific recording artist left behind many great performances … the best of which can be found on the Columbia box set “Gospels, Spirituals, and Hymns.”
Sonny is an accomplished slide guitarist and songwriter whose songs have been recorded by many big name performers including John Hiatt; pick up “South of I-10” or “Outward Bound” to be dazzled by Landreth’s unique vocals and lightning quick guitar licks.
Known to his fans as the “Night Tripper,” Dr. John (real name: Mac Rebbenack) is a living legend in his home state. Our favorite recorded collections are “Gris Gris,” “Dr. John Plays Mac Rebbenack,” and Rhino’s “The Very Best of Dr. John.”
Paul, who hails from the Tupelo, MS area, is a son of a preacher man. Something of a Renaissance man, Thorn was a professional boxer (he once battled Roberto Duran) and is an accomplished Outsider Folk artist. The legendary Howard Finster was his primary source of inspiration in turning to found materials and the paint brush. And yes, Paul Thorn can pick and sing a bit too! All his rootsy CDs are great fun and musically rewarding. We especially like Mission Temple Fireworks Stand and Ain’t Love Strange. But don’t fret y’all --- you can’t go wrong with any of his collections. Many of his tunes conjure up strange visions of the Deep South. Visit Thorn’s entertaining web site at www.paulthorn.com . See him live if you can --- it’s a hoot! Support Paul Thorn --- it’s real stuff for real people.
JUNIOR KIMBROUGH / R.L. BURNSIDE
These two gentlemen helped to popularize the authentic juke joint blues that many folks thought had become a thing of the past. We suggest you start with Kimbrough’s “Most Things Haven’t Worked Out” and Burnside’s “Come On In” (both on Fat Possum Records). The latter is an unusual mix of raw, primitive blues with techno/rock backing.
MISSISSIPPI MASS CHOIR
This congregation of heavenly voices will both inspire you and make you want to dance around your kitchen. We suggest you pick up “I’ll See You in the Rapture” (Malaco).
Johnson was said to have sold his sold to the Devil in order to become the most revered bluesman of his era. His “King of the Delta Blues” CD (Columbia) features “Crossroads Blues,” “Hellhound on my Trail,” and “Come On In My Kitchen.” For a more complete collection of Johnson’s haunting work, you may want to purchase Sony’s 2 disc set “Complete Recordings.”
Cooke was born in the Mississippi Delta (Clarksdale). His beginnings were in gospel music, but he soon crossed over to the secular charts. His tunes “You Send Me,” “Another Saturday Night,” and “Twistin the Night Away” have become modern day pop standards. Start with the RCA “Greatest Hits” package. His gospel work alongside the Soul Stirrers on the Specialty label are also worthwhile.
Marty, who hails from Philadelphia, MS, is carrying on the down home traditions of his musical idols Johnny Cash and Bill Monroe. You can’t go wrong with “Marty Party Hit Pack,” “Tempted” or the underrated treasure “Pilgrim” (all on MCA Records). You can watch Stuart on RFD TV too --- his show is a big hit for that cable outlet.
Meridian’s “Singing Brakeman” was Country Music’s very first superstar. Look for the “Essential” collection on RCA, which includes Rodgers’ classics such as “In the Jailhouse Now,” “Waiting for a Train,” and “T for Texas.” Vintage folk/blues from the 20s and 30s.
Originally from Itta Bena, MS, King is the most recognizable Blues artist in the world. We like his recent “Blues on the Bayou” or the classic concert recording “Live at the Regal.” For a more comprehensive collection we suggest the wonderful “King of the Blues” box set.
Webb, a native of Hattiesburg, has a cult following throughout the southeast. Wilder and his backing band mix classic country, surf and spy themes, Southern Gothic imagery and rock n’ roll attitude for a truly unique sound. Start with “Doo Dad” or the one that started the madness “It Came from Nashville.” Catch his live show for a riveting, first-hand look at the self-titled “Last of the Full Grown Men.” You’ll soon find yourself reciting the Wilder credo: “Eat Hard, Sleep Hard, Work Hard, Rock Hard … and Wear Glasses if You Need ‘Em.”
Born McKinley Morganfield in the Mississippi Delta, Muddy eventually moved to Chicago, plugged in his guitar, and electrified the world of Blues. Look for the Chess collections “His Best 1947-1955” and “His Best 1956-1964.” You might also enjoy three 70s releases that are often packaged together at one low price (Hard Again/I’m Ready/King Bee).
JOHN LEE HOOKER
Hooker was raised in the Magnolia State before relocating to Detroit. His songs “I’m In The Mood,” “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer,” and the infectious “Boom Boom” have become Blues standards. Check out Rhino’s “The Very Best of …” or 1989’s “Healer.’ The latter features guest appearances by Carlos Santana, Los Lobos, George Thorogood, Bonnie Raitt, and others.
Born in Dunn, North Carolina, to semi-literate street preachers, Wray hit it big in the late '50s and is now being rediscovered by a new generation. His music has appeared in movies like "Pulp Fiction," "Independence Day" and "Desperado." A petition drive is underway to get him inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The power chord. Distortion. A wall of noises, never-ending riffs, the echo of the whammy bar. This is the sound of Link Wray. Frederick Lincoln Wray Jr., a Shawnee Indian, a pioneer of punk and heavy metal, or just what some call the "dirty guitar sound." Check out "Rumble!" (Rhino) ... a collection of early hits; I would also suggest you pick up one of the late 70s Robert Gordon recordings with Link --- especially "Fresh Fish Special."
SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS
This cult band is quite popular throughout the Southeast. Pick up the CDs “Dirt Track Date” or “Plastic Seat Sweat” both on Geffen Records). Their song titles include names like “Voodoo Cadillac,” “White Trash,” “Fried Chicken and Gasoline,” “Shotgun,” and our personal favorite “Banana Puddin’.”
DOC & MERLE WATSON
Doc was something of a cult figure in the mountains of Western North Carolina. His disability (he was blind) did not stop Watson from becoming one of the most admired performers in all of Country & Bluegrass music. Merle, Doc’s son, joined him on many recordings including the classic “Ballads from Deep Gap.” Merle later died tragically in a tractor accident.
SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS
This Chapel Hill based swing band hit it big with their CD “Hot!” You might also want to seek out a spin off project called James Mathus and His Knock Down Society “Play Songs for Rosetta” (Mammouth). The Zippers’ unique Christmas CD is also worth a listen.
Hamlet, NC’s Coltrane was one of Be-bop’s founding fathers. We suggest you buy “Blue Train” or “Soultrane” as an introduction to the magic horn of Mr. Coltrane. “The Best of …” on WEA/Atlantic is also very highly rated.
BEN FOLDS FIVE
Another Chapel Hill product, this band broke through with their CD “Whatever and Ever Amen.” They have since recorded several follow-up albums and Ben continues to have a very loyal following both regionally and nationally.
Lauderdale is one of Country Music’s most underrated singer/songwriters. You can’t go wrong with the fantastic “Planet of Love” or “Pretty Close to the Truth.” His vocal sound is at times reminiscent of classic honky tonkers like Buck Owens.
Monk is another huge name in the world of be-bop jazz. He was a groundbreaking composer and pianist with a rather quirky style. His music is considered by many to be an acquired taste. If you’re not familiar with his work, you may want to start with Monk’s “Brilliant Corners” (Riverside) or the “Composer” collection (Columbia).
Taylor’s work is well known throughout the world. His mellow vocals are best showcased on his “Greatest Hits” collection. Taylor’s “Greatest Hits Live” (Columbia) is another good collection of his finest songs.
These guys are cut from the same mold as fellow South Carolinians Hootie and the Blowfish. Their album “Red Clay Harvest” was somewhat of a regional breakthrough for them, although national stardom eluded them. Highlights on “Red Clay Harvest” are the tracks “Come Undone” and our favorite, “Sweet Tea.”
MARLENA SMALLS & THE HALLELUJAH CHOIR
Gullah gospel from the Low Country. This is traditional gospel music at it’s finest. If this stuff can’t gent you in the spirit … check your pulse! Their recorded music can be hard to find, but buy it if you have the chance.
HOOTIE AND THE BLOWFISH
They were once the reigning kings of the South Carolina music scene. “Cracked Rear View Mirror” was an international smash. This disc contained the hits “Hold my Hand,” “Let Her Cry,” and “Only Wanna Be with You.” Whether you like them or not, no list of South Carolina musicians would be complete without Hootie. Lead singer Darius Rucker is now an established country solo act.
The 70th Anniversary Celebration “Music in the Air” (House Of Blues Records) is an excellent place to begin exploring the magic of the mighty Hummingbirds. Guests on this tribute include Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Wynonna Judd, and others.
This is not the Beach Music of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and Dick Dale. We’re talking Carolina Beach Music, which more closely resembles Rhythm and Blues or 50s Doo-Wop. Stars in the regional genre include The Embers, The Catalinas, The Chairman of the Board, and the Fantastic Shakers. Check out the box set “Beach Music Anthology” on Ripete Records. This is the music that created “the Shag” dance craze.
Dizzy was born and raised in Cheraw, SC. He went on to establish himself as a driving force in the world of Jazz. Look for the CD collection “Dizzy’s Diamonds: The Best of the Verve Years.” “Diz and Bird” (recorded with Charlie “Yardbird” Parker) is another good choice.
Born into poverty in Chattanooga and orphaned at a young age, Bessie became the greatest blues singer of her time, recording well over 150 songs between 1923 and 1933. Her career was influenced by Ma Rainey and Smith performed on stage throughout the South before making her first records. She recorded with such jazz legends as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Coleman Hawkins, but it was Smith who always was the star. Her most well known tunes include "Downhearted Blues" and "Nobody Knows When You're Down and Out."
THE STAPLES SINGERS
Powered by the soulful vocals of Mavis Staples, this talented family was one of Memphis’ most popular acts in the early 1970s. Your best bet is the “Best of …” on Stax. This outstanding retrospective features the hit tracks “I’ll Take You There,” “Respect Yourself,” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me).”
THE FAIRFIELD FOUR
Hailing from Nashville, this legendary gospel act made a comeback of sorts with the release “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray” (Warner). There is very little instrumental backing, allowing the Fairfield’s acappella vocals to shine through. This group can also be heard on John Fogerty’s CD “Blue Moon Swamp.”
Isaac was born in rural Tennessee. He first made a name for himself as a songwriter at Stax records. He soon evolved into a star in his own right, thanks to the smash hit “Shaft” soundtrack. His album “Hot Buttered Soul” (Stax) was also well received by fans and critics alike.
The King of Rock n’ Roll shines brightest on classic “The Sun Sessions” or 1969’s “Memphis Record.” The latter features the classic “Suspicious Minds.” Big fans should opt for “The King of Rock n’ Roll – Complete” which includes 5 CDs of 50s Presley. You should generally avoid the soundtrack LPs … especially the latter ones. “King Creole” and “Loving You” are two exceptions to this rule.
Johnny’s baby girl grew up to become one of Nashville’s more intelligent and thoughtful female recording artists. We like the CD’s “King’s Record Shop” and “The Wheel.”
BOOKER T AND THE MGS
Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper, Bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, and drummer Al Jackson helped define the Stax sound. They were in essence that label’s house band, recording with Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and many other Stax stars. Their best CDs are “Hip Hug Her” or “The Very Best of … (both on Rhino Records). “Green Onions,” which can be found on any of their greatest hits collections, is still one of the grooviest instrumentals ever recorded.
You might call these guys a retro-country act. Deriving their name from a skit from the TV series “Hee Haw,” BR-549 sounds like they were a backing band for Hank Williams, Sr. We recommend the Self-titled debut CD on Arista or the “Live at Roberts Western World” set. “Big Backyard Beat Show” also has its’ moments. Catch their live show if you can!
The Queen of Soul was born in the Volunteer State. We love just about everything this lady does. For starters pick up the CD “I Never Loved a Man … ” or “Lady Soul.” Aretha’s gospel collection “Amazing Grace” is truly amazing. You can’t go wrong by purchasing the box set “The Queen of Soul – The Atlantic Recordings.”
This is the man who wrote the rockabilly classic “Blue Suede Shoes.” Carl, who hailed from Jackson, TN, had a long career in rock and country music, recorded his most memorable sides with Sam Phillips at Sun Studios in Memphis. Get “The Original Sun Greatest Hits” on Rhino for songs like “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Honey Don’t” and “Everybody’s Trying to be My Baby.”
She has at times become a caricature of herself, but Dolly’s talent (like her big hair and ample bosom) simply cannot be overlooked. If you need proof, check out 1987’s “Trio” recording with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. For more recent evidence, seek out the outstanding CD “The Grass is Blue.”
Del was raised in Ft. Worth, Texas and is a soulful singer and harp player. He had a major part in teaching Beatle John Lennon to play the blues harp. He has long had a strong cult following, but has never quite broken through to the next level. He came close with “One of the Fortunate Few” (Rising Tide), which includes a great song called “Somebody to Love You.” McClinton has been at it for a long time now, but his voice, like fine scotch, keeps getting better with age. Pick up the Ultimate Delbert McClinton on Hip-O Records (www.hip-o.com) or his most recent releases on New West Records. His classic tune "B-Movie Box Car Blues" is one of our favorite R&B tracks of all time.
JERRY JEFF WALKER
You might call Jerry Jeff a true Texas Troubadour. Although he wasn’t born in Texas, his music is universally identified with the Lone Star State. Pick up his “Great Gonzos” CD (MCA) for a good overview of his classic tunes like “Mr. Bojangles” and “Up against the Wall Redneck Mothers.”
Whether recording with a big band or a small acoustic combo, Lovett’s music is unforgettable. We like his “Large Band” or “Joshua Judges Ruth” CDs (MCA Curb). His “Live in Texas” is a good document of his entertaining concert performances.
Kris has written some terrific songs over the years. Many of his best compositions, including “Me and Bobbie McGee” and “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” are featured on the 1999 recording “The Austin Sessions.” This album features instrumental backing from some of the finest session players in Texas.
Another fine retro act, Junior combines the deep voice of Ernest Tubb with the guitar pickin’ prowess of Merle Travis, Dick Dale, and Jimi Hendrix. Listen to “Guit with It” or “12 Shades of Brown” for a taste of this man’s unique talents.
BOB WILLS AND THE TEXAS PLAYBOYS
This is Texas Swing at its’ finest. Check out this legendary group on Rhino’s “Anthology: 1935-‘73” or “Essential 35-47” (Sony). They have inspired legions of modern day musicians, most notably the band Asleep at the Wheel.
Willie started his career in Nashville as a first rate songwriter, penning such hits as Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” and Faron Young’s “Hello Walls.” Willie’s “Red Headed Stranger” and “Shotgun Willie” are good collections of his peak years. His “Teatro” CD is also interesting for its’ sparse production and haunting songs.
Flaco, who was in the super-group The Texas Tornadoes, is one of the finest border accordian players in the world today. Listen to his Tex-Mex sounds on the solo CD “San Antonio Soul.”
ROBERT EARL KEEN
A college classmate of Lyle Lovett, Keen is a very popular performer in the Southwest. We like his CDs “Gringo Honeymoon” or “Picnic.” Both discs do a good job showcasing Keen’s songwriting ability and quirky sense of humor.
THE HOLMES BROTHERS' unique blend of gospel-inflected themes and blues riffs gives them a funky, down-home rural feeling that no other touring blues group can seem to duplicate. Brothers Sherman and Wendell Holmes, along with drummer Popsy Dixon, are the group's core members, although they usually tour with additional musicians. Although they'd been performing in Harlem for years, the Holmes Brothers -- originally from Christchurch, VA -- have only recently become international blues touring stars. Check out their critically acclaimed CD "Speaking in Tongues," which was produced by popular recording artist Joan Osbourne.
Ella sang her first note in Newport News, where she was born. What can be said other than Fitzgerald was the greatest female jazz vocalist of all time. We recommend "The Best of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong," "Ella sings the Cole Porter Songbook," or the 3-CD collection "The First Lady of Song."
Patsy was raised in the Apple Country of Winchester, VA. She died tragically at the peak of her recording career in Nashville. She certainly would have had a chance to cross over to pop stardom and even greater fame and fortune. Many of her hits are still juke box favorites today, including “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces.” Start with the brilliant if short collection “12 Greatest Hits” (MCA).
THE CARTER FAMILY
Hailing from the Bristol area of SW Virginia, the Carters (featuring the one and only Mother Maybelle) were perhaps the first super-group in the world of Country Music. Their mountain harmonies are best explored on the CD “Best of the Best …” (King). It features the songs “Wildwood Flower,” Wabash Cannonball,” and “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life.”
RALPH STANLEY AND THE CLINCH MOUNTAIN BOYS
Stanley and his legendary Bluegrass band are from SW VA. They have produced many stellar recordings through the years. Check out Ralph with the multi-talented Jim Lauderdale on “I Feel Like Singing Today.” We also can recommend the Freeland Recording “Saturday Night and Sunday.”
BRUCE HORNSBY & THE RANGE
Bruce is from the historic colonial town of Williamsburg, VA. His CD “The Way It Is” was a huge seller and rightly so. Hornsby’s solo CD “Hot House” shows off his piano playing virtuosity.
EVAN JOHNS AND THE H-BOMBS
Imagine Howlin’ Wolf backed by a rockabilly band. That’s the raucous Mr. Johns and his group the H-Bombs. His best CD by far is the gem “Rollin’ through the Night.” Great fun if you are a fan of modern rockabilly with a punk energy.
GENE VINCENT AND THE BLUE CAPS
"The Screaming End” (Razor and Tie Records) is a great collection of this Norfolk native’s finest work. Hits included here include the classic “Be Bop A Lula,” “Race with the Devil,” and “Woman Love.” The rockabilly guitar of Blue Cap Cliff Gallup is alone worth the price of admission.
Harris grew up in Northern VA. She is now one of the most respected artists in all of Country Music. A good retrospective of Harris’ career can be found on the multi-disc box “Portraits.” Emmylou also shines on the critically acclaimed 1995 recording “Wrecking Ball.”
Perhaps the best guitarist that you never heard of. Danny’s “Unfinished Business” or the CD “88 Elmira Street” showcase his incredible grasp of a variety of guitar styles – jazz, rock, rockabilly, surf and more. He passed away before the world had a chance to fully appreciate his talents.
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
Matthews started his career in the Charlottesville, VA area. The CD “Under the Table Dreaming” was one of the biggest surprise hits of the 1990s. The follow up CD “Before These Crowded Streets” was also a big seller. A great live act with a huge cult following.
Hoagland H. Carmichael may have been born in Bloomington, Indiana, but his easy style and sound was all Dixie; whether on his own or composing with frequent collaborator, Johnny Mercer, Hoagy was always swinging and silky smooth; the Carmichael feel is best experienced on tracks such as "Lazy Bones," "Ole Buttermilk Sky," "Washboard Blues," "Rockin' Chair," and the immortal classics, "Georgia on my Mind" and "Stardust;" sadly, there are not many good career CD retrospectives on the market; Hoagy's work is often overlooked; we suggest you start with "Sometimes I Wonder" or "Stardust Melody;" Carmichael also appeared in a couple of Hollywood movies and even made a guest appearance on "The Flintstones" in the 1960s; learn more about the legendary Hoagland at www.hoagy.com.
"Dusty" was born Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien in Hampstead, London, England; she had her first taste of musical success with The Springfields, one of Britain's top folk acts of the early 1960s; during the Merseybeat boom, Dusty took a rather bold step by going solo; her debut single in 1963 ("I Only Want To Be With You") was a smash hit; she went on to record an entire album in Memphis, TN, and succeeded in creating her defining work, "Dusty In Memphis." The dream production team of Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler were perhaps the first people to recognize that Dusty's sweet soulful voice should be placed at the front of the musical mix, rather than competing with sometimes overpowering string arrangements; the album remains a classic and one of the finest records produced in the '60s; the single "Son Of A Preacher Man" is a timeless masterpiece of "Blue Eyed Soul."
Along with Merle Haggard, was the leader of the Bakersfield, California Sound, a twangy, electricified, rock-influenced interpretation of hardcore honky tonk that emerged in the '60s. Owens was the first bonafide country star to emerge from Bakersfield, scoring a total of 15 consecutive number one hits in the mid-'60s. In the process, he provided an edgy alternative to the string-laden country-pop that was being produced during the '60s. Later in his career, his musical impact was forgotten by some as he became a television personality through the cornpone hillbilly comedy show Hee Haw.
This Champaign, Illinois native helped to bring bluegrass to a wider audience during the 90's. Blending bluegrass with folk sounds, Alison was acclaimed from the beginning of her career, but it wasn't until her platinum-selling 1995 compilation, "Now That I've Found You," that she became a mainstream star. Krauss has matured from a child prodigy to a versatile, ambitious and diverse musician and, in the process, has recorded some of the freshest bluegrass in recent memory. Don't miss her collaboration with Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant.
Merle was born in the rough and tumble town of Bakersfield, California, but his sound has always been pure country. His hits have included classic cuts like "Workin' Man Blues," "Okie From Muskogee," "The Bottle Let Me Down," and "The Fightin' Side of Me." Pick up a copy of the Capitol Collector's Series or the Ultimate Merle Haggard Collection on the Hip-O Label (www.hip-o.com).
JOHN FOGERTY AND CCR
Brothers John and Tom Fogerty, along with drummer Doug Clifford and bassist Stu Cook, were raised in the Berkeley, CA area, but they sound like they were “Born on the Bayou.” CCR releases “Cosmo’s Factory” or “Willie and the Poor Boys” are both outstanding. John’s solo effort “Blue Moon Swamp” is also chock full of Southern imagery. We love the track “110 Degrees in the Shade,” which features background vocals by the fabulous Fairfield Four.
A native Californian, Alvin and his brother Phil were founding members of the hard rockin’ L.A. band, The Blasters. Dave’s solo work has won rave reviews from critics worldwide. We strongly recommend “Interstate City,” “Museum of the Heart,” or “Blue Boulevard.”
Cale is a leathery Okie tunesmith who has written songs like “They Call Me The Breeze,” Eric Clapton’s hits “Cocaine,” and “After Midnight,” as well as lesser known gems such as “Magnolia” and “Cajun Moon.” His gruff voice and lazy pace will grow on you. A good place to begin is the “Anyway the Wind Blows” collection or “The Very Best of …” (both on Polygram Records).
Russell also hails from Oklahoma. He started his musical career as a session man for ‘60s bands like Gary Lewis and the Playboys. Leon later established himself as a gifted songwriter and headline performer. His ’73 release “Hank Wilson’s Back” or the two CD compilation “Gimme Shelter” (EMI) are both good choices. The latter features the well-known songs “Tight Rope,” “Delta Lady,” and “This Masquerade.”
They may have been from California, but these guys certainly had an ear for country rock and bluegrass sounds. Look for the CD “On the Border” or the first “Greatest Hits” compilation (both on Asylum).
Detroit-born Soul Man helped define the Muscle Shoals Sound. Hits like “Midnight Hour,” “Land of 1,000 Dances,” “Mustang Sally,” and “Funky Broadway” can be found on Rhino’s “The Very Best of … “ collection. Pickett’s most recent release “It’s Harder Now” (Bullseye) finds the “Wicked One” in fine voice.
Originally from Indiana, Hiatt is now one of Nashville’s most sought after songwriters. It’s hard to go wrong with any of Hiatt’s albums. We especially like “Slow Turning” or “Bring the Family.” Penning songs such as “Memphis in the Meantime,” “Drive South,” and “Tennessee Plates” have earned Hiatt his place in this elite grouping of adopted sons and daughters of Dixie.
Bonnie’s tasteful slide guitar work and soulful voice has made her one of popular music’s most enduring stars. Her mega-selling “Nick of Time” or the follow up “Luck of the Draw” are both good introductions to Raitt’s winning style.