J.B. Lenoir biography
Born: May 5, 1929, Monticello, Mississippi
Died: April 29, 1967, Urbana, Illinois
J.B. Lenoir probably picked up his solid “boogie woogie” influence in New Orleans, where he spent some time performing before he settled into Chicago’s blues scene during the fifties and sixties. While in New Orleans he played with blues greats Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James. Once Lenoir made it to Chicago, Big Bill Broonzy helped introduce him to the local blues community, and he became an important part of the city’s blues scene. He was a talented songwriter and bluesman with an obvious political awareness. Examples of his outspoken views can be found in “Korea Blues,” and “Eisenhower Blues” — the latter reportedly caused enough controversy that his record label forced him to remake the tune under the title “Tax Paying Blues.” His penchant for social commentary and his high-pitched vocals distinguish him from other bluesmen of that time. Lenoir’s recordings are also distinctive for their excellent saxophone arrangements and unconventional drumming (Alex Atkins and Ernest Cotton were often on sax with Al Gavin on drums). Lenoir had successfully toured Europe and was likely about to achieve greater fame when he died in 1966 due to complications from a car accident.
Essential listening: “Shot on James Meredith,” “Mama, Talk to Your Daughter,” “Everybody Wants to Know,” “Natural Man,” “Eisenhower Blues,” “Korea Blues,” “Vietnam Blues”