Today in Blues history – January 9 – RIP Silas Hogan – Everything Blues at Mojohand.com
Silas Hogan wasn’t quite as individualistic as any of the ‘big four’ Swamp Blues guys but any one of those records he made at Crowley, Louisiana could serve as an excellent illustration of the idiom making him almost the archetype swamp blues man. He had the gravitas (and his own version of the slow blues) of Lightnin’ Slim, the Jimmy Reed soundalike harp sound on his medium tempo chugalongs, a compositional style that emphasised the down and out aspects of life – rats and roaches get mentions as do chemicals, bearing in mind this was oil country – and he wasn’t even averse to the odd foray into swamp pop territory.
But he was no spring chicken when the first record proudly bearing the name “Silas Hogan” rolled off the Excello production line in 1962. Its A-side, You’re Too Late Baby, was one of those near throwaway but still satisfying chuggers that I mentioned above. That’s Sylvester Buckley on the high pitched harp – though to be fair to the good Sylvester, he was but one of a long line of great harmonica men who passed through the Crowley studio and the Reed soundalike stuff on that record doesn’t do him full justice. Along with him in the studio were a couple of members of the original Hogan band, the Rhythm Ramblers, Isaiah Chatman on second guitar and Buckley on harmonica, with the original drummer Jimmy Dotson replaced by Silas’s son Samuel or Burnell Hayney on drums (depending on which discography you read). The original band had stayed together for years. They had a reputation as a very tight outfit and reportedly – John Broven in his excellent “South To Louisiana: The Music Of The Cajun Bayous” – played versions of numbers on the road which didn’t differ at all from the studio takes and that was a tradition that carried on even with band changes. The flip was even better. Conforming to the tried and trusted practice of coupling a slowie with a fast(ish) one, Trouble At Home Blues was just about as slow as you could get. After complaining that “I’ve got roaches in my kitchen”, Silas closed the first verse with the declaration “looks like these rats and roaches gonna drive me outta my room”. This one is up there with Lightnin’ Slim and Lonesome Sundown in terms of blues quality and originality.