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Chicago to Cabbage Patch: Joe Jammer

by on 25 April 2017

Joe Jammer’s All-Star Chicago Blues Revue

The Eel Pie Club at The Cabbage Patch, Twickenham,  20th April

A Review by Cliff Tapstand

The Eel Pie Club attracts a large number of musicians with years of experience playing in, or with, world famous bands and artists, but there are few who would match the CV of Chicago born, Joe Jammer, but more of that later. Let’s get straight into the gig.
The first thing you notice about a Joe Jammer gig is the personal touch. Before the show gets under way, Joe wanders through the club shaking hands, chatting, and perhaps sampling the occasional Jack Daniels, just to lubricate the vocal chords.
The show starts with Joe on guitar, John Scott on bass, and Russell Gills on drums for three opening numbers including Little Red Rooster, written by Willie Dixon, made famous by Howlin’ Wolf, and was the only true ‘Blues’ song ever to reach No. 1 in the charts, when recorded by The Rolling Stones in 1965.

Jammer 1
By this time, Tom Brundage on harmonica, and vocalists, Lamb Lamont, and Annie Wright, have completed the line-up, and songs by some of the great names in the history of the blues continued to flow, Robert Cray’s ‘Smokin’ Gun’, Jimmy Reed’s ‘Big Boss Man’ and Rufus Thomas’s ‘Walking The Dog’. The latter is another blues song adopted by The Stones, and another example of how The Blues influenced British musical culture in the sixties.

One song that clearly meant a lot to Joe was Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Red House’ which he played in true Hendrix style, including teeth! This is a real test of guitar playing and needless to say, he passed with flying colours, as did his rhythm section, John and Russell. ​
The first set concluded with a song written by Albert Collins, ‘I Ain’t Drunk’, the next line being, ‘I’m only drinking’. Once again, in the break between sets, Joe spent his time wandering through, and chatting with his audience.

Jammer Composite

The second set got underway with Whole Lotta Shakin’, a song made famous by Gerry Lee Lewis, for whom Joe had been a session guitarist, as he had for many other artists, including, Mick Jagger, Joe Cocker, and Ringo Starr. This was followed by Stevie Ray Vaughan’s House Is A Rocking followed by a song written by Albert King called Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven, the second line being, “but nobody wants to die.”​

Jammer 2
This was followed by one of the most famous songs in rock ‘n’ roll history, ‘Hound Dog’, made famous by Elvis Presley, but 3 years earlier, in 1953, it was a hit for blues singer Big Mama Thornton. I’ve just listened to her version on U-tube, and believe me it is better than Elvis’s.
The second set came to a rousing climax with Bobby Womack’s ‘All Over Now’, another early hit for The Rolling Stones, before the song writing talents of Jagger and Richards were unleashed on the world.
This was a great gig and well received by an enthusiastic audience, but what very few people appreciated was that early the following morning, Joe was going into hospital for throat surgery, and the previous day his cousin had passed away in Chicago. His only acknowledgement of these two concerns was that he took to sitting in a chair for some of the slower numbers in what he likened to ‘an ole bluesman’ sat playing his guitar on the front porch. Thanks for the gig, Joe, all the best for the operation, have a speedy recovery and we’ll see you again soon.

Cliff Tapstand

April 2017​

A little more about Joe Jammer:
He was born in Chicago, Illinois, Joseph Edward William Wright II,
When Joe was growing up in Chicago, his father encouraged him to learn to play the guitar and by the time he was 12, he was getting paid to play. At the age of 16 he became roady for Jimmy Hendrix and at 17 he was working for The Who, but the biggest influence on his career came when he became Led Zeppelin’s Equipment Man, and guitar technician for Jimmy Page. While they were touring in the States, Jimmy and Joe were always jamming together. Jimmy used to refer to him as Joe the Jammer, later shortened to Joe Jammer. Joe liked the sound of that and immediately adopted it.
He later came to England with his own band, but things didn’t work out. He was taken on board by Mickie Most, the music producer, and he recorded two studio albums and did a lot of session work for other artists. He also worked as live guitarist for artists such as Supertramp, Screaming Lord Sutch, Stealers Wheel, Donna Summer and Maggie Bell.
After five years he returned to the States, but was back in England in 1974 to tour with Maggie Bell.
Ironically, Joe freely acknowledges that it was while he was in London that he came to appreciate the music of his home town, Chicago Blues.


Photography by Pat Stancliffe

From → Gigs, Reviews

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