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Saturday, 21 December 2013
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : AFRICAN AMERICAN " SAM MAGHETT " NICKED NAMED " MAGIC SAM " NO BLUES GUITARIST BETTER REPRESENTED THE ADVENTUROUS MODERN SOUND OF CHICAGO'S WEST SIDE THAN "SAM" : GOES INTO THE " HALL OF BLACK GENIUS "
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY No blues guitarist better represented the adventurous modern sound of Chicago's West side more proudly than Sam Maghett. He died tragically young (at age 32 of a heart attack), just as he was on the brink of climbing the ladder to legitimate stardom, but Magic Sam left behind a thick legacy of bone-cutting blues that remains eminently influential around his old stomping grounds to this day.
Maghett (one of his childhood pals was towering guitarist Morris Holt, who received his Magic Slim handle from Sam) was born in the Mississippi Delta. In 1950, he arrived in Chicago, picking up a few blues guitar pointers from his new neighbor, Syl Johnson (whose brother, Mack Thompson, served as Sam's loyal bassist for much of his professional career). Harpist Shakey Jake Harris, sometimes referred to as the guitarist's uncle, encouraged Sam's blues progress and gigged with him later on, when both were West side institutions.
Sam's tremolo-rich staccato finger picking was an entirely fresh phenomenon when he premiered it on Eli Toscano's Cobra label in 1957. Prior to his Cobra date, the guitarist had been gigging as Good Rocking Sam, but Toscano wanted to change his nickname to something old-timey like Sad Sam or Singing Sam. No dice, said the newly christened Magic Sam (apparently Mack Thompson's brainstorm). His Cobra debut single, "All Your Love," was an immediate local sensation; its unusual structure would be recycled time and again by Sam throughout his tragically truncated career. Sam's Cobra encores "Everything Gonna Be Alright" and "Easy Baby" borrowed much the same melody but were no less powerful; the emerging Westside sound was now officially committed to vinyl. Not everything Sam cut utilized the tune; "21 Days in Jail" was a pseudo-rockabilly smoker with hell acious lead guitar from Sam and thundering slap bass from the ubiquitous Willie Dixon. Sam also backed Shakey Jake Harris on his lone 45 for Cobra's Artistic subsidiary, "Call Me If You Need Me."
After Cobra folded, Sam didn't follow label mates Otis Rush and Magic Slim over to Chess. Instead, after enduring an unpleasant Army experience that apparently landed him in jail for desertion, Sam opted to go with Mel London's Chief logo in 1960. His raw-boned West side adaptation of Fats Domino's mournful "Every Night About This Time" was the unalloyed highlight of his stay at Chief; some other Chief offerings were less compelling.
Sam's reputation was growing exponentially. He wowed an overflow throng at the 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival, and Stax was reportedly primed to sign him when his Delmark commitment was over. However, heart problems were fast taking their toll on Sam's health. On the first morning of December of 1969, he complained of heartburn, collapsed, and died.