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25 Jul 2017

Guitar Slim Green With Johnny & Shuggie Otis ‎ "Stone Down Blues" 1970 Texas Blues

Guitar Slim Green With Johnny & Shuggie Otis ‎ "Stone Down Blues" 1970 Texas Blues


Guitar Slim Green is a bluesman who made just a handful of 45s for West Coast-based labels between the late '40s and 1970. His final recordings were with Johnny Otis, resulting in this perfectly formed album 'Stone Down Blues', which features a young Shuggie Otis on guitar. Originally released on Kent, it's one of the hardest to find recordings on that label. This is its first ever reissue. The CD includes two previously unreleased bonus tracks recorded around the same time for Johnny Otis................

Rare 1970 album produced by Johnny Otis featuring the stinging guitar of his son Shuggie – with two previously unissued bonus tracks

Bluesman Slim Green made very few records in a career that started in 1948 and ended with this LP in 1970. Born Norman G. Green in Bryant, Texas in 1920, he grew up in Oklahoma and played guitar in Las Vegas before settling in Los Angeles in the late 1940s. He made his first records in 1948 for local labels. Listening to them suggests a player full of country influences, updating them for a modern urban audience. He reappeared a decade later in a group called the Cats From Fresno, who made two singles for Johnny Otis’ Dig label, a contact he renewed in the late 60s.

Johnny Otis, a pioneer of post-war R&B, had scored hits as a producer and recording artist as well as being a renowned talent-spotter. Having dropped out of sight for much of the 1960s, he returned to the studio in the latter part of the decade and released a series of records for the Kent label, distinguished by the guitar playing of his teenage son Shuggie.

“Stone Down Blues”, recorded by Slim Green with Johnny and Shuggie in 1970, is one of the finest blues albums of its time. The trio of Johnny on drums, Shuggie on bass and guitar, and Slim on guitar and vocals work their way through a selection of self-penned songs. From the opening ‘Shake ‘Em Up’, via the anti-war ‘This War Ain’t Right’ to the closing ‘Play On Little Girl’, this is compelling stuff. We complete our release with the previously unreleased ‘My Marie’ and ‘Rock The Nation’ from around the same time Rudland..............

I thought this album would never be reissued. But if another great album, "Preston Love's Omaha Bar B Q" can be reissued (also with Shuggie Otis among others) then I had some hope for this little gem to see the light of day. First off this isn't the Guitar Slim who recorded for the Specialty label and is quite well known. This is an older blues player with a great voice and some pretty good guitar chops--he plays lead guitar on a number of songs. The booklet has an essay about Green and his music, plus the original liner notes, and the back cover of the original album is on the back of the booklet--a nice touch. The album's title track is a remake of Green's hit single from 1959 on Canton. Here he's backed by Johnny Otis on drums and Shuggie Otis on guitar and bass. Also included are some other good tunes like "Bumble Bee Blues", "Old Folks Boogie", and a song very pertinent to that period, the anti-war song "This War Ain't Right". Also here is Green's "5th Street Alley Boogie", which is well known as "Tin Pan Alley" and "Roughest Place In Town", (Stevie Ray Vaughan and others did versions of this song), with Green receiving no credit or money. But if you like Green's slippery molasses-like voice (think Tony Joe White's "Polk Salad Annie") and chugging rhythms of Johnny Otis on drums and Shuggie Otis on guitar, this is worth adding to your blues shelf....By Stuart Jefferson...........

I had never heard of Guitar Slim Green before, but the fact that Johnny Otis and Shuggie Otis played on this album caught my attention. I'm a big fan of both Johnny Otis and his guitar whiz son Shuggie, so I didn't hesitate to order this CD. It only clocks in at 33 minutes, and Shuggie only plays leader guitar on three songs, but it's a very satisfying album. Guitar Slim Green has a very confident and engaging playing style, with a deep, resonant voice like hickory smoked barbecue. I'd be eager to hear some of his older recordings.

Although there isn't a copyright date listed, this album apparently was released in 1970, at the end of the album production deal that Johnny Otis had with the Kent label. Johnny plays drums and piano on this album, and Shuggie plays both lead and rhythm guitar, as well as bass, and some piano and even harmonica. A busy kid! The opening track, "Shake 'Em Up" is by far the most engaging and infectious tune on the album. Guitar Slim sounds like he's having a blast, both singing the song, and letting Shuggie wail away on the guitar. The rest of the material on the album is also quite good, particularly the protest song "The War Ain't Right," but there's nothing nearly as fun and sizzling as that opening track. The album also includes two "lost" tracks that Green recorded that don't feature Shuggie. The songs were all co-written with Johnny Otis (and a few with Shuggie) except for two songs that Green wrote himself.

This CD reissue includes an 8-page booklet with liner notes by Dean Rudland, as well as the original LP liner notes by Darryl Stolper. This is a very interesting recording that will appeal to blues fans and those who appreciate the talents of the amazing Johnny Otis and his equally gifted son Shuggie....By Donald E. Gilliland... ......

     "They keep talkin' about freedom 
And we have got to go and fight... 
But I've heard this jive before 
And I know this war ain't right." 
- from "This War Ain't Right" 

The above anti-Vietnam War lyrics (Cambodia is also referenced in the song, as is racism) were penned by the great Johnny Otis (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) who produced, played drums and piano and co-wrote several other songs for this one and only LP release by the 50-year-old Norman "Guitar Slim" Green from Oklahoma who had previously recorded only a small number of singles from 1948 to 1968. 

This is a highly entertaining, vivid, intimate and beautifully recorded album (and remastered CD) showcasing Green's unique hybrid of country blues boogie, T-Bone Walker-influenced Texas blues and West Coast urban blues. The LP itself is a hybrid of originals and reworkings of earlier Green recordings - most notably the plaintive "5th Street Alley Blues," which as "Alla Blues" (1948) was one that got covered (and stolen) by other artists using different titles. 

But clearly, the real contemporary attraction here is the participation of then 16-year-old prodigy Shuggie Otis (Johnny's son) on every track (not counting the two bonus tracks which are Green solos from another session), playing a half-dozen different instruments, including vibrant lead guitar on three: "Shake 'Em Up," "This War Ain't Right" and "You Make Me Feel So Good" (slide guitar). 

Every song on the original 1970 LP is very good at minimum, with the timeliness of "This War Ain't Right" being particularly impressive (although regrettably, too few heard it at the time); but special mention has to go to the remade version of Green's "Madison Time"-style dance-call number "Shake 'Em Up" from 1959. In this revised-rendition leadoff track, father Johnny (on drums) and son Shuggie (on electric guitar and bass) really shake 'em up and knock 'em dead, turning the funk-and-soul quotient up to eleven.....By TheNoomz83..............

Guitar Slim Green wasn't a prolific bluesman by any means. He recorded several sides in the '40s, '50s, and '60s, including a pair of singles for Johnny Otis' Dig, but perhaps his best-known recording is 1970's Stone Down Blues, his only full-length record. That's entirely due to who supports him on the album, produced by Johnny Otis, who also played drums on the record and brought in his son Shuggie to play bass and the occasional guitar, forming something of a power trio with Guitar Slim. Certainly, father and son help push Green away from his comfortable wheelhouse -- a wheelhouse that's firmly indebted to T-Bone Walker, whose influence can be heard on Guitar Slim's fluid single-line leads -- and into slightly funkier territory. The Otis rhythm section is loose and gritty, something that's readily apparent on the jumping opener "Shake 'Em Up" and that swing pops up elsewhere, including the John Lee Hooker homage "Old Folks Blues." One of the attractive things about Stone Down Blues is how the Otises continue to goose Green along in sly ways, urging him to sing Johnny's protest tune "This War Ain't Right" and mixing up shuffles ("Make Love All Night") with slow 12-bar blues ("My Little Angel Child"), piano blues ("You Make Me Feel So Good"), and urbanized country blues ("Big Fine Thing"). Green's gravelly voice and mellow presence help tie this all together and the whole album feels something like a casual triumph: Johnny Otis is paying his old friend a favor and, in doing so, finds an unwitting intersection between the old and modern blues at the turn of the '60s..... by Stephen Thomas Erlewine...........

Guitar Slim Green was never the most prolific of musicians. That’s despite his career lasting four decades. However, during that period, Guitar Slim Green only released a handful of recordings. This included his one and only album, Stone Down Blues, which features Johnny and Shuggie Otis. It was released in 1970, five years before Guitar Slim Green’s death aged just fifty-five. Since then, Stone Down Blues has never been rereleased. That’s until now. BGP, an imprint of Ace Records have recently reissued Stone Down Blues which showcases the multitalented Guitar Slim Green. His story began in Oklahoma in 1920.

That’s where Guitar Slim Green was born Norman G. Green on 25th July 1920. Growing up, Norman played guitar. As he daydreamed, he had dreams of making a living as a musician. However, that seemed just a dream. Even when Norman moved to Las Vegas in his early twenties.

Las Vegas was home to Norman G. Green until 1947. In 1947, Norman G. Green decided to move to California. That’s where his dreams came true. Norman G. Green became a musician, and Guitar Slim Green was eventually born.

Norman’s inspiration was one of music’s most flamboyant showmen, T-Bone Walker. He had pioneered the electric guitar. Through listening to T-Bone Walker, Norman developed his own distinctive style. His distinctive style resulted in Norman making a breakthrough.

This came when Norman got the chance to work with J.D. Nickelson. Norman featured on the singles, Strange Woman Blues and Bouncing Boogie. They were released on Courtney Records. Not long after this, Norman released his debut single.

Alla Blues was credited to R. Green and Turner, and released on the J&M Fullbright label. This song would eventually become a blues standard. The followup to Alla Blues was Baby I Love You, released on the Murray label. It was credited to R. Green, and essentially was, Norman’s debut solo single. The two singles were well received, and showed the future Guitar Slim Green evolving from a country blues singer, to a much more urban, contemporary sound.

Having released his debut single, Guitar Slim Green moved to Fresno, where he played alongside Jimmy McCracklin and L.C. Robinson. Then in 1957, Norman headed to Los Angeles, where he formed his own band.

In Los Angeles, Guitar Slim Green and his band The Cats recorded two singles during 1957. This included My Woman Done Quit Me, where Guitar Slim Green takes charge of the vocal. Both singles were produced by Johnny Otis, who would reenter Guitar Slim Green’s life in 1970. Before that, Guitar Slim Green had more music to make.

Another two years passed before Guitar Slim Green released another single. Scratch My Back was released in 1959, and would be the last single Guitar Slim Green released until 1968.

Having been away from a recording studio for nine years, Guitar Slim Green was keen to record some new music. So, he recorded singles on the Gee Note and Solid Soul labels. These singles sunk without trace. Guitar Slim Green’s career looked as if it was at a crossroads. His music critics remarked, hadn’t evolved. What Guitar Slim Green needed, was someone who could get his career back on track.

Luckily, Johnny Otis was about to reenter Guitar Slim Green’s life. Johnny had turned his back on music for much of the sixties. Instead, he had been concentrating on Democratic politics and community projects. However, he still kept practising. By the end of the decade Johnny was ready to make a comeback.

Encouraged by his friend Frank Zappa, Johnny Otis returned to music. He signed to Kent and recorded two albums, Cold Shot and Snatch and The Poontangs. Johnny also signed Preston Love to Kent, and produced his Omaha Bar-B-Q album. The other artist Johnny Otis signed to Kent was Guitar Slim Green.

Although Guitar Slim Green had released a number of singles, he had never released an album. This was about to change. Johnny and Guitar Slim Green set about to write material for Guitar Slim Green’s comeback album.

Eventually, Guitar Slim Green and Johnny had penned ten tracks. Shake Em Up, Bumble Bee Blues, Make Love All Night, My Little Angel, You Make Me Feel So Good, Big Fine Thing and Play On Little Girl. 5th Street Alley Blues and Old Folk Blues were written by Guitar Slim Green. Johnny contributed This War Ain’t Right. These ten tracks would become Stone Down Blues.

When recording of Stone Down Blues began, Guitar Slim Green played guitar and added vocals. Producer Johnny Otis played drums. Johnny’s seventeen year old Shuggie Otis, played bass, guitar, piano and harmonica. Roger Spotts played piano on Bumble Bee Blues. Once Stone Down Blues was completed, it was released in 1970.

On the release of Stone Down Blues in 1970, on Kent, the album sunk without trace. For Guitar Slim Green, Stone Down Blues was an inauspicious end to his recording career. Never again, would he set foot in a recording career. Five years later, Guitar Slim Green was dead, aged just fifty-five. His musical legacy included Stone Down Blues, Guitar Slim Green’s only album which deserves to be reappraised. That’s what I’ll do.

Shake Em Up opens Stone Down Blues. It’s Guitar Slim Green’s attempt to launch a dance craze. he unleashes a chiming, crystalline guitar. He’s accompanied by a funky rhythm section. It comes courtesy of Shuggie and Johnny Otis. Meanwhile, Guitar Slim Green vamps his way, accompanied by some searing, blistering licks. They play their part in a contemporary sounding track, where Guitar Slim Green delivers a guitar masterclass.

Bumble Bee Blues sees a return to a much more traditional bluesy sound. The arrangement is slow, moody and bluesy. As the rhythm section create a churning arrangement, Shuggie blows a blues harmonica and a piano plays slowly. Guitar Slim Green delivers a needy, hopeful vocal. Then when his vocal drops out, the blues harp blows. It’s joined by the rhythm section and piano. Together, they provide a glorious bluesy backdrop, before Guitar Slim Green returns, to deliver a hopeful vocal.

Johnny and Shuggie Otis provide a driving arrangement on Make Love All Night. Meanwhile, Guitar Slim Green delivers a bravado fuelled, vampish vocal. Then when his vocal drops out, he unleashes a searing guitar solo. All the time, crystalline guitar licks and the rhythm section drive the bluesy arrangement along, as Guitar Slim Green struts his way through the lyrics to Make Love All Night, one of Stone Down Gone’s highlights.

Guitar Slim Green takes centre-stage on My Little Angel. Meanwhile, Johnny’s drums provide the heartbeat and Shuggie’s bass adds a bluesy hue. Flourishes of piano accompany Guitar Slim Green’s soul-baring vocal, as he lays bare his hurt and heartbreak to hear. His guitar playing is just as good. Especially when accompanied by Shuggie on piano. He’s the perfect foil for Guitar Slim Green, as he unleashes some of virtuoso licks and tricks.

Slow, moody and bluesy describes 5th Street Alley Blues. That’s down to the rhythm section and chirping, searing guitars. They join the piano, and play slowly, as Guitar Slim Green delivers a despairing vocal. As he sings: “where can my baby she went down 5th Sreet Alley and left me in misery,” it’s as if Guitar Slim Green’s lived and survived the lyrics.

A bass bounds, guitars ring out and hi-hats hiss on Old Folk Blues. Guitar Slim Green seems to be paying homage to John Lee Hooker. Both his vocal and guitar are similar in sound. Guitar Slim Green is like a man inspired. He unleashes some searing, ringing licks and a vocal full of emotion and hope.

This War Ain’t Right was an ant-war song penned by Johnny Otis. As Guitar Slim Green delivers a slow, pensive vocal, a jangling piano plays. It’s accompanied by a shuffling rhythm section and chiming, chirping guitar licks. However, Guitar Slim Green’s vocal takes centre-stage. This allows you to focus on the lyrics. That’s until it’s time for Guitar Slim Green to unleash what’s easily, one of his best solos. After that, he considers the folly of war, on this poignant anti-war blues.

The tempo rises on You Make Me Feel So Good. Straight away, the piano and rhythm section drive the arrangement along. They provide a backdrop for Guitar Slim Green’s vocal. It veers between joyous, to frustrated. Later, Shuggie unleashes a blistering guitar solo, as Guitar Slim Green vamps his way through the lyrics. Shuggie proves the perfect foil for Guitar Slim Green, as they drive each other to greater heights.

Big Fine Thing sounds as if it was recorded in the late fifties. It’s best described as a vintage sounding blues, with much more stripped down sound. As the rhythm section leave space, Shuggie blows his blues harmonica. Meanwhile, Guitar Slim Green delivers a vampish vocal, paying homage to his “Big Fine Thing.” He also unleashes some crystalline, searing licks. They’re the perfect accompaniment to Shuggie’s bluesy harmonica. Together, they add the finishing touches to this vintage sounding blues.

Play On Little Girl closes Stone Down Blues. It sees the tempo drop. It’s slow, broody and bluesy. The rhythm section join a jangling piano and Guitar Slim Green’s crystalline guitar. As it rings out, flourishes of piano accompany Guitar Slim Green’s despairing, hurt-filled vocal. It soars above the arrangement, as he lays bare his broken heart. Accusingly and despairingly, he sings “Play On Little Girl keep on playing till you break up your happy home.” The way Guitar Slim Green sings the lyrics, it’s as if he’s been there, and survived to tell the tale.

For forty-five years ago, Guitar Slim Green belatedly released his debut album. He had been a musician for twenty-three years, but had only released a handful of singles. When Johnny Otis reentered Guitar Slim Green’s career, he got him a recording contract with Kent.

Back then, Kent were no longer the powerhouse they once were. Neither was Johnny Otis. He was once one of the biggest names in R&B. However, music had change. That’s partly why Johnny sat out much of the sixties. Then in the late sixties, he made a comeback. Johnny signed to Kent and released two albums. Despite their quality, they didn’t fare well. Johnny Otis, it seemed, was no longer a big star. However, he was a talented musician and producer. This made him the ideal person to kickstart Guitar Slim Green’s career.

Together, Johnny and Guitar Slim Green wrote the ten tracks on Stone Down Blues. Johnny brought his seventeen year old son onboard for the recording of Stone Down Blues. The young virtuoso almost stole the show on several occasions. This seemed to spur Johnny and Guitar Slim Green on. They unleashed a series of spellbinding performances. Guitar Slim Green was like a man reborn. Surely, his career was about to be reborn?

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Guitar Slim Green’s debut album, Stone Down Blues sunk without trace. It was the age old story. Stone Down Blues was the wrong album at the wrong time. Blues was no longer as popular. While the blues enjoyed a brief resurgence in interest, music had moved on. What also didn’t help was that Kent was no longer the force it once was. So, it’s no surprise Stone Down Blues failed to be heard by a wider audience. Hopefully, that’s about to change.

Stone Down Blues, Guitar Slim Green’s debut album, was recently released by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. This is a welcome reissue of a long-lost, and hugely underrated album, Stone Down Blues where blues virtuoso, Guitar Slim Green made a welcome

A1 Shake 'Em Up
A2 Bumble Bee Blues
A3 Make Love Al Night
A4 My Little Angel Child
A5 5th Street Alley Blues
B1 Old Folks Boogie
B2 This War Ain't Right
B3 You Make Me Feel So Good
B4 Big Fine Thing
B5 Play On Little Girl

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