John Hammond

TrackAlbum
I’'m ReadyBig City Blues (1964)
I Can TellI Can Tell (1967)
As The Years Go Passing BySource Point (1970)
It Hurts Me TooTriumvirate (1973)
Come On In My KitchenFootwork (1978)
Sweet Home ChicagoHot Tracks (1979)
Louisiana BluesFrogs For Snakes (1982)
No One Can Forgive Me But My BabyGot Love If You Want It (1992)
Get Behind The MuleWicked Grin (2001)
Traveling Riverside BluesAt The Crossroads (2003)
Statesboro BluesRough and Tough (2009)
The Sky Is CryingTimeless (2014)

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Contributor: Jerry Tenenbaum

John Paul Hammond is the natural son of John H. Hammond (discoverer of musical talent and producer extraordinaire) and the creative son of Robert Johnson, Son House, Elmore James and the like. He is a blues traditionalist and has added to his repertoire his own blues compositions since age 60. He has performed more than 4,000 concerts (as of 2008) and has released well over 30 albums. He is now 71 years old and is again on the road touring with guitar in hand (National usually) and mouth harp draped around his neck. He is true to the blues and tours annually

His inspirations were many, but Jimmy Reed has been particularly noted. He began to play guitar in his teens and dropped out of college to pursue a music career. He can be heard on record as early as 1964; these were on Vanguard but he has been with many labels since. He recorded with members of The Band as they transitioned from the bar band, Levon and the Hawks:

“The first band I worked with was in 1964. I had been playing a lot of gigs in Toronto, and I met a group called Levon and the Hawks. They were Ronnie Hawkins’ band, and they left Ronnie. They were happening in Toronto at the Concord Tavern. I used to go between my shows to go hear them. We became real good friends, and we recorded an album called So Many Roads. And from then, all my other recordings with bands all kind of stemmed from my experience of recording with Levon and Robbie and those guys, who are so good, so professional.” (Blues Scene Quarterly, Fall 1998)

John Hammond’s brilliant soundtrack for Little Big Man (1970) elevated that film to even greater levels. Hammond did an album, Triumvirate, with Mike Bloomfield and Dr. John in 1973, and he recorded with The Nighthawks in the late 70s,

He has a Grammy for the 1985 blues compilation, Blues Explosion, and has been nominated for Grammy awards since the 1990s on multiple occasions. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011 and his currency as a contemporary blues artist is clear from his Blues Music Award win that same year for Acoustic Artist of the Year. He has won multiple other awards over the years.

From T Bone Burnett comes this assessment: “John Hammond is a master … He is a virtuoso. A Conjurer … A Modernist… John is in a very small circle of men with a guitar and a harmonica. Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, Bob Dylan. The guitar is an orchestra. He’s sending messages.”

And from Tom Waits: “John’s sound is so compelling, complete, symmetrical and soulful with just his voice, guitar and harmonica, it is at first impossible to imagine improving it … He’s a great force of nature. John sounds like a big train coming. He chops them all down.”

How does one choose selections to display the width and breadth of John Hammond? It’s both difficult and easy at the same time. Take a dart and throw it at the wall with all albums displayed and all songs listed and just throw that dart at the wall multiple times. You cannot go wrong. What I’ve done is gone through the albums and picked some. This is not the ‘best of’ – this is a representation only. My concentration on the first 20 years is only because I ran out of room limiting myself to a dozen. I started in 1964 (Big City Blues) and ended with the live album released in January 2014 (Timeless) from a 2013 performance in Rhode Island. There is an excellent Vanguard compilation as a sampler if you want to get started and there are other compilations.

I have witnessed the sublime wizardry of John Hammond on a number of occasions. If you are a traditionalist and love the blues, the slide guitar, the mouth harp, commitment and want to witness history, do not fail to see John Paul Hammond when he comes to your area.

John Hammond official website

John Hammond Discography

John Hammond biography (iTunes)

Here’s a 10 minute clip of John Hammond from a live show at The Lafayette in Marietta, Ohio in 1991, and here he is in performance just last year in a one hour concert at the Towne Crier in Beacon, NY, September 2013.

Finally, Jerry would have chosen The Trip from the Mike Bloomfield/John Hammond/Dr John 1973 album, Triumvirate, but this great outtake only appears to be readily available on youtube and on some CD editions as a bonus track.

TopperPost #236

1 Comment

  1. Keith Shackleton
    Mar 29, 2014

    I had the great good fortune to meet John Hammond once. Memory fails as to exactly when it was, but probably around the time of the Point Blank albums Got Love If You Want It or Trouble No More. The noisy loud fast Dr, Feelgood-inspired band I was in at the time was booked to support him at the Concorde in Brighton. He was a bit late getting there, and once he’d found out the kind of band we were, he said that he’d do his sets first and we could come on after to entertain the folks who wanted to stay on for a drink (which was probably the correct decision, we’d have chased his acoustic blues fans from the room if we’d have gone on first). He shared his red wine rider with us and I can confirm he is a very nice chap, and as Jerry tells us, a super player.

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