They Called It ‘Stormy Monday Blues’* Part 1
Enshrined in multiple musical Halls of Fame: the Grammy, the Rock and Roll and the Blues Foundation’s, T-Bone Walker’s ‘Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday is just as Bad)’ is an acknowledged foundation stone in the development of blues and rock ‘n roll.
T-Bone Walker and His Guitar
T-Bone Walker: guitar & vocal /
Lloyd C. Glenn: piano / Arthur W. Edwards: bass /
Hubert “Bumps” Meyers: tenor saxophone / John Buckner: trumpet /
Oscar Lee Bradley: drums
B-side Black & White 78 (1947)
Call It Stormy Monday But Tuesday is Just as Bad (2:59)
Originally released as the B-side to the little remembered ‘I Know Your Wig is Gone’ on the Black & White label in 1947, the song influenced a number of musicians who in turn would heavily influence countless others, most notably B. B. King and Chuck Berry.
Ironically, as with Little Walter’s recording of Walker’s equally seminal ‘Mean Old World’, it was another performer’s recording of ‘Call It Stormy Monday’ that so caught the imaginations of a generation of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic that it seemingly became de rigueur for all aspiring blues and R & B bands to include it in their repertoire during the early to mid-sixties.
Bobby Bland: vocal / Wayne Bennett: guitar /
Hamp Simmons: bass / John “Jabo” Starks: drums
(edited version) A-side Duke 45 (1962)
(full length) Here’s the Man!!! (Duke 1962)
Stormy Monday Blues (full length) (4:11)
The LP swung back and forth from raucous numbers such as ’36-22-26’ and ‘Turn On Your Lovelight’ to aching ballads like ‘You’re the One’ and ‘You’re Worth it All’ but nothing prepares the listener for the startling intimacy of the closing track.
The horn section has packed up, it is past last call, and the near empty club is dotted with solitary drinkers, unable to make a connection for the night, or unwilling to return home.
One of the finest pairings of voice and guitar, Bennett’s lines console and comfort, maintaining a firm steadying hand even when Bland’s silky tones are torn by apart by his raw emotion.
Though we have no way of knowing how many bands had already added the number to their repertoire, in the States, it appears as if The Astronauts were the first to have their cover released.
A surf band from Colorado (akin to being an Admiral in the Swiss Navy), their second LP “Everything Is A-OK” was a live recording of a set performed at the Club Baja (named after their first hit) in September of 1963; the LP was released in January 1964.
I believe that Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated were the first to have it released in England, on the LP “Red Hot From Alex” (Transatlantic 1964)
Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated
Herbie Goins: vocal / Alexis Korner: guitar /
Ron Edgeworth: piano & organ / Danny Thompson: bass /
Barry Howten: drums /
Dave Castle: flute / Art Themen: tenor saxophone /
Red Hot From Alex (Transatlantic 1964)
Stormy Monday (T-Bone Walker) (4:46)
Where Bland fronted a trio, Blues Incorporated seems like a small army in comparison. The vocalist is backed by guitar, bass, saxophone, piano and flute. There is room for everyone in the arrangement, and it is all tastefully done. Perhaps a little too tasteful. Korner’s guitar break returns some of the grit that seems to have been sifted out of the number, but in the end this is much closer to “light jazz” on the “Blues / Jazz” spectrum.
In October of ’64, The Graham Bond Organization, performed a radically reworked version of the song (inexplicably introduced by Bond as a Willie Dixon number) featuring squalling saxophones recorded live at Klooks Kleek. The song is also one of three shared with the Astronauts’ live set list. The full show first saw release in France in 1972.
By 1965 the song was popular enough (at least among musicians) that a new version was released each month in England in August, September and October; two singles and an album cut.
The first is considered by many among the finest British Blues ever put to wax.
The story behind its recording and release offers a fascinating look into the machinations of the “independent” record companies in Britain at that time (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YyDT61VzwY )
Little Joe Cook
(Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds)
Chris Farlowe: vocal / Albert Lee: guitar /
Ricky Charman: bass / Ian Hauge: drums /
Dave Greenslade: keyboards /
Sue single (Released August 1965 U.K. )
Stormy Monday Blues Parts 1 & 2 (6:20)
Farlowe’s vocal captures the sense of weariness laced with despair that Bland brought to the number while the band displays the effortless interplay found on Walker’s original. Lee forges his own break, inspired by, but not indebted to either Walker or Bennett.
Their understanding of the material is so intrinsic that their variations allow the listener to appreciate the qualities of the earlier versions better than a note by note recreation.
Released as the B-side of The Nightshift’s second (and last) single, the next version was belatedly plucked from obscurity when it as released on a Japanese Jeff Beck “rarities” collection in 1998; it was introduced to a wider audience when Castle Communications also included it on “Jeff Beck Shapes of Things (60’s Groups & Sessions)” in 2003.
As with other tracks on the two collections, Beck’s connection here may be more associative than actual. I will explore this further under “Rich’s Corner” at a later date.
Brian Wiles: vocal & harmonica /
(possibly) Jeff Beck: guitar / Dave Elvidge: drums
B-side Piccadilly 45 (Released September 1965 U.K.)
Stormy Monday (T-Bone Walker) (3:37)
From the opening notes of the brief intro, the guitarist’s tone and technique reminds me very much of the playing heard on Them’s recordings at the time – (this of course is of no use at all in identifying the player as apparently no one knows who played on their records either).
Unfortunately, the singer was no Van Morrison; in fact, he wasn’t even Jeff Beck (see: ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’). The passionless vocal seems to be striving for a sense of world weariness, but comes off as simply disinterested.
The guitarist on the other hand works overtime, doing his damnedest to bring something interesting to the proceedings, with arpeggios and fleet runs up and down the fretboard, building up a nice head of steam towards the end, forcing the singer to at least raise his voice.
It may not be enough to salvage the song, but credit to the guitarist for putting an original spin on the piece.
In October, a third version was released on Manfred Mann’s second LP “Mann Made”. A showcase for the vocal and harmonica work of Paul Jones (who would leave the band along with Mike Vickers shortly after this LP’s release) the number is most notable for being the first released version (that I am aware of) to rework the arrangement for harmonica rather than guitar.
Paul Jones: vocal & harmonica /
Manfred Mann: keyboards / Mike Vickers: guitar /
Tom McGuiness: bass / Mike Hugg: drums
Mann Made HMV LP (Released October 1965 U.K.)
Stormy Monday (T-Bone Walker) (3:39)
As with the Nightshift’s version, Jones appends a brief intro to the number, a blast of harmonica that promises escape but quickly stutters and stalls leading the listener into the song.
Jones was an excellent British R & B singer but grit in his vocals was fine grained, giving the numbers that he sang a high gloss pop finish.
He misses the emotional subtext that Farlowe brought to his recording, but that was never the point. Jones and the band were “Performers” their professionalism and proficiency too often substituting for a deeper engagement with the material they were covering.
Musically, Jones’ fine harp work dominates, with the band seamlessly handing off the support work to one another, with Mann’s piano underpinning a verse, and then the bass; Hugg’s drums are brought forward for a few lines and Vickers slips in perfectly timed tasty little fills.
The song’s popularity would continue unabated into 1966, especially as a live number and in the next entry we will take a look at a few performances by John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers that were caught on tape featuring both Eric Clapton and Peter Green as well as later versions by Fleetwood Mac and The Candymen.
*The title change was no small matter, as that is the name of a song first released in 1942 by Earl Hines and his Orchestra (vocal by Billy Eckstein). Although a few get it right, many of the covers mentioned above were credited to “Eckstein-Crowder-Hines” denying Walker any royalties from the recordings.