Muddy Waters

Hard Again (Blue Sky)

Jane Lee Hooker gets Muddy: Tracy Hightop of blues rockers Jane Lee Hooker told us about her love for a Muddy Waters gem.

(Blue Sky)

Tracy Hightop: In 1977, when Muddy Water’s released Hard Again, I was just a kid drummer banging away day and night.  It was thunderously loud, chaotic and definitely not what my dad would want to come home to after work.  At some point, my parents encouraged me to …” perhaps switch to the guitar” and presented me with an electric guitar and small Lafayette amp my mom found at a garage sale.  Because the action was so high and because I didn’t really get the concept of tuning, they arranged for me to have a few lessons with a very cool looking cat named Ray.  Ray would arrive in his convertible Fiat once every two weeks with a huge Guild acoustic guitar case sticking out of the back.  Ray was a grown ass man, all in tight denim, who absolutely had it going on!  (Looking back now, Ray might have played a more important role in my obsessions than I had previously thought…thanks Ray!).  He taught me how to tune the guitar and he taught me all of the chords-which I hated.  Very quickly, I asked him about guitar solos— “how do you do THIS?” I asked and he drew out a diagram of the pentatonic scale in A.   

I kept drumming.  Constantly.  Mercilessly.  But now when I heard my dad come home, I would quickly drop the sticks and pick up the guitar.  After dinner I would play guitar quietly and poorly until it was bedtime.

In the early ’80s while record shopping, I would go to Record World and check out the LPs in the discount rack.  I learned later that these were called “cut outs” because they label would cut off a piece of the corner to indicate they were now listing the LP at a reduced price.  Scanning the wall, my eyes locked with Muddy Waters on the cover of Hard Again.  I knew about Muddy Waters because the Rolling Stones had taught me about him, so I grabbed the LP and raced to the counter with my singles and change and brought it home.  I ripped off the clear wrapping and plopped it on my parents’ old turntable and that is where it stayed for YEARS.  Once I navigated the tuning with the slow turntable, I was able to play along with Muddy and his mates, who he would cheerfully talk to, playfully tease and call out to before and during the songs.  I didn’t know who Johnny Winter was at the time, but I could tell that there were some parts I could re-create and others that I couldn’t (Johnny’s) so I would improvise as best I could.  

That album and that crappy guitar would travel with me to my college dorm where I would play along with Muddy and his band long into the night but now with friends in the room.  

Decades later, when I had stopped drumming, stopped touring and stopped playing anything at all, the idea to play guitar for the pure joy of it popped into my head…maybe it was time to revisit those relaxing and fulfilling nights of playing along with Hard Again …maybe this time I could do it with some mates of my own?  From this thought, Jane Lee Hooker was born.  Why shouldn’t I have a band and just sit around and take guitar solos and laugh and joke with my mate, Tina Gorin–who I had played with in Helldorado and who loved the blues and who could play like Johnny Winter?  When Tina and I finally had a line up, I bought 5 copies of Hard Again on CD and gave everyone in the band a copy.  I want us to sound like this! I said.  Just a room of musicians relaxing and having fun. No pedals, no effects, no overdubs, just simple live blues that had energy, charisma, spontaneity and joy.

Jane Lee Hooker gets Muddy: Jane Lee Hooker’s “All Good Things” single and Rollin album are out now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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