Christmas is almost here, which means mince pies, mulled wine, questionable jumpers and festive tunes are in your face everywhere you turn. This time of year can be a fun and joyous occasion, but if you'd like a bit of a break from Bing Crosby, Wham!, Slade, Macca...the list goes on, then read on.
The Mississippi Sax, also known as the blues harmonica is still alive and well - but you seldom hear it utilised in mainstream music these days. Perhaps that's a good thing really - using it for today's so called chart topping hits would probably only serve to tarnish the instrument's good name.
Anyhow, if you're into your Chicago blues music, you're curious about just how powerful the Mississippi Sax really is, or (as mentioned earlier) you're just looking for break from the Christmas tunes currently blaring out on the radio, may I suggest listening to Junior Wells? Born in Memphis (as Amos Blackmore), Junior Wells learned his first ever blues riffs from Little Junior Parker, before moving to Chicago at the tender age of 12.
After many years of honing his harmonica skills on the road and in dimly lit pockets of the Chicago blues circuit, Wells' first big break came with the release of his debut LP: the groove sodden 1965 classic Hoodoo Man blues, featuring a young Buddy Guy on guitar. Delmark Records' founder Bob Koester was so impressed by Wells' musical talents that he gave him a considerable amount of creative control during the LP's recording and production process, despite commercial concerns.
The album turned out to be a best seller for Delmark Records and a star was born. Between 1965 and 1997 Wells remained a potent live act; wowing audiences with his on stage swagger, soothing vocal tones and funky take on the traditional blues harp.
Wells' musical sense of adventure influenced so many of the artists we know and love today, including the likes of Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton - and Hoodoo Man Blues still stands tall as one of the greatest albums ever recorded - no small feat in anyone's book.
There's so much more to say about the life and times of this stage strutting harp virtuoso that I could sit here typing all day, so to keep it short and sweet, all I will say is: watch Junior Wells' performance of Little By Little alongside blues guitar slinger Buddy Guy...
If you liked that, listen to more tunes influenced by the Mississippi Sax; check out some of the other greats like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson or Jimmy Reed and get lost in the majesty of one of the world's most expressive musical instruments. Hey, why don't you pick up a C harp from your local music shop and have a go yourself?
Junior Wells could really play that Mississippi Sax - and he meant every single note he drew or blew from those harps of his, as did many of his contemporaries. Whatever musical instrument you play, whether it's the drums, guitar, kazoo or ukulele, we could all learn a thing or two from the likes of Junior Wells.
Long may his legacy reign. And have a Happy Christmas.