They were loved and cherished by musicians, and certainly had a following, but never enjoyed huge commercial success. But if you look at the folks who played with them – superstars left their own projects just to be part of something bigger than themselves. I mean, jeez! What band had “sidemen” like George Harrison and Eric Clapton and Duane Allman? Sure, I’m a superstar, a legend, an icon, but all I want to do is go on the road with Delaney and Bonnie. Impressive.
This album was a staple in our home when I was 13 or 14. All of the composing, singing, and playing are inspired. The arrangements are perfect and hey – if Tom Dowd was behind the desk, you know it’s going to sound amazing. And it still does, even 50 years further on up the road.
Side note – Delaney Bramlett belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From the incredible number of sessions he played on, to the great songs he wrote and performed to the fact that he taught Eric Clapton how to sing and taught George Harrison how to play slide guitar. Legend!
The first time I became fully aware of Little Richard was when I heard him playing piano on Delaney and Bonnie’s version of his song Miss Ann (from To Bonnie From Delaney, produced by Tom Dowd). I mean, I knew who Richard was, but he wasn’t on 12 year old Joey’s play list.
D&B, on the other hand… man, I knew their 4th record by heart. I was even blessed to see them live in Central Park, King Curtis’s last show before his untimely death.
I was blown away to discover this video today – arguably the greatest rock and roll band ever assembled. I mean, this is 1969. The Beatles still existed. Look at this lineup:
Bonnie Bramlett – vocals
Delaney Bramlett – guitar and vocals
Jim Gordon – drums
Carl Radle – bass
Bobby Whitlock – keyboards
Billy Preston – keyboards
Jim Price – trumpet
Bobby Keys – sax
Rita Coolidge – vocals
Oh yeah… and on guitars, Eric Clapton and George Harrison
Leon must have been busy that day 🙂
Not sure how many R&R Hall of Famers have served as sidemen on other people’s’ recordings of their own tunes, but this tells you about all you need to know about the Bramletts!
Somewhere, around 1970, this guy shows up, seemingly out of nowhere, and he hit like a cyclone. He was known as the Master of Space and Time and he was the classic “women want him, men want to be like him”. My Mom declared that she wanted to run away with him. One minute, he was playing with Delaney and Bonnie, then George Harrison, then Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton. He was everywhere and he was a force.
His debut album arrived with mystery, just two simple unsmiling black and white portraits of the man, with liner notes dedicating the record to his favorite musicians. Rumors abounded that this list was actually the guys appearing on the record. As it turned out later, the rumors were true; this “unknown rookie” was backed up by George and Ringo, Mick and Keith and Bill and Charlie, Clapton, Klaus Voorman, D&B, Steve Winwood…
The songs were strong, Glyn Johns’ recording made you feel like you were in the room, and that voice, there was never anyone like him, before or since. Then there was the piano playing – raucous, rocking, gospel, bass heavy and rollicking. He was a pure original.
Eventually, we learned that we’d known Leon all along. He had played on Strangers in the Night with Sinatra, he played on all of Phil Spector’s classics, played on Pet Sounds and Mr. Tambourine Man (Byrds version), played with the Monkees, Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Glen Campbell… shit, he was on the road with Jerry Lee Lewis when he was 15! He was both a Shindog and a member of the Wrecking Crew. The dude was in the T.A.M.I. show!
And Leon wrote hits. Lots and lots of hits, from Delta Lady (Joe Cocker) to Superstar (the Carpenters), This Masquerade (George Benson), Hummingbird (BB King) to his best known song, the lead track from this debut album, A Song For You, which was recorded by Amy Winehouse and literally 200 other artists.
When you read his list of credits, there’s just one wow after another (Day After Day by Badfinger?!)
Without knowing it, Leon had been around for my whole life, but this album was the first time I knew his name – Leon Russell, legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
Over the decades, I keep rediscovering this album. Every so many years, I pick it back up and rather than merely retaining its glory, it gets better and better. I truly feel it is one of the top 10 records ever recorded. Every single song is a treasure, perfectly crafted, filled with emotion and humor, tremendous musicianship, outstanding production and three of the greatest singers who ever lived. It’s a perfect album.
I find that just mentioning the group members by name, I can get emotional. It moves me that much.
Levon Helm Rick Danko Richard Manuel Robbie Robertson Garth Hudson
Some years back, when I was riding the music industry gravy train, EMI offered me the opportunity to have a gold record for ANY record from their catalog (except for the Beatles). ANY record.
Music is subjective. It’s not reasonable to say something or someone is “the best”.
But you can sure call something your favorite.
This album entered my home when I was 12 years old. By that time, I was already well familiar with Muddy Waters and Otis Spann as well as the Butterfield Blues Band (my intro was not East-West, but rather Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw). And I may or may not have known Donald “Duck” Dunn by name, but I was certainly familiar with his work with Otis Redding and Booker T and the MGs. So you put all of these world class musicians together, have them record Muddy’s greatest songs in Chicago for three days and then the very next day you put them in front of a crowd you get this – Fathers and Sons – my favorite blues record.
Put it this way, if someone told me that they wanted to get into the blues but didn’t know where to start, this is the first record I would recommend. No question. If this doesn’t hook you, then blues just ain’t for you.
Muddy Waters Otis Spann Paul Butterfield Mike Bloomfield Duck Dunne Sam Lay
I’m not a good enough writer to describe how important this album was/is to me. In short, this was my intro to the artist who 50 years on continues to be #1 on my list. Simply put, Jimi Hendrix completely reinvented what was possible with a guitar.
He also wrote some pretty amazing melodies and his lyrics… his lyrics are… the dude was simply from another planet!
Fun fact: per Chas Chandler, the Wind Cries Mary was recorded at the tail end of the session for Fire. “We had about twenty minutes or so left. I suggested we cut a demo of The Wind Cries Mary. Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding hadn’t heard it, so they were going about it without a rehearsal. They played it once through.” Jimi “put on four or five more overdubs, but the whole things was done in twenty minutes.”
Bayou Country was the 1st record I bought with my own money.
Remember when records were 33 minutes long and, in CCR’s case, groups put out three records in the same year?
This is also the first record I can remember playing along with. Well, a little bit anyway, because I sucked at guitar when I was 12, a trait that continues to this day 🙂 But I was SO excited when I figured out that a first position C7 slid up to the 5th fret with both E strings left open to ring was an E7 and I played that opening riff to Born on the Bayou for hours on end. Then there was Fogerty’s voice, all swampy and southern sounding. And the record was so sparsely recorded. Lots of open space, nearly no overdubs, no background vocals, just a tight little four piece band rocking out.