Mary Black : She Moves Through The Fair (A Parade of Posts for St Patrick 4)

A Song by Mary Black

A Poem by Eavan Boland

A Painting by Peter Dee

Today one of the definitive Irish Traditional Songs sung by the regal Mary Black and an extraordinarily powerful Poem by an Irish Poet of world stature, Eavan Boland.

The Painting today is by a contemporary Irish Artist, Peter Dee, whose arresting and highly covetable Still Life works are the fruit of deep contemplation and confident technical accomplishment.

More examples of his work can be seen at

She Moves Through The Fair is a Song that we will never get to the bottom of.

It contains details of everyday life and a mysterious, swirling, intermingling of the known and supernatural Worlds we all move within.

There are some sorrows, some griefs, that can only be borne through Song being too deep for common speech.

The common speech of hand clapping dealers striking bargains at the fair.

While we move, half-blind, through our lives the stars look down and the swans fly over the lake.

All the while the soft fluttering of moths fill the night and dew will glisten on the meadow.

While we bear our burden of loss and longing the wide world turns and turns oblivious.

All as we move through the fair.

Through the fair.

Mary Black’s singing embodies the humanity and the other worldliness of the song with glowing assurance.

Mary Black can flat out sing!


She Moves Through The Fair

I once had a sweetheart, I loved her right well
I loved her far better than my tongue can tell
Her parents did slight me for the want of guile
Adieu to all pleasure since I lost my dear

She went away from me and moved through the fair
Where hand-clapping dealers’ loud shouts rent the air
The sunlight around her did sparkle and play
Saying, “It will not be long, love, ’til our wedding day”

When dew falls on meadows and moths fill the night
When glow from the greesach on half-froze, half-light
I’ll slip from my casement and I’ll run away
Then it will not be long, love, ’til our wedding day

I dreamed last night that my love came in
She came in so easy, her feet made no din
She came stepping up to me and this she did say
“It will not be long, love, ’til our wedding day”

Eavan Boland’s Poetry is characterised by fierce intelligence and a determination to fearlessly examine the toxins of Ireland’s history as understood and experienced by a modern Irish Woman.

So, it is a Poetry which utters outrage, anger and bewildered frustration as well as ease and joy.

I sometimes feel as if her work has served to redraw the map of Irish Poetry – significantly expanding the imaginative territory and cutting a path for others to follow.

The Poem I have selected today is the work of a Major Poet.

Eavan Boland : Quarantine

In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking — they were both walking — north

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.


Vintage Enamelware with Fruit Still Life



Recommended Websites :

Poetry And Environment (

Helen Harrison is an Irish Poet whose work I admire for its lovely evocations of the dignity and Wonder present in, ‘Everyday Life’.

I recommend her  collection, ‘The Last Fire’  published by Lapwing.

I chanced upon a copy of Ron Carey’s debut Poetry Collection, ‘Distance’ when it was published by Revival Press in 2015.

I must have nearly read the whole marvellous collection in one gulp!

These are Poems that will stay with you.

Ron’s site can be found at

Twitter : @RonCarey49

Ger Wolfe : The Curra Road (A Parade of Posts for St Patrick 3)

A Song by Ger Wolfe

A Poem written and read by Richard Murphy (1927 – 2018)

A Painting by Paul Kelly

Today a farewell homage to one of Ireland’s most treasured Poets – Richard Murphy and what I am sure for many of you will be an introduction to a singer/songwriter particularly close to my own heart, Ger Wolfe, whose stature as an artist has not yet been properly reflected in popular awareness.

The painting today is by a contemporary Irish Artist, Paul Kelly, whose landscapes of County Dublin cast a spell.

You can explore his work further at


Ger Wolfe in ‘The Curra Road’ has written a song that beautifully captures the sense of being at home and at peace in the physical, emotional and spiritual landscape of Home.

The hallowed Home we always want to carry within us as we walk down other roads on our pilgrimage through Life..

The Curra Road is undoubtedly a classic Irish Song and its luminous lyricism is entirely characteristic of Ger Wolfe’s catalogue.

I heard a story the other day that Bob Dylan would test out the compatibility of prospective musicians by asking, sotto voce, do you know, ‘Pretty Peggy-O’?

If the answer was Yes and they could follow and augment Bob’s version they were hired!

I have the same sort of test for anyone who considers themselves well informed on Irish Music – Do you know, ‘The Curra Road’?

If the answer is Yes I’m up to the Bar to buy them a pint – content there will lots to talk about that evening!


The Curra Road

In the summer we’ll go walking
Way down to the river down the Curra road
There’s a blue sky we’ll walk under
Listen to the humming bees and on we’ll go
We won’t worry about the Winter
Worry ‘bout it raining , 
worry about the snow
In the summer we’ll go walking
Way down to the river down the Curra road

Past the cattle at their grazing
Through the woods of hazel, holly, birch and oak
Past the robin on the gatepost
Singing to the bluebells, sunlight is their host
We won’t worry about the radio
Worry about the traffic, worry about the phone
In the summer we’ll go laughing
Way down to the river down the dusty road

There is music in the river
Listen to it dancing underneath the bridge
And the wind is hardly breathing
Words onto the willow branches overhead
We won’t worry about the government
Worry about the video, worry about the day
In the summer we’ll go waltzing
Hand in hand together down the dusty way

Ger Wolfe has an informative website :

You can’t go wrong with any of his CDs – my favourites are, ‘I Have Been Loved’, ‘No Bird Sang’ and, ‘The Ragged Ground’.

I’m eagerly anticipating a forthcoming compilation, ‘The Lark Of Mayfield’.


Richard Murphy, who died at the end of January this year, had tremendous poetic gifts and a capacity for disciplined hard work at his craft over many decades.

His collection, ‘The Pleasure Ground: Poems 1952-2012’ (Lilliput Press) is a must-have for anyone interested in modern Irish Poetry.

Murphy had deep feeling for the Irish landscape and the Seas around The Island (and its offshore Islands).

There is a profound physicality present in his verse which makes responding to his work an uplifting whole-body experience..

I have always been particularly impressed by his ability to make history come alive in verse especially through long narratives allowing for exposition, diversions and deliberation.

Reading Richard Murphy will open up new imaginative territory and offer revelatory perspectives on the worlds we imagined we knew well.

Listen to him below reading one of his early triumphs – ‘Sailing To An Island’

Such sinewy, living language!




The boom above my knees lifts, and the boat
Drops, and the surge departs, departs, my cheek
Kissed and rejected, kissed, as the gaff sways
A tangent, cuts the infinite sky to red
Maps, and the mast draws eight and eight across
Measureless blue, the boatmen sing or sleep

We point all day for our chosen island,
Clare, with its crags purpled by legend:
There under castles the hot O’Malleys,
Daughters of Granuaile, the pirate queen
Who boarded a Turk with a blunderbuss,
Comb red hair and assemble cattle.
Across the shelved Atlantic groundswell
Plumbed by the sun’s kingfisher rod,
We sail to locate in sea, earth and stone
The myth of a shrewd and brutal swordswoman
Who piously endowed an abbey.
Seven hours we try against wind and tide,
Tack and return, making no headway.
The north wind sticks like a gag in our teeth.

Encased in a mirage, steam on the water,
Loosely we coast where hideous rocks jag,
An acropolis of cormorants, an extinct
Volcano where spiders spin, a purgatory
Guarded by hags and bristled with breakers.

The breeze as we plunge slowly stiffens:
There are hills of sea between us and land,
Between our hopes and the island harbour.
A child vomits. The boat veers and bucks.
There is no refuge on the gannet’s cliff.
We are far, far out: the hull is rotten,
The spars are splitting, the rigging is frayed,
And our helmsman laughs uncautiously.

What of those who must earn their living
On the ribald face of a mad mistress?
We in holiday fashion know
This is the boat that belched its crew
Dead on the shingle in the Cleggan disaster.

Now she dips, and the sail hits the water.
She luffs to a squall; is struck; and shudders.
Someone is shouting. The boom, weak as scissors,
Has snapped. The boatman is praying.
Orders thunder and canvas cannodades.
She smothers in spray. We still have a mast;
The oar makes a boom. I am told to cut
Cords out of fishing-lines, fasten the jib.
Ropes lash my cheeks. Ease! Ease at last:
She wings to leeward, we can safely run.
Washed over rails our Clare Island dreams,
With storm behind us we straddle the wakeful
Waters that draw us headfast to Inishbofin

The bows rock as she overtakes the surge.
We neither sleep nor sing nor talk,
But look to the land where the men are mowing.
What will the islanders think of our folly?

The whispering spontaneous reception committee
Nods and smokes by the calm jetty.
Am I jealous of these courteous fishermen
Who hand us ashore, for knowing the sea
Intimately, for respecting the storm
That took nine of their men on one bad night
And five from Rossadillisk in this very boat?
Their harbour is sheltered. They are slow to tell
The story again. There is local pride
In their home-built ships.
We are advised to return next day by the

But tonight we stay, drinking with people
Happy in the monotony of boats,
Bringing the catch to the Cleggan market,
Cultivating fields, or retiring from America
With enough to soak till morning or old age.

The bench below my knees lifts, and the floor
Drops, and words depart, depart, with faces
Blurred by the smoke. An old man grips my arm,
His shot eyes twitch, quietly dissatisfied.
Ha has lost his watch, an American gold
From Boston gas-works. He treats the company
To the secretive surge, the sea of his sadness.
I slip outside, fall among stones and nettles,
Crackling dry twigs on an elder tree,
While an accordion drones above the hill.

Later, I reach a room, where the moon stares
Through a cobwebbed window. The tide has ebbed,
Boats are careened in the harbour. Here is a bed.

© 1963, Richard Murphy

Image result for paul kelly irish artist images


Recommended Websites :

The Blackpool Sentinel  (

Produced by Colm O’Callaghan (@aslinndubh) and Martin O’Connor (@martinoconnor3)

Concerned mostly with alternative music from the 1980s and 1990s, much of it Irish and much of it long lost. Somewhat addictive!

Reviews, Rants And Rambles ( (@Cnocandoire)

The site of Vincent Hanley whose love and understanding of Irish Literature makes his Blog  a delight to read.

Visiting these sites will be well worth your while and do mention The Immortal Jukebox when you do.

N.B.  Look out for the final Post in the series on the 17th – St Patrick’s Day!


Sinead O’ Connor : The Butcher Boy (A Parade of Posts for St Patrick 2)

Today for your delight:

A Song by Sinead O’Connor

A Poem by Geraldine Plunkett Dillon

A Painting by William Orpen

The song today is featured in Neil Jordan’s wonderful Film from 1997, ‘The Butcher Boy’ adapted from Patrick McCabe’s astonishing novel.

In my view Sinead O’Connor has shamanistic gifts as a singer and performer (with all the blessings and trials imposed by such gifts).

A performer like Sinead comes along about as often as apples grow on an ivy tree.

If you want to imagine what it might be to die for Love and have a strong heart surrender to Sinead’s incandescent performance here.

In Dublin Town where I did dwell ….


The Butcher Boy

In Dublin town where I did dwell
A butcher boy I loved so well
He courted me, my life away
And now with me he will not stay

I wish I wish but I wish in vain
I wish I was a maid again
But a maid again I ne’er can be
Till apples grow on an ivy tree

She went upstairs to go to bed
And calling to her mother said
Bring me a chair till I sit down
And a pen and ink till I write down

I wish I wish but I wish in vain
I wish I was a maid again
But a maid again I ne’er can be
Till apples grow on an ivy tree

He went upstairs and the door he broke
And found her hanging from her rope
He took his knife
And cut her down and in her pocket
These words he found

“Oh, make my grave large, white, and deep
Put a marble stone at my head and feet
And in the middle a turtle dove
So the world may know I died of love

Geraldine Plunkett Dillon (1891 – 1986) had a fascinating life and after many decades of neglect at last her contribution to Irish culture and letters is being recognised.

’Magnificat’ her only collection of Poems was published by Candle Press of Rathgar in 1917.

It is a work of considerable luminous power.

She also wrote a fascinating memoir, ‘All In The Blood’ which was edited by her grand niece Honor O’ Brolchain.

Geraldine Plunkett Dillon : June

I fill my heart with stores of memories,
Lest I should ever leave these loved shores;
Of lime trees humming with slow drones of bees,
And honey dripping sweet from sycamores.

Of how a fir tree set upon a hill,
Lifts up its seven branches to the stars;
Of the grey summer heats when all is still,
And even grasshoppers cease their little wars.

Of how a chestnut drops its great green sleeve,
Down to the grass that nestles in the sod;
Of how a blackbird in a bush at eve,
Sings to me suddenly the praise of God.


William Orpen (1878 – 1931) was a highly gifted and highly successful Portrait Painter.

Image result for william orpen images


Recommended Websites :

Poethead ( by Christine Murray is a revelatory Blog about Irish Women Poets.

Elliptical Movements ( by Billy Mills is also an invaluable poetic resource for those interested in Irish Poetry.

Do visit these sites and tell them The Immortal Jukebox sent you over!

N.B. Next Post will be on March 15th. Don’t miss it!

Luke Kelly : Raglan Road (A Parade of Posts for St Patrick 1)

For the week that’s in it The Immortal Jukebox series A Parade of Posts for St Patrick celebrates Ireland’s glorious heritage in Song, Poetry and Painting.

It seems to me that the, ‘Secret Sign’ has been revealed to generations of Irishmen and Irishwomen and that in response they have blessed us with inspiring voices and visions that will always echo through stone and time.


A Song from Luke Kelly

A Poem by Flann O’ Brien performed by Eamon Morrissey

A Painting by Jack B Yeats

Staff in hand let’s set off with Luke Kelly’s magisterial performance of Poet Patrick Kavanagh’s great, ‘Raglan Road’.



Luke Kelly was born to Sing.

Born to Sing.

In his singing there is passion pledged.

In his singing there is grief and rue.

In his singing there is enchantment.

In his singing there is Love and the whisper of old ghosts.

In his singing there is the creature made of clay and the angel.

In his singing there is life in abundance.

Life in abundance.

Patrick Kavanagh : Raglan Road

On Raglan Road on an Autumn Day,
I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I may one day rue.
I saw the danger, yet I walked
Along the enchanted way
And I said let grief be a falling leaf
At the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November,
We tripped lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine where can be seen
The worst of passions pledged.
The Queen of Hearts still baking tarts
And I not making hay,
Well I loved too much; by such and such
Is happiness thrown away.

I gave her the gifts of the mind.
I gave her the secret sign
That’s known to all the artists who have
Known true Gods of Sound and Time.
With word and tint I did not stint.
I gave her reams of poems to say
With her own dark hair and her own name there
Like the clouds over fields of May.

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet,
I see her walking now away from me,
So hurriedly. My reason must allow,
For I have wooed, not as I should
A creature made of clay.
When the angel woos the clay, he’ll lose
His wings at the dawn of the day.


After such an intense experience I think it’s time to perch on a high stool and imbibe the wit and wisdom of Flann O’ Brien a writer of genius as attested by, ‘At Swim Two Birds’ and by the blazing brilliance of his, ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’ column for The Irish Times under the name of Myles na gCopaleen.

Image result for flann o brien images


Eamon Morrissey gives a virtuoso performance of, ‘A Pint of Plain’ from his show celebrating the work of Flann O’Brien, ‘The Brother’.

I must confess I’ve been known to perform this, though with more enthusiasm than skill, myself on licensed premises when the humour is on me!



Flann O’ Brien : The Workmen’s Friend (A Pint Of Plain)

When things go wrong and will not come right
Though you do the best you can
When life looks black as the hour of night
A pint of plain is your only man

When money’s tight and hard to get
And your horse has also ran
When all you have is a heap of debt
A pint of plain is your only man

When health is bad and your heart feels strange
And your face is pale and wan
When doctors say you need a change
A pint of plain is your only man

When food is scarce and your larder bare
And no rashers grease your pan
When hunger grows as your meals are rare
A pint of plain is your only man

In time of trouble and lousey strife
You have still got a darling plan
You still can turn to a brighter life
A pint of plain is your only man

Jack B Yeats paintings are deeply imagined encounters with the life force present in ourselves and the world around us.


Image result for jack b yeats images

When I stand before them I am always shocked by the level of silence and attention they demand of me and by the magnitude of the reward such silence and attention produces.

Replete with Irish generosity and fortified by several Pints of Plain as a parting gift today I leave you with a glorious live version of Raglan Road.


Recommended Websites:

746 Book  (

is an outstanding Blog which has an annual Reading Ireland series.

Cathy (@cathy746books) is in addition Arts programmer for the Seamus Heaney HomePlace

Raging Fluff   (

is another excellent Blog featuring original writing from Niall McArdle (@ragingfluff) .

Niall has hosted the highly entertaining ‘Begorrathon’ for several years and has generously featured Posts from The Immortal Jukebox.

Do visit these sites and tell them The Immortal Jukebox sent you over!

N.B.   Look out for Post 2 in the series in two days on March 13th.

Bobby Charles, Doug Sahm and Mark Knopfler : Tennessee Blues

A true message always gets through.

Songs that speak truthfully to the ebbing and flowing tides of our lives take on a life of their own cutting distinctive channels in our hearts.

Such songs as Bob Dylan says ‘get up and walk’ away from their composers and become community treasures.

Treasures cherished by what I still think of as the ‘record buying public’ and perhaps even more so by fellow songwriters who recognise a classic song with such lyrical and melodic grace that it seems to demand new interpretations.

The song taking pride of place on The Immmortal Jukebox today is an absolute Peach – ‘Tennessee Blues’ written and first performed by the late, great, Bobby Charles.

I can imagine brows being furrowed at the name – Bobby Charles?

Now, you may not be a fully paid up, got the T Shirt and the Box Set, fan like me but believe me you know and can croon along to several Bobby Charles songs.

How about, ‘See You Later Alligator’ or ‘Walking To New Orleans’ not to mention ‘Before I Grow Too Old’ or ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You, But I Do’ for starters.

Bill Haley, Fats Domino and Frogman Henry had the Chart hits but they all came from the pen and piano of Abbeville La native Robert Charles Guidry – Bobby Charles.

Bobby’s own versions of his songs are uniformally lovely with, ‘Tennessee Blues’ from his glowing 1972 album produced by The Band’s Rick Danko winning the garland for the most lovely of all.


From the ‘Trust us, we’ll take our own sweet time with this one’ opening bars you just know Tennessee Blues is gonna be a Keeper!

There’s a free flowing lazy certainty to the way the song proceeds.

Everything feels natural, unhurried, ripe and right.

Listening you feel like you’re gently rocking to and fro, deliciously half asleep, in a summer hammock.

By now, having lived with this song for decades, as soon as the song starts I can feel the tears welling up and my Boot Heels get ready to go wandering once again round the dance floor with my Darling.

And as we twirl, lost in the Music, we find a place where we don’t have to worry.

A place where we feel loose.

A place alive with the sound of running water and the trills of birds in the trees.

A place to forget all those regrets.

A place where we can settle and stay.

A place to be at peace.

To be at peace.

Oh, a place where you lose all those blues.

All those Blues.

Those Tennessee Blues.

Here, Bobby Charles has written and sung a Song that enchants.

A Song that’s balm for the bruised heart, the weary mind and the thirsty soul.

I’m not 100% certain of the musician credits but that’s surely Amos Garrett (of Midnight At The Oasis fame) playing the tender guitar licks and The Band’s instrumental maestro Garth Hudson playing the heartbreaking Accordion.

N. D. Smart on Drums and Jim Colegrove on Bass.

Violin courtesy of Harry Lookofsky (the Father of ‘Walk Away Renee’ writer Michael Brown.

The sense of ancient sway they create together is truly magical.

A magic that was recognised by one of the most good hearted of all musicians San Antonio’s own favourite Son – Doug Sahm.

Doug cuts deep, imbuing Tennessee Blues with tender Texas Soul.



Doug’s vocal takes us up to the Mountain Tops and down to the lapping lake side waters where we might bathe and be born again.

Born again.

Across the wide Atlantic Ocean Mark Knopfler, taking time out from his leadership responsibilities with Dire Straits, found peace and nourishment returning to the Americana sounds that had first inspired him to take up the Guitar and search out the chords for the songs he would write himself.

His companions, collectively The Notting Hillbillies, were Steve Phillips and Brendan Crocker.

In their hands Tennessee Blues takes on the character of aching night prayer – a compline service for lost saloon souls.

We are all searching for that place.

That place of shaded valleys and cool reviving streams.

That place where our regrets and worries dissolve in the warm breeze.

That place of peace.

Bobby Charles’ Tennessee Blues takes us there and gives us the strength to carry that peace within us as we travel on.


Notes :

Tennessee Blues can be found on the Rhino Encore CD ‘Bobby Charles’ – unreservedly recommended!

I also love:

The Bear Family compilation, ‘See You Later Alligator’

‘Last Train To Memphis’ from Rice and Gravy

‘Home Made Songs’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’

Bobby Charles died in 2010

His songs will endure.

Slim Harpo : The King Bee – Swamp Blues Superstar!

Sometimes ersatz just won’t do.

No. No. No.

Today you need the pure drop.

The real thing.

Taste and texture.

Something with the Kick that ignites your senses and gets your heart pumping fit to bust right through your ribs.

Low down Swamp Blues out of Louisiana.

Today, right this very minute, you want, hell, you need, some vintage Slim Harpo.

That’ll flat out do the job!


Embed from Getty Images



Let’s Buzz a while!


Sting it then!



Slim Harpo. Slim Harpo.

Sleepy vocals and insistent, buzzing, stinging, right inside your mind Harmonica.

I sometimes debate which debut single might be said to be the greatest of all time and, of course,  never reach a settled decision.

But, always, always, high in contention is Slim Harpo’s ‘ epochal debut ‘King Bee/I Got Love If You Want It’ from 1957 on Excello Records.

Produced by the Sultan Of The Swamps J. D. ‘Jay’ Miller in his Crowley Lousiana Studio.

Guitar Gable on the stinging Guitar, John ‘Fats’ Perrodin on Bass and Clarence ‘Jockey’ Étienne on the Drums –  collectively the Musical Kings.

Incredibly ‘King Bee’ was the B Side .. but once heard, especially when blasting out of a Juke Joint Juke Box it is, no doubt about it, an Alpha A Side!

King Bee has the perfect combination of musical economy and impact wholly characteristic of Slim Harpo’s entire career.

In record after record he came up with winning vocals and melodies, memorable lyrics, and addictive instrumental instrumental interludes – all in under three minutes!

No wonder his records were Juke Box classics all over the South.

Slim Harpo, enormously aided by the ambience created by J D Miller, managed to cram everything essential to produce a great record into his sound and cut out everything else.

So his records cast a spell and have you coming back again and again in search of the secret of their allure.

For me, in addition to the hypnotic overall sound on King Bee it’s the moment when Slim drawls ‘Well’ before adding with a mixture of masculine menace and charm – ‘Buzz a while … sting it then’.

I’m sure it was a rare barfly who didn’t imagine himself one hell of a buzzing, stinging King Bee when this one came blasting out of the Jukebox.

Mick Jagger and all The Rolling Stones were certainly stung by the sound.

On their debut album the first track on Side 2 is none other than a faithful take on King Bee – though it would be many years before The Stones would be able, on record, to come anywhere near the relaxed authority of Slim Harpo’s sound.

Slim Harpo’s sound and pared down songs because they effortlessly combined so many Blues, Country and Swamp Pop elements proved enormously attractive to a multi racial audience at home and to neophyte Bluesmen in Britain.

Virtually every Group you might hear in The Marquee or on Eel Pie Island had a Slim Harpo Song in their set.

The Kinks before Ray Davies emerged as one of the great original Songwriters mined Slim’s catalogue and came up with a creditable version of, ‘I Got Love If You Want It’.

Of  course, it’s not a patch on the original!



You got the rock ‘til your back ain’t go no bone rhythm.

You got the teasing vocal and the seductive Harmonica.

You got the I can’t believe it’s finished – I’ll have to cue it up again at once economy.

You got a great Slim Harpo Record.

Though King Bee had a big impact on fellow musicians and musica aficionados it didn’t set the cash registers ringing madly.

For that Slim, who was never a 7 days a week full time musician, had to wait until 1961 when he came up with a Song that just won everybody over – ‘Rainin’ In My Heart’.

Deservedly Top 20 R & B and Top 40 Pop In the Billboard Charts.

By now Slim’s Band had Rudy Richard on Guitar, James Johnson on Bass and Jesse Kinchen on Drums – and it’s hard when you hear them play to imagine you could ever find yourself a better Saturday Night Out Band to laugh and love and drink to!

All such Bands need a romantic swooner and they don’t come more romantically swooning than Rainin’ In My Heart.

I’ve seen fabulous live versions of this one by The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Van Morrison (the latter rarely outdone on swoon when he has a yen for it).

Van has an encyclopaedic knowledge of all aspects of The Blues and is no mean Harmonica player so it was no surprise that with Them he cut a dynamite version of Slim Harpo’s, ‘Don’t Start Crying Now’.


Now, Lordy Mama, ain’t that a blast!

From the first instant the Band lock in and you’re barrelling down the tracks until you hit the buffers less than three minutes later.

Nothing to do but get back on the train and set off again!

Slim Harpo’s biggest Hit came in 1965 with the scorching, ‘Scratch My Back’.

Get To It!


Seductive, Slinky, Sexy as all get out, aah Scratch My Back.

Scratch My Back.

Nothing as satisfying as an Itch that gets well and truly scratched!

Remember when I said what a great Saturday Night Band Slim Harpo had?

Well, well, well, here’s the ultimate proof.

If, ‘Shake Your Hips’ doesn’t get you up and out on the Dancefloor there’s just no hope for you.

No Hope at all.

This is pure Voodoo.

Pure Voodoo!


The Rolling Stones were ready to do justice to Slim’s Sound when they recorded this on their magnificent 1972 Double Album, ‘Exile On Main Street’.

Slim Harpo died, tragically young at 46, in 1970, just as he was about to tour Europe for the first time – where he would surely have been received as the Music Hero he was.

Slim Harpo Records define Swamp Blues and I will never tire of listening to The King Bee.

I’m stung every time.

I’ll leave you with a valedictory ballad that cuts like a scalpel to the heart.

Oh Slim, you sure were a Good Thing.

A very Good Thing indeed.



Notes :

I thoroughly recommend ‘Buzzin’ The Blues’ Bear Family’s encyclopaedic set of Slim Harpo’s recorded career which includes a wonderful live show from 1961.

Thanks due to Dave Emlen from for pointing readers of his excellent site in this direction!

Little Walter : 50 Years Dead but he will never be gone! The King of the Blues Harmonica

Little Walter died 50 years ago in tragic circumstances.

The term irreplaceable is too often used – in the case of Little Walter no other term will do.

Since his untimely death many fine musicians have been inspired by the majesty of his Sound and in consequence produced superb records.

None have matched Walter’s. No one ever will.

In his honour I present again The Immortal Jukebox tribute to the greatest Blues Harmonica Player of all time.

You gotta say Little Walter invented the blues harmonica .. No one had that sound before him. No one could make the thing cry like a baby and moan like a woman.

No one could put pain into the harp and have it come out so pretty. No one understood that the harmonica – just as much as a trumpet, a trombone or a saxophone – could have have a sound that would drop you in your tracks!’. (Buddy Guy)

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Some people have just got it.

And, by it, I mean IT – the mojo that definitively separates the great from the very good and the merely good.

From the sidelines or from the stalls we can often recognise, without expert knowledge ourselves, some invisible aura that marks out the special one, the summiteer, from those still scrambling up Mount Parnuss’ lesser slopes.

It’s not necessary to have been a Major League Baseball player to have recognised, on first sight, that Ted Williams was a great hitter or that Sandy Koufax was the pitcher you’d want pitching for you if your life was at stake.

Intensive years of conservatoire schooling are not needed to know, for certain, that Maria Callas had a gift for dramatic singing that is beyond compare or that Glenn Gould as he hunched over the keyboard and played Bach’s divine music was some kind of angel himself.

Anyone, after watching even one round of Muhammad Ali boxing in his peerless prime would in head shaking wonder have had to exclaim, ‘There’s never been anyone like him!’.

Little Walter (Jacobs) a bluesman and instrumentalist of undoubted genius and the subject of today’s Immortal Jukebox post is assuredly one of that elect company.

With the certainty that advancing age brings, I confidently declare that there never will be a harmonica player to equal, let alone out do, Little Walter for drive, flair, command, show-stopping technical skill and outrageously imaginative musical daring.

Listen to the brilliance of his playing on, ‘Juke’ his first solo 45 from 1952, recorded with his colleagues in Chicago blues finest ever outfit – The Muddy Waters band.

I believe the proper expression after bearing that is, ‘Lord, Have Mercy!’.

This is Little Walter stepping up the stage, front and centre, to announce to his fellow musicians and the wider world that he was the new royal ruler of the blues harmonica.

Sure, on his way up he had been influenced by the two blues harpists named Sonny Boy Williamson and Big Walter Horton. He had arrived in Chicago as WW2 ended by way of his birthplace, Marksville Louisiana, New Orleans, Helena Arkansas, Memphis and St Louis – all the while soaking up music and developing his awesome technique.

It is clear that he had also been listening intently to thrusting saxophonists like Big Jay McNeely in addition to harp masters. But, then Walter took everything he had learned and at the warp speed of his imagination, moved into interstellar overdrive, taking the humble harmonica into uncharted territory. The territory all subsequent blues harmonica players live in.

Juke, recorded at the end of a Muddy Waters session for Chess subsidiary, Checker Records, became an enormous hit. It was biggest seller the label had up to that point and the first (and still only) harmonica led instrumental to top the R&B charts.

Walter and the commercially savvy Chess Brothers realised that while Walter should remain an essential part of the Muddy Waters sound he now needed to have his own band, The Jukes, for recording and touring purposes.

Walter was obviously the star of the show but he was fortunate to have such alert and sympathetic sidemen as guitarists, Louis and David Myers and drummer Fred Below.

Together in the period 1952 to 1958 they had 14 top ten R&B chart successes – records that are rightly regarded as blues classics. The general pattern was for each 45 to feature an instrumental allowing Walter to swoop and soar wherever his seemingly unlimited imagination took him coupled with a tough, street wise vocal side.

Walter was not a great singer but he could give a lyric a dramatic authority that lodged a song deep into your memory. It’s hard to believe that any set of sides were ever more perfectly engineered to blast out of South Side Chicago Jukeboxes!

On, ‘the threatening ‘You Better Watch Yourself’ below his harmonica doubles as a switchblade slicing the air powered by intoxicant fouled male bravado.

Or perhaps that should be doubles as a, ‘Saturday Night Special’ handgun waved to all and sundry in the joint as a signal – a declaration, that, ‘look out brothers and sisters! I’m a mean, mean dude and you had best not get in my way or mess with MY woman’.

More evidence here of Walter’s ability not simply to plug in to use the power of electricity to add volume to his harmonica but his understanding that testing the limits of the amplifiers could produce feedback and other distorting effects which he could harness to produce ever more individual and wondrous sounds.

There was something of the sorcerer about Walter – casting mysterious musical spells from a book unreadable to all but him.

Walter was a genius. He was also mean, moody and unreliable though he could be charming when he wanted to. Easily slighted, especially when drunk (and he was rarely without a bottle to hand) he was always one step, one sideways look, away from a fight.

His hungry indulgence in booze and drugs inevitably wore down his body and though his talent was immense it could not survive in its true glory beyond the late 1950s given the sustained onslaught of self abuse he visited upon it.

But when he was in his prime there was no one in Chicago or the whole wide world to touch him!

Walter, certain in his mastery of his instrument could play at the fastest tempos to whip an audience into a frenzy. But, like all the great musicians, he could exercise a mesmeric hold on his listeners playing at very slow tempo.

Listen to him on, ‘Quarter To Twelve’ sounding like some orchestral nocturnal spectre briefly visiting this material world to pass on some vital message.

I hear many things in the harmonica sounds of Little Walter.

I hear the cry and moan Buddy Guy heard.

I hear air renting sobs of pain, sly seduction, bitter rage – sometimes suppressed sometimes inescapably aimed right between our eyes and ears.

I hear terror and exultation, anxiety and ambition, lust, longing, and oceans of loss. Oceans of loss.

I hear a proud and angry grown man and a bewildered, bereft child.

I hear all the swirling sea of human emotions we are heir to drawn from the very air and brought to shining dramatic life through Walter’s miraculous sound.

A last treat – here he is, courtesy of the pen of blues godfather WIllie Dixon, with what has become a blues standard, ‘My Babe’.

What a huge sound! No fooling, this is Chicago blues at its best – this is the stuff of life.

Goodnight Walter.

May your story be heard and your tears dried.

You gave us treasure from your magnificent gifts.

Your Sound will never die.


The Chess catalogue has zig zagged through many incarnations for reissue purposes with complications appearing and disappearing with frustrating frequency.

The compilation I listen to most is the Chess 50th Anniversary Collection. You could also investigate the sets from the Proper and Jasmine labels.

A record not to miss is, ‘The Blues World of Little Walter’ on blues specialist label Delmark. This is a quartet outing with Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers and Leroy Foster. Their 1950 version of ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin” will send shivers through your whole being.