Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith and The Juke Joint Rockers – Bluesin’ It
If you look up ‘Road Warrior’ in the Blues Dictionary you might very likely see a picture of Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, either sitting proud behind his drum kit or behind the wheel of his van heading down the highway on his way to or from one of the thousands of gigs he has played since being promoted from the Muddy Waters Junior Band in 1959. A mainstay of Muddy’s band throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, Willie was born January 19th, 1936 in Helena, Arkansas and raised by his grandparents at the Wooton Epps Plantation on the outskirts of town. He remembers listening to Muddy’s radio broadcasts on KFFA as a youngster in 1949, but it was on a trip to Chicago in 1953 to visit his Mother that set his course in life. Willie’s mom smuggled him into a Tavern to witness the Muddy Waters Band in full flight, and Willie left that night bound and determined to make a life for himself in the Blues. Quite a life it’s been too with numerous highlights and accomplishments including a record 7 W.C. Handy Awards as Best Instrumentalist – Drums.
Never one to live on past glories, Willie is always open to new musical ideas and when his good friend Andrew Kempa and I proposed that he cut a disc with a top notch crew of old friends collectively known as The Juke Joint Rockers, both Willie and they jumped at the chance. There was a definite blues party atmosphere in the air as Willie and the band got down to work at Liquid Studio in Toronto with producers Alec Fraser and Al Lerman. On board were Bassman Bob Stroger, Boogie Woogie piano man Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne, guitar ace Jack de Keyzer, vocal powerhouse John Mays, Al Lerman on both Harp and Saxophone, Michael Fonfara on piano and organ and Frank Krakowski on rhythm guitar. This CD is your ticket to that party and Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith is your host. Take it from me, you can’t do any better than that.
Andrew Galloway - President, Electro-Fi Records
1. You're Too Bad - 4:52 2. Blindman - 3:45 3. Who Let the Cat Out - 4:25 4. River's Invitation - 5:46 5. Nobody Knows - 3:57 6. Hard Times - 6:57 7. Goin' Away Baby - 4:05 8. No. 9 Train - 3:39 9. I Gotta Move - 4:32 10. You Need Love - 4:09 11. Hold It Right There - 3:58 12. Tigerman - 5:49 13. Don't Think I'm Crazy - 4:20 14. Liquified Boogie - 2:29
Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith (lead vocals on 4,5,7,13, drums, harp on 13) , Bob Stroger (lead vocals on 2,9, Fender bass) , John Mays (lead vocals on 1,6,8,12) - Jack de Keyzer (lead vocals on 3,10, lead guitar) , Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne (lead vocals on 11, piano on 2,7,10,11) , Al Lerman (harp, saxophone on 4) , Michael Fonfara (piano or organ on 1,3,4,5,6,8,9,12,14) , Frank Krakowski (rhythm guitar on 1,3,4,5,6,8,9,12,14)