In addition to his multiple roles in early Canned Heat, Alan Wilson played a significant role in the re-emergance of Delta Blues legend Son House, helping House re-learn the classics that he had long since forgotten, for his 1960’s return. Wilson also played guitar and harmonica on several tracks, on House’s first recordings since the 40’s. As further proof of his Blues cred, John Lee Hooker, whom Wilson and Canned Heat backed on 1971’s Hooker ‘n’ Heat, allegedly called Wilson, “the greatest harmonica player ever”. Oh, and the Blind Owl sobriquet was coined by John Fahey. whom he was supposed to help with his master’s thesis on Charley Patton.
Sometime in the mid nineties, I was at famed New York record store Bleeker Bob’s, scoring some punk 45s most likely, when I heard a voice behind me ask the clerk, “Hey man, do you have a copy of John The Revelator by Son House?”. For some reason the voice sounded vaguely familiar to me, so I turned around and who was it? Carlos Santana! Not having any copies on hand, the clerk suggested another store for him to visit, while Santana asked him about his band, which, upon Santana’s departure, the clerk was beside himself that Santana remembered his band. Anyway, being a Son House fan since hearing some big label CD blues comp in the eighties, and owning the Blue Goose LP, the Library Of Congress Recordings and the double CD 1965 Recordings, Father of the Delta Blues, I was kinda psyched to hear that Santana was similarly inclined. It would be another few years before Son House’s profile would be raised by the White Stripes covering both John The Revelator and Death Letter Blues.
While House recorded in 1930 and 1941-42, his rediscovery in 1964 led to the sessions in which the virtuosity of his National Resonator guitar playing, particularly his slide work, and his pained and haunting vocals were really allowed to shine. I’ve tried to link every live clip of House on youtube. including the Buddy Guy one which I didn’t even know about and several versions of Death Letter. Enjoy
Forever On My Mind
This clip starts off with Bukka White before House does another Death Letter. Oh, and the third musician sitting there? Skip James!