Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Elvin Bishop and Grammy-winning harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite are fellow blues travelers and living blues giants. The two history-making musicians—both Blues Hall of Famers—have over 100 years of professional musicianship between them. They are among the most famous bluesmen in the world. Yet despite knowing each other since the early 1960s, their 2020 album 100 Years of Blues was the first time that they ever teamed up simply as a duo. But the result was exactly as one would expect: blues at its deepest, warmest and most engaging.
Both Bishop and Musselwhite got their start in the early 1960s on Chicago’s blues-rich South Side. Bishop, from Oklahoma, befriended and was taught by guitarist Little Smokey Smothers. Musselwhite, from Memphis, was mentored by his pals Delta bluesman Big Joe Williams and harmonica master Big Walter Horton. As Musselwhite explains, “It was great the way Elvin and I were not only welcomed but also encouraged by the blues giants of the day. When I first got to Chicago, I was content just to hang out and socialize and listen to the great blues, but when Muddy Waters found out I played harmonica, he insisted that I sit in. Boy, did that get me focused. I might not’ve ever had a career in music if men like Muddy hadn’t been so welcoming and encouraging.” Young Elvin was also welcomed onto South Side bandstands, gigging with Hound Dog Taylor, Junior Wells and J.T. Brown. Both men went on to win fame by introducing blues music to the rock and roll audience—Bishop with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and his own genre-bending Elvin Bishop Group, and Musselwhite with his wide-ranging and influential recordings as leader of his own band.
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