Friday, February 18, 2005


"Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.."

Tampa Red, When Things Go Wrong With You.

Like Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red was another blues guitar legend who stumbled into having a major R&B hit in his later years.

He was born Hudson Whittaker (or Woodridge) in Smithfield, Georgia, in 1904 (or 1903), and earned his performing name from, in reverse, his hair and his hometown--Tampa, Fla., where his grandparents raised him. Red moved to Chicago in the 1920s and became known for his work with the pianist Georgia Tom Dorsey, such as "Tight Like That." When Georgia Tom found God around the same time the Depression hit, Red moved on, later teaming with Big Maceo Merriweather.

"Things Go Wrong," complete with dog barks and a kazoo solo, is sung with smooth joy and confidence by Red, who was content to keep playing the blues until the world had no more use for it, or for him. He died in 1981.

"Things Go Wrong" was recorded in Chicago on March 24, 1949, with Johnnie Jones (p), Ransom J. Knowling (b) and Odie Payne (d). In blues fashion, "Things Go Wrong" keeps traveling under assumed names. Tampa had taken the melody from an earlier composition, "Things 'bout Coming My Way"; Elmore James turned "Things Go Wrong" into "It Hurts Me Too," which in turn was covered by everyone from Chuck Berry to Bob Dylan (on his bizarre work of self-sabotage Self Portrait); Eric Clapton's somnolent version became a mild FM hit in the 1980s. You can find "Things Go Wrong" in this collection.

Happy Washington's Birthday (still the official name--the generic "Presidents' Day" honors Richard Nixon and Warren Harding, so no thanks)--no posts until next Tuesday.

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