"GEORGIA'S CROWN Prince of the Piedmont Blues"
Sammy Blue started his lifelong Blues odyssey playing drums in an elementary school band. When he was around ten years old his uncle took him to his first concert at the "81" theater in Atlanta, Georgia. The show headlined T-Bone Walker along with opening acts Gatemouth Brown and comedy legends Moms Mabley and Pigmeat Markham. It was the first time he got to see in person some of the artists that he listened to on the family radio. The show had a lasting effect on Sammy's life because he made a conscious decision that night to learn how to play guitar. The late Buddy Moss, a true master of Piedmont-style guitar, was the first professional blues artist to "tutor" Sammy Blue. Moss's rudimentary guitar lessons coupled with Sammy's insatiable desire to see recording artists perform live in concert acted as the catalyst for making music the dominant force in his life.
Sammy and other high school students would congregate outside the stage entrance of the city auditorium on the day a big show was scheduled. Promoters would step outside and select a few kids to serve as ushers for the show that evening. When picked as an usher, he got to meet many Blues, R&B and Jazz legends before and after the shows. One concert tour of note in Sammy's life was billed as "The Blind Show". Such an insensitive billing would be politically incorrect today because it featured Ray Charles with opening acts Clarence Carter and 13-year old Stevie Wonder. When Sammy saw another teenager bring down the house playing harmonica on the tune "Fingertips", he was certain that he wanted to be a performer.
After Sammy graduated from high school he enrolled in the High Museum's Institute of Art to study photography. This career path was cut short when a female student offered to trade her Gibson acoustic guitar for his camera. Soon thereafter, Sammy left the art institute and moved to Tuscaloosa to stay with Johnny Shines, Robert Johnson's traveling companion in the 1930's. Shines "took a liking" to Sammy after meeting him at a blues show in Atlanta and invited him to visit. Needless to say, no aspiring young blues artist would turn down an offer to be taught by someone who worked in tandem with a blues legend. Sammy accredits Johnny Shines with passing on some of Robert Johnson's solo guitar techniques to him. He also got meet Fred McDowell, a friend of Shines, while staying with him.
Sammy Blue returned to Atlanta and met Muddy Waters the following year. Muddy also "took a liking" to Sammy and invited him to go to Chicago with his band. On the ride up there Muddy told him how the nationally known blues artists in each part of the USA had "titles" that were inherent to their territory. In Georgia the title was "Prince of The Blues" and held by Billy Wright, who Sammy did not know. Muddy told him Billy Wright was the artist Little Richard emulated in appearance and manner. He also told Sammy if he pursued the blues as a career, he should "inherit" that title after Billy Wright died because he was also born in Georgia. Unfortunately, others in the music business did not know about or adhere to this territorial designation and usurped the title. To reestablish and continue the titling tradition as told to him by Muddy Waters, Sammy Blue adopted "Crown Prince of The Blues" after the passing of Billy Wright.
After arriving in Chicago Muddy introduced Sammy to some of the "important people" around town and he was soon hired as a warehouse clerk for Alligator Records. This job didn't last very long because he was "let go" for practicing guitar during working hours. To stay in Chicago he went to work for Delmark Records. Sammy got to meet and learn from many of the blues greats while in the Windy City. Howlin' Wolf, Hound Dog Taylor, Homesick James, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy, Fenton Robinson, Son Seals, Jr. Wells, Big Joe Williams and many others were all there playing in clubs. Once again, practicing guitar got Sammy a "pink slip" at his day job. Looking for a different music related gig, he applied for work at the Old Town School of Music. It was there that he discovered he could teach guitar after setting up a blues guitar workshop with Sleepy John Estes, a Delmark artist. (Sammy continues to teach at Music Works, Center For The Arts in Atlanta.) While working at the Chicago music school, he found out that Muddy's road manager and driver was retiring and was given permission to offer Sammy his job. Sammy declined wanting to strike out on his own as an artist.
Working various jobs for truckers and playing whenever he could, Sammy crisscrossed the country. His first stop was down in the Mississippi delta where he met Peg Leg Sam and Louisiana Red. Traveling to California he met Sonny Rhoads, Brownie McGee, Freddie King, Big Walter Horton, Roosevelt Sykes, and got a job with Taj Mahal as his stage manager. Taj became another one of Sammy's mentors and expanded his knowledge of blues music and its many variations. Others he met were Pee Wee Crayton, Luther Tucker, Boz Scaggs, "new-comer" Robert Cray and jazz legend, Joe Williams to name a few. He also met and became very close to Albert Collins after meeting him on Grant Street in San Francisco.
When wanderlust struck again, Sammy left the Bay Area and worked his way to Houston. In Texas Sammy discovered where Lightnin' Hopkins was hanging out and playing. He had met Lightnin' at a concert in Atlanta and wanted to learn some of his techniques. He also met Juke Boy Bonner, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Sherman Robinson, Kim Wilson, Buckwheat Zydeco and Jimmy Thackery while in the Lone Star State. Before moving on in 1978, Sammy played in his first big blues festival in Houston. Returning to California, he got to play his second blues festival in Sacramento. After gigging on the west coast for around three years he returned to Atlanta.
In the early 1980's the city of Atlanta was still a hotbed for live music. Some of the older clubs that featured an eclectic mix of artists had disappeared, but several new venues had opened. No sooner had Sammy driven into the city that he came across a new concert hall called The Moonshadow nestled in a residential area near Emory University. Before stopping anywhere to unpack his bags, he pulled over and checked it out. As fate would have it, he met the owner and was hired as the opening act for many of the shows that were booked there during the 1980's. He also got an opening slot on some of the shows at Blues Harbor, another new venue in Atlanta that was booking national blues acts. As a matter of fact, Sammy Blue was the #1 opening act for most of the blues concerts in Atlanta during this period.
In the entertainment world no review is worse than a bad one, over-exposure to the same audiences results in "ho-hum" attitudes toward the artist and doing the same thing in one place too long causes "artist atrophy". Sammy realized after several busy years it was time to move on again. In the early 1990's he organized the house band for a club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Through previous connections he had made, he made his first television appearance in "I'll Fly Away" and wrote and performed music for several others. In 1998 he performed in an off-Broadway stage show called "Spunk" and was booked in Singapore as a headliner for eight weeks. Sammy also appeared in the NBC miniseries, Mama Flora's Family. The contacts he made during this period also resulted in him getting calls to perform at numerous corporate shows and conventions. In 1999 he appeared in the documentary "Blues Stories". A photograph from this documentary appeared in the 30th Anniversary issue of Rolling Stone Magazine.
Sammy Blue has completed his first CD titled "Everythang & Mo'" and plans to hit the road to promote his music in many of his previous haunts. A prolific songwriter that can make up a tune on the spot, he has the capability to entertain an audience on a one-to-one basis, or as the leader of a well-rehearsed group. Unlike most blues artists, Sammy Blue has performed in Asian countries and also in Europe. His follow up CD to "Everythang & Mo'" will be a solo acoustic project in the traditional vein of the old blues masters like Robert Johnson and Brownie McGee.