Robert Lee Wilson

b. July 11th, 1936 in Glen Allen (Mississippi)

BLOWIN' SMOKE

Big Town

P-Vine

ROUND LIKE AN APPLE

Ace

1977

Originaire du Mississippi, surnommé parfois le "Juke-box des champs de coton", Robert Lee "Smokey" Wilson exerce de nombreux métiers dont celui de camionneur tout en apprenant la guitare et le chante en autodidacte. Cependant, vers 1961, Smokey joue d'abord de la basse et de la batterie dans le groupe de son grand frère. Plus tard, il remplacera ce dernier à la guitare et le groupe sera renommé : Little Robert & The Soul Searchers (un groupe qui aura pour harmoniciste Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes pendant un temps). Il joue aussi aux côtés de Big Jack Johnson, Frank Frost ou Sam Carr. A la mort de sa mère en 1970, il déménage en Californie et s'installe à Los Angeles. Smokey y administre le Pioneer Club dans le quartier de Watts au sein duquel il anime le groupe maison et accueille les bluesmen de la région : Big Joe Turner, Shakey Jake, Percy Mayfield, Johnny Dyer, Albert Collins, "Pee Wee" Crayton. Pour ses débuts discographiques, Smokey signe chez Big Town (un label dirigé par les frères Bihari). Il y livre une tranche de blues vigoureuse et incisive : guitare agressive, voix très expressive influencée par Howlin' Wolf. Derrière lui, un groupe survolté et dynamique assure une rythmique solide mais parfois monolithique : Rick Lotempio (guitare), Jeff Eyrich (basse), David Ellis (batterie), Pat Devuono (piano), Rod Piazza (harmonica). Quelques beaux moments méritent d'être cités : "Night time", "Go go train", "I wanna do it to you baby", "I'm gonna leave you baby", "I'm gonna put you down". Le disque ne remportera qu'un succès régional et finalement peu de reconnaissance publique. Quelques morceaux sont repris dans la compilation "Round like an apple".

A Mississippi native, sometimes nicknamed the "Jukebox of cotton fields", Robert Lee "Smokey" Wilson practice many jobs including truck-driver while learning guitar and singing as a self-taught. However, around 1961, Smokey played first bass and drums in his elder brother group. Later, he will replace him on guitar and the group will be renamed Little Robert & The Soul Searchers (a small band that will have harmonicist Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes for a time). He also played alongside Big Jack Johnson, Frank Frost and Sam Carr. On the death of his mother in 1970, he moved to California and settled in Los Angeles. Smokey will manage the Pioneer Club in the Watts neighborhood in which he leads the house band and welcomes regional bluesmen : Big Joe Turner, Shakey Jake, Percy Mayfield, Johnny Dyer, Albert Collins, "Pee Wee" Crayton. For his recording debut, Smokey sign at Big Town (a label run by the Bihari brothers). There, he delivers a slice of vigorous and incisive blues : aggressive guitar, very expressive voice influenced by Howlin' Wolf. Behind him, an excited and dynamic group ensures a solid but sometimes monolithic rhythm : Rick Lotempio (guitar), Jeff Eyrich (bass), David Ellis (drums), Pat Devuono (piano), Rod Piazza (harmonica). Some beautiful moments worth quoting : "Night time", "Go go train", "I wanna do it to you baby", "I'm gonna leave you baby", "I'm gonna put you down". The disc will win a regional success and ultimately little public recognition. Some tracks are included in the compilation "Round like an apple".

PUSH

P-Vine

ROUND LIKE AN APPLE

Ace

1977 - 1978

On ne dispose pas de beaucoup d'informations sur ces séances de 1977-78. Les musiciens semblent être les mêmes (plus une mystérieuse section cuivres). Ces séances Big Town sont restées longtemps inédites et ne seront publiées tardivement que par les japonais de P-Vine en 1999. En fait, "Push" s'inscrit parfaitement dans la continuité de "Blowin' smoke" : même juke-joint blues juteux et efficace. On aime les funky "Deuce & Quarter" ou "High time" mais aussi sa reprise excitante de "You don't love me" (un standard de Willie Cobbs). Par contre, "Disco woman" est assez curieux et trop long et sa reprise de "Baby please don't go" s'avère bien ennuyeuse. On peut éventuellement citer les sympathiques "Goin' away" et "Happy home". Quelques morceaux sont repris dans la compilation "Round like an apple".

There is not much information on these 1977-78 sessions. The musicians seem to be the same (plus a mysterious horn section). These Big Town sessions remained long unissued and will be published later by the japanese P-Vine in 1999. In fact, "Push" is perfectly in line with "Blowin' smoke" : same juicy effective juke-joint blues. We love the funky "Deuce & Quarter" or "High time" but also his exciting cover of "You don't love me" (a Willie Cobbs standard). However, "Disco woman" is quite curious and too long and his cover of "Baby please don't go" seems very boring. We can optionally include nice "Goin' away" and "Happy home". Some tracks are included in the compilation "Round like an apple".

SINGS THE BLUES

Big Town

ROUND LIKE AN APPLE

Ace

February 1978

Deuxième disque pour Big Town (puisque "Push" ne fut édité que bien plus tard), on retrouve Smokey avec le même groupe et le même producteur (Jules Bihari). Quelques réussites notables : "Blues for Big Town", "I wonder why strange things are happening to me", "Honey bee", "I'm no fool I know the rule", "I want you". On regrette parfois un peu de confusion et de désorganisation parmi les musiciens qui en font parfois un peu trop.

Second album for Big Town (since "Push" was not published until much later), we find Smokey with the same backing band and the same producer (Jules Bihari). Some notable successes : "Blues for Big Town", "I wonder why strange things are happening to me", "Honey bee", "I'm no fool I know the rule", "I want you". Sometimes we regret a bit of confusion and disorganization among the musicians.

ROUND LIKE AN APPLE

Ace

1977 - 1979

Compilation des faces Big Town captées entre 1977 et 1979 avec quelques pistes inédites au moment de sa parution. Il y a deux morceaux qu'on ne retrouve nulle part ailleurs : "Goin' to Mississippi" et "Christmas". On note aussi que le titre "You shadowed my dreams" est rebaptisé ici "You shattered my dreams".

Compilation of Big Town sides captured between 1977 and 1979 with some unreleased tracks at the time of publication. There are two tracks that are not found anywhere else : "Goin' to Mississippi" and "Christmas". We also note that the title "You shadowed my dreams" is here renamed "You shattered my dreams".

88TH STREET BLUES

Murray Brothers

Blind Pig

February 1983

Cet album est composé de nombreuses reprises de standards du blues plutôt que de compositions personnelles. Comme dans ses disques précédents, Smokey livre un blues puissant, agressif, soutenu ici par une formation plus homogène que précedemment assemblée par Rod Piazza (harmonica) : Honey Alexander (piano, femme de Rod Piazza), Hollywood Fats (guitare), Larry Taylor (basse, transfuge de Canned Heat), Richard Innes (batterie). On peut ressortir les superbes "Sun is shining", "You know what my body needs", "Going back down south", "88th Street blues". La réédition CD de Blind Pig propose trois titres supplémentaires (dont une excellente reprise du "Dimples" de John Lee Hooker). Un disque très abouti dont on préfèrera la version Blind Pig mieux mixée que la version originale de Murray Brothers.

This album consists of some blues standards covers rather than original compositions. As in his previous discs, Smokey delivers a powerful and agressive blues, supported here by a more uniform backing band than previously assembled by Rod Piazza (harmonica) : Honey Alexander (piano, Rod Piazza's wife), Hollywood Fats (guitar), Larry Taylor (bass, former Canned Heat), Richard Innes (drums). We can highlight the superb "Sun is shining", "You know what my body needs", "Going back down south", "88th Street blues". The Blind Pig CD reissue includes three bonus tracks (including an excellent cover of John Lee Hooker's "Dimples"). A very achieved album : we prefer Blind Pig reissue better mixed than the Murray Brothers original version.

HARD TIMES

Black Magic

November 1986

Anthologie produite par William Clarke et publiée par les hollandais de Black Magic. Smokey est présent sur quatre superbes morceaux accompagné de William Clarke et de son groupe : "Fine little mama", "Anna Lee", "Goin' upside your head", "Shake for me".

Anthology produced by William Clarke and published by dutch Black Magic. Smokey is present on four superb sides accompanied by William Clarke and his band : "Fine little mama", "Anna Lee", "Goin' upside your head", "Shake for me".

WITH THE WILLIAM CLARKE BAND

Black Magic

November - December 1986

Hormis les quelques morceaux gravés pour l'anthologie "Hard times", Smokey Wilson poursuit sa collaboration avec William Clarke et son excellent groupe (Fred Kaplan, Eddie Clarke, Alex Schultz, Junior Watson parmi d'autres). Parfaitement produit et accompagné, il livre ici un remarquable opus constellé de titres magnifiques : "Down in Virginia", "I wish I was single", "Tell me what do you see", "Cold chills", "Ghetto woman", "Lein on my body". Une seule petite réserve pour ce disque presque parfait (probablement son meilleur) : beaucoup de reprises et peu de compositions originales. Ce disque est enregistré en 1986 mais ne sera édité qu'en 1990 par Black Magic.

Apart from a few tracks cut for the "Hard times" anthology, Smokey Wilson continues to work with William Clarke and his excellent band (Fred Kaplan, Eddie Clarke, Alex Schultz, Junior Watson among others). Perfectly produced and accompanied, he delivers here a remarkable opus studded with beautiful titles : "Down in Virginia", "I wish I was single", "Tell me what do you see", "Cold chills", "Ghetto woman", "Lein on my body". One small reserve for this almost perfect record (probably his best) : a lot of covers and few original compositions. This album is recorded in 1986 but will be published in 1990 by Black Magic.

[no image]

SMOKEYSTACK LIGHTNING

Vivid Sound

1992

SMOKE N' FIRE

Bullseye

1993

Grâce à son talent, à la sincérité de son blues, mais aussi au travail de son manager Rich Pietras, Smokey décroche un contrat avec Bullseye. Avec un son de guitare sauvage et agressif, un chant véhément hérité d'Howlin' Wolf, il livre avec "Smoke n' fire" un de ses meilleurs albums partagé entre inspiration funk ("Smoke n' fire", "Just messin' around", la reprise de "Killing floor") et purs blues incisifs ("88th Street blues", "You took everything from me"). Quelques collaborations prestigieuses : Ron Levy (orgue et production), Larry Davis et Jimmy Mac Cracklin.

Thanks to his talent, the sincerity of his blues, but also the work of his manager Rich Pietras, Smokey get a contract with Bullseye. With his wild guitar sound, a vehement singing inherited from Howlin' Wolf, he delivers with "Smoke n' fire" one of his best albums, shared between funk inspiration ("Smoke n' fire", "Just messin' around", the "Killing floor" cover) and incisive pure blues ("88th Street blues", "You took everything from me"). Some prestigious collaborations : Ron Levy (organ and production), Larry Davis and Jimmy Mac Cracklin.

THE REAL DEAL

Bullseye

1995

Deuxième disque pour Bullseye toujours en compagnie du producteur Ron Levy. Moins varié et moins original que l'opus précédent, ce CD reste, toutefois, intéressant et mérite l'écoute ("Not pickin' your cotton") mais ne constitue pas un premier choix. De plus, les pistes acoustiques me semblent assez routinières.

Second album for Bullseye always with producer Ron Levy. Less varied and original than the previous album, this CD is still, however, interesting and worth listening ("Not pickin' your cotton"), but not a first choice. In addition, the acoustic tracks seem fairly routine.

THE MAN FROM MARS

Bullseye

1997

Troisième et dernier disque pour Bullseye, celui-ci s'illustre une fois de plus par la qualité de sa production (Ron Levy). Quelques compositions personnelles puissantes et gouleyantes comme "Thanks for making me a star", "The man from Mars", "Too drunk to drive", "You don't drink what I drink", "Don't want to tangle with me". Mention particulières aux cuivres (Scott Thompson, Jim Spake) et à la basse chaloupée de Chris Jones.

Third and final opus for Bullseye, it is illustrated once again by the quality of its production (Ron Levy). Some powerful and tasty personal compositions like "Thanks for making me a star", "The man from Mars", "Too drunk to drive", "You don't drink what I drink", "Don't want to tangle with me". Special mention to horns (Scott Thompson, Jim Spake) and swaying bass of Chris Jones.

MORE BLUES FROM THE SOUTHSIDE

South Side

2000

READY TO ROLL

Marble

2003