Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Johnny Littlejohn - "So Called Friends"
Johnny Littlejohn was, I suppose, a second-tier Chicago blueman. I don't mean that he wasn't accomplished, just that his music wasn't as powerful and distinctive as that of best practitioners of that genre, such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, or Jimmy Reed. But even if it was not that level, Littlejohn's work was excellent, and remains worthy of our attention even 23 years after his death.
Like Muddy, Wolf, and Reed, Littlejohn was born in Mississippi (in 1931). He migrated north when he was 15, landing in Gary, Indiana for a while before moving on to Chicago at the beginning of the 1960s. He did the usual Chicago bluesman thing by recording a few singles for small local labels before, as the 1960s turned into the 70s, producing a string of albums for various companies. "So-Called Friends," from 1985, comes from about the middle of that series of albums.
"So-Called Friends" was recorded for Rooster Blues, the great label Jim O'Neal ran first in Chicago and later in Clarksdale, Mississippi. It features a fine lineup of accomplished Chicago blues musicians, but it has never been reissued digitally - so if you want to hear it, you have to have the LP. And you should try to hear it, if only for one of the great blues lyrics, in the title song:
"Nobody can hurt you but your so-called friends."