Born April 26th 1929 at Elko, a small town near Blackville, South Carolina, Joseph Benjamin Hutto moved to Augusta, Georgia when he was three. He sang in a small gospel group in Georgia but was not interested in the blues at that time - although his mother's favourite artist was fellow Georgian, Buddy Moss, coincidentally also from Augusta, having moved to Atlanta before J.B. was born. In 1949 he moved to Chicago and began playing guitar and gigging with small bands in the city.
In the early 1950's he met and learned under Elmore James, whose success at the time inspired a number of Chicago guitarists to play bottleneck. J.B. obviously took to the style easily and quickly as evidenced from his chance recording of 'Dim Lights' in 1954. Never an Elmore copyist, J.B. cut no further records and dropped from sight, to reappear only in 1965, recording late in the year from Sam Charters on Vanguard. By early 1966 he was playing at Turners, Indiana and the L station; by May 20th at the University of Chicago and in June recorded for Pete Welding's Testament label.
Since the issue of his sides for Change, J.B. has never really been captured on LP with the intensity with which he plays in public, although his Testament album (T-2213) came nearest to this. In England in February 1972 he showed he is still a major figure in the tough Chicago blues style, playing with an intensity and honesty seldom heard on blues tours to Europe. These sides were recorded at a variety of five dates in London on a portable cassette tape-recorder and whereas the music lacks hi-fi, it is always consistently fine.
For this reason, some of his finest live numbers are released here to emphasise that the man and his music are superior to what one has available on sadly few albums.
Once in London, J.B. settled in permanently with the Brunning-Hall band, making no effort to disguise his delight in finding a band with whom he could work easily, frequently stating that he wished he could take them back to the U.S.A., as they would make a tighter band than the one that he currently had.
The band was never obtrusive: Robert Brunning set a solid bass pattern together with John Hunt's Below-styled drumming; Bob Hall's right-hand featured prominently in many piano breaks and Pat Grover's guitar steadily supported J.B. and occasionally wheeled-off into well-constructed, valid breaks as on 'Pet Cream Man', where J.B. lets him build into perhaps his most effective solo. Whether playing before a faithful following at the 100 Club or the Marquee, or in front of rather cold audiences as at Chelsea College Of Art, J.B. never held himself back. His stage performance added much more to his music - sometimes heightened by guitar 'battles' with his bass player, sometimes audaciously stepping off0stage into the audience to complete the solo from the front row of chairs - always delighted by his reception, warming instantly to his audience, reluctant to go, until the club management was forced to plead as much with J.B. to leave, as with the audience to go home.
A very self-effacing, modest man, sitting quietly in the bar sipping orange-juice, J.B. constantly belied the passion, intensity and guts of his music. Always seemingly shy of his capabilities and slightly embarrassed by the enthusiasm shown by his audiences, he personified the opposite of the aggression, bigotry and egotism sometimes too often typical of the music scene. Perhaps that is why he has yet to reach a larger audience.
If this album renews memories of some of the finest Chicago blues ever to be heard in London, or perhaps better, introduces newcomers to the real music of J.B. Hutto, then that is all one could ask.
Bruce Bastin - October 1972.
The Brunning/Hall Band:
Bob Hall - Piano (Ex-Savoy Brown, Groundhogs, John Dummer)
Robert Brunning - Bass (Ex-Savoy Brown, Brunning Sunflower Blues Band, Fleetwood Mac)
John Hunt - Drum (Ex-Stackhouse)
Pat Grover - Guitar (Ex-Stackhouse)
CD Reissue Notes:
Akarma, a Division of Comet Records
P.O. Box 201
19100 La Spezia
Comet Records - Classic and Unreleased Rock Titles:
MIE (Moving Image Entertainment) (Soundtracks)
Universe (Jazz, Blues and Rhythm 'n' Blues)
Horizons (New Rock Recordings)
Vanguard Records (For Italy)
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