[JPL] Son Seals, 62, Chicago Bluesman, Dies
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 22 17:15:35 EST 2004
Son Seals, 62, Chicago Bluesman, Dies
December 22, 2004
By JON PARELES
Son Seals, a Chicago bluesman whose slash-and-burn guitar
solos and raspy voice carried a fierce blues spirit into a
new generation, died on Monday in Chicago. He was 62.
The cause was complications from diabetes, said a
spokeswoman for Alligator Records, his label from the
1970's into the 1990's.
With songs about woman trouble and hard times, Mr. Seals
played his blues spiked with a wounded fury. He didn't
attempt modernization or crossover beyond an occasional
funk beat; he often reached back to jump-blues and soul by
adding a horn section to his band. But what he played was
straightforward and savagely direct. The license plate on
his car read, "BAD AXE."
Frank Seals was born in Osceola, Ark., near Memphis, on
Aug. 14, 1942. He was nicknamed Son as his father, Jim
Seals, had been; his father became Ol' Son. Jim Seals owned
an Osceola juke joint, the Dipsy Doodle, and the Seals
family lived in back. Son Seals grew up listening to
working bluesmen through the 1940's and 1950's. By his
early teens, he was joining them, first on drums and later
He formed his first band, the Upsetters, in 1959, and
started working regularly around Arkansas, Tennessee and
Mississippi. He also worked in bands led by Earl Hooker,
Robert Nighthawk and the guitarist who became his mentor,
Mr. Seals began visiting Chicago in the 1960's, and in 1971
he settled there, began sitting in with bluesmen who
included Junior Wells and Hound Dog Taylor, and started
playing regular weekend shows at the Expressway Lounge.
Bruce Iglauer, a blues fan who had recently started
Alligator Records, heard him and released his first album,
"The Son Seals Blues Band," in 1973.
For the next decades, Mr. Seals toured nationally and then
internationally at clubs, concerts and festivals. He was
nominated for a Grammy Award as one of the performers on
the 1981 live album "Blues Deluxe," and he received W. C.
Handy Blues Awards in 1985, 1987 and 2001. He also
performed at the Clinton White House.
Mr. Seals recorded eight albums for Alligator and then made
two albums for Telarc. The jam band Phish regularly played
his song "Funky Bitch," and Mr. Seals made guest
appearances with them. Trey Anastasio, Phish's guitarist,
sat in on a remake of "Funky Bitch" for Mr. Seals's 2000
album, "Lettin' Go" (Telarc). In 2002, Alligator released a
compilation, "Deluxe Edition."
In 1997, Mr. Seals was shot in the jaw by his wife, whom he
later divorced, and in 1999, complications from diabetes
led to the amputation of part of his left leg. But he
continued to perform until two months ago. He is survived
by a sister, Katherine Sims of Chicago, and by 14 children.
"We try and make everybody feel good," he once told an
interviewer for the African American Music Collection at
the University of Michigan. "I don't want you to come in
with your handkerchief in your hand and leave with your
handkerchief in your hand, I want you to leave and feel
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