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After moving to Chicago in 1950, his guitar playing earned bookings at blues clubs on Chicago's West Side. Sam recorded for Cobra Records from 1957 to 1959, recording singles including "All Your Love" and "Easy Baby". They did not appear on the record charts, yet they had a profound influence, far beyond Chicago's guitarists and singers. Together with recordings by Otis Rush and Buddy Guy (also Cobra artists), they made a manifesto for a new kind of blues. Around this time Sam also worked briefly with Homesick James Williamson. Sam gained a following before being drafted into the Army. Not a natural soldier, Sam deserted after a couple of weeks' service and was subsequently caught and sentenced to six months imprisonment. He was given a dishonorable discharge on release, but the experience had undermined his confidence and immediate recordings for Mel London's Chief Records lacked the purpose of their predecessors.
In 1963, he gained national attention for his single "Feelin' Good (We're Gonna Boogie)". After successfully touring the US, Britain and Germany, he was signed to Delmark Records in 1967 where he recorded West Side Soul and Black Magic. He also continued performing live and toured with blues harp player Charlie Musselwhite and Sam Lay.
Sam's breakthrough performance was at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969, which won him many bookings in the U.S. and Europe. His life and career was cut short when he suddenly died of a heart attack in December 1969. He was 32 years old. He was buried in the Restvale Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. In February 1970, the Butterfield Blues Band played at a benefit concert for Magic Sam, at Fillmore West in San Francisco. Also on the bill were Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite and Nick Gravenites.
His guitar style, vocals, and songwriting ability have inspired and influenced many blues musicians ever since. In The Blues Brothers, Jake Blues dedicates the band's performance of "Sweet Home Chicago" to the "late, great Magic Sam".
The stage name Magic Sam was devised by Sam's bass player and childhood friend Mack Thompson at Sam's first recording session for Cobra as an approximation of "Maghett Sam". The name Sam was using at the time, Good Rocking Sam, was already being used by another artist.
"Magic Sam had a different guitar sound," said his record producer, Willie Dixon. "Most of the guys were playing the straight 12-bar blues thing, but the harmonies that he carried with the chords was a different thing altogether. This tune "All Your Love", he expressed with such an inspirational feeling with his high voice. You could always tell him, even from his introduction to the music."Wide ThumbClearartFanartBanner User Comments