Wednesday, December 22, 2004

BLUESOBIT: The blues legend Son Seals died from complications relating to diabeties on Monday. He was 62.

Born in Arkansas, by the time Seals moved to Chicago in 1971 he'd already built a reputation as a formidable drummer through his work for Stax: he backed Albert King on Live Wire/Blues Power. In the second city, he moved up to fronting his own act, quickly signing to Alligator records to release The Son Seals Blues Band and Midnight Son; it was the latter which earned him the plaudit of "the most exciting young blues guitarist and singer in years" from the New York Times. What might be described as an interesting relationship with Alligator's owner (and his own manager) Bruce Iglauer saw him quit the label for a while during the 80s, but he returned home during the latter stages of his career, releasing Lettin' Go in 2000. It was a period which saw him being adopted as a figurehead by younger artists, most notably Phish, with whom he toured in a support slot.

Son put his skill down to his father's method of teaching - sweating the details over showy elaboration: "My father taught me everything from the start. Tuning the guitar, fingering. Where I wanted to be riffing around all up and down the neck right away, he'd keep me on one chord for hours, until I could feel in it in my sleep. I'd get up the next morning, grab the guitar, and I'd be right on that chord."

Iglauer recalls it was talent, rather than looks, upon which Seals built his reputation when he first reached Chicago: "Son didn't look like much in those days - a skinny young man straight from the South, with unkempt hair and pants that didn't reach his shoes. But he played and sang like his life depended on every note and word."

Seals is survived by fourteen children.