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Luther Allison

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Luther Allison (born 17 August 1939 in Widener, AR, died 12 August 1997 in Madison, WI) was an American blues guitarist. His powerful guitar work – equal parts traditional blues string-bending and wall-shaking rock ‘n roll – is matched in energy only by his soul-deep vocals. His live shows (often clocking in at well over three hours) are the stuff of legend.

He was born in Widener, Arkansas (the 14th of 15 musically gifted children) first connected to the blues at age ten, when he began playing the diddley bow (a wire attached by nails to a wall with rocks for bridges and a bottle to fret the wire). His family migrated to Chicago in 1951, and Luther began soaking in the sounds of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Robert Nighthawk. He was classmates with Muddy Waters’ son and occasionally stopped in the Waters’ house to watch the master rehearse. It wasn’t until he was 18 already in Chicago for seven years that Luther began playing blues on a real guitar and jamming with his brother Ollie’s band. He began hanging outside blues clubs with the hopes of being invited to perform. He played with Howlin’ Wolf’s band and backed up James Cotton.

By 1957, Allison had dropped out of school and formed a band called The Rolling Stones. Unhappy with the name, they became The Four Jivers, gigging all over the West Side of Chicago. Before long, Luther was jamming with the West Side’s best, including Magic Sam, Otis Rush, and Freddie King, who encouraged Allison to sing.

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