As a blues harmonica player and teacher, Adam Gussow (b. 1958) has few peers in the business. Currently an Associate Professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi with a specialty in blues literature and culture, Gussow has for many years performed and recorded with Mississippi-born guitarist and one-man-band Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee as the duo Satan and Adam. After working the streets of Harlem from 1986 to 1991, Gussow and Magee duo toured internationally between 1991 and 1998. Their performing credits include the Chicago Blues Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, The King Biscuit Blues Festival, the Kansas City Jazz & Blues Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival and RiverBlues Festival, and more, along with hundreds of club gigs. They released two albums on Flying Fish Records, including the W. C. Handy-nominated Harlem Blues (1991) and Mother Mojo (1993). Later releases include Living on the River (1996) and, on the Modern Blues Harmonica label, Word on the Street: Harlem Recordings, 1989 (2008).
In 1996 Satan and Adam were the cover story in Living Blues magazine; Gussow was, according to editor David Nelson, "the first white blues musician to be so prominently spotlighted in the magazine's 26-year history." Gussow was one of the first amplified blues harp players, in the late 1980s to make overblows a key element of his stylistic approach, adapting Howard Levy's innovations in a way that helped usher in a new generation of overblow masters such as Jason Ricci and Chris Michalek. According to a reviewer for American Harmonica Newsletter, Gussow's playing is characterized by "technical mastery and innovative brilliance that comes along once in a generation."
In his new solo release, Kick and Stomp (2010), Gussow takes a cue from his Harlem mentor and does it all as a one-man band—singing, blowing amplified harp, and stomping out some thump-and-metal grooves. Ranging from old school blues like “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” “Poor Boy,” and “Goin’ Down South,” to Cream’s blues-rock standard, “Sunshine of Your Love,” and their power-trio version of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads Blues,” all the way to a techno/house remake of Stanley Turrentine’s soul-jazz classic, “Sugar,” Gussow’s album surprises. His original instrumentals mix sanctified Mississippi two-beats, hard bop (Art Blakey), and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s big-beat shuffles. The album concludes with a dazzling solo workout on Scott Joplin’s ragtime standard, “The Entertainer.”
Gussow is known to harmonica students around the world as a result of his "dirty-South blues harp channel" at YouTube and his pioneering offerings in the field of digital-download video tutorials at his website, Modern Blues Harmonica. Gussow's other musical credits include a stint with the bus-and-truck tour of Big River; several decades as a blues harmonica instructor at The Guitar Study Center in New York and in private practice; and a nine-time coach at Jon Gindick's Blues Harmonica Jam Camps. He’s released two albums on the Modern Blues Harmonica label with guitarist Charlie Hilbert: Blues Classics (2007) and Live in Klingenthal (2008). He's headlined the Mundharmonika-Live festival in Klingenthal, Germany (2008) and has taught at Blues Week in the UK (2008). In the spring of 2010, Gussow added a new credit line to his resume´ as the creator and promoter of Hill Country Harmonica, a two-day intensive that drew more than 100 players from 30 states and 7 foreign countries to Foxfire Ranch in north Mississippi to study with Billy Branch, Billy Gibson, Johnny Sansone, and other top pros.
An award-winning scholar and memoirist, Gussow is the author of three blues-themed books: Mister Satan's Apprentice: A Blues Memoir (1998; reissued in 2009); Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition (2002); and Journeyman's Road: Modern Blues Lives From Faulkner's Mississippi to Post-9/11 New York (2007).
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