Born: 1937 | Died: May 5, 2010 Primary Instrument: Vocal
Born William Johnson in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936, Willie Pooch made his first instrument as a small boy by nailing four strands of baling wire on the side of his house.
His singing career started in church a few years later.
At the age of eight, Willie was performing with a variety of Gospel groups, including the 'Spirit of Memphis Quartet' and the 'Gospel Travelers'. Blessed with a strong voice and a healthy, playful childhood, Willie's musical upbringing began to have some unique ties as a young boy--as one of his 'playmates' just happened to be none other than Elvis Presley, yes, 'thee' Elvis!
I remember playin' baseball with Elvis, Willy notes, there was always something different about that boyŠalways somethin' differentŠ
Elvis Presley became Elvis.
Willie went to Chicago.
When he was thirteen Willie and his family moved to Chicago's Southside where Willie's gospel roots budded blues flowers. Studying with Luther Allison, Willie began his dream of becoming the next great Blues singer. Willie worked in the stockyards during the day and played blues at night, meeting and playing with many blues legends.
Willie recalls one of his first significant jobs, I remember bein' twenty-one (21) and switching from lead guitar to bass so I could perform with blues greats like Hound Dog Taylor, Elmore James, Luther Allison, Magic Sam & Muddy Waters, yeah, yeah, Muddy.
During the '50s Willie lived the Blues - day-in, day out - in Chicago, or on a tour in the Midwest. Willie 'felt' what real blues were, he felt where they came from, and he understood why and how they were sang.
There's lots of blues to be learned out on the road, Willie notes. Three months at a time, five guys in a beat-up station wagon, Chevrolet station wagon I believe it was... I tell you that'll teach a guy a lot about the blues.
In 1962 Willie was traveling with Kansas City Red when Sam's Bar & Grill in Columbus Ohio recruited him to be their house band and where he very affectionately became known as the Godfather of Blues.
Godfather of Blues at night, and during the day: it was the Buckeye Steel Mill (Buckeye Still Mill Blues pays tribute), a job he held for 30 years and 30 days until his retirement in 1999.
A passionate worker, a passionate musician, and a passionate blues man that, through the 'direction' of Louis Tsamous (drummer and musical director for this project) hooked up with the incredibly 'gifted'-great, Tony Monaco (also from Columbus and influenced greatly by the Columbus 'chitlin' scene of great jazz organists such as Hank Marr and Don Patterson).
I just perform differently with Tony, describes Willie. He brings out the best in me, that's all I can say.
With influences of the great Jimmy Smith combined with so many other great organists, Tony has evolved into 'thee' funk/groove master with an enormously bright soul and a passion for the organ and its history, and preserving that history, which is and remains the 'heart' of Chicken Coup Records. Tony's story is a remarkable one and his playing is incredible...
(If you don't know of Tony Monaco, please, discover him now. A good start, if you 'dig' this recording, would be Fiery Blues [Willie sings a few songs on it].)
The recipe then, thus far: Willie's 'budded' blues from gospel roots mixed with Monaco 'soul' and his remarkable funk/groove vibe and jazz roots--combine that with the groovin' blues guitar playing of Rick Collura, and the superb drumming, musical direction and leadership of prodigal drummer Louis Tsamous who has become one of the most versatile and active musicians in America.
Louis has toured Europe and the Caribbean and has recorded and performed with jazz artists Stanley Turrentine, Etta Jones, Jimmy McGriff, Dr. Lonnie Smith, David Fathead Newman, Joey DeFrancesco, and of course, the great Tony Monaco--among others. He is currently touring and recording with the jazz organ sensation Monaco and is featured on five recordings on the Summit and Chicken Coup record labels.