And This is Maxwell Street


Junior Wells talks about Maxwell Street
(Excerpt from an interview with Tokyo-based blues writer Allan Murphy.)

Along with blues fans around the world
we mourn the recent death of Junior Wells.


Allan Murphy: You've been in Chicago through the "golden period," the fifties...

Junior Wells: Yeah.

AM: ...and you've played with just about everybody. I wonder if you ever went down to Maxwell St.?

JW: Yes, I played on Maxwell Street a couple of times--me and Little Walter Jacobs. Yeah, we used to get together, go down on there Sunday morning and play. And Muddy Waters, he didn't appreciate it because he said that me and Walter was only doing one thing: making him look bad, 'cause we was down there playing in the streets. But, at that time union scales wasn't but twelve dollars and fifty cents a night. And me and Walter could go over there on Sunday morning and we come [away] with a couple of hundred dollars in our pocket.

AM: You could do well on Maxwell Street?

JW: Sure! Because everybody that come from abroad wanting to see what "Jew Town" was like and they come around looking for deals. And we'd be out there playin'. So, we just do one thing; we always try to get that right spot. You could give a guy an extension cord and he'd plug it in and put it out on the street for ya. You'd give him ten or eleven dollars, or whatever. And we'd play. We just lay the hat down there and people come around.

AM: It must've been a big hat!

JW: [Laughs] Well, we'd clean it out every now and then, and put it back down.

AM: Maxwell Street's gone now, as you know. But, Johnny Young would play...

JW: I know Johnny Young, yeah.

AM: And Carey Bell?

JW: I know Carey that used to play down there, yeah.

AM: And, Houston Stackhouse?

JW: I don't know. I can't say that one.

AM: Early in the fifties, you knew Robert Nighthawk...

JW: Well, I used to go and do some sitting in with Robert Nighthawk when he were playing at the 708 Club in Chicago.

AM: What was he like?

JW: He was a tremendous slideman. I never saw him do anything other than play the slide. I never just saw him just use his hand. He always used a slide. He had a little-bitty drummer we called "Shorty". He was about that high [hand gesture]. And he was his drummer. That's all he had was a slide guitar and a drummer.

AM:That's why I like "(Gonna Move To) Kansas City."

JW: [Laughs]


Interviewed by Allan Murphy. Tokyo, April 1997
© 1997 Allan Murphy. All rights reserved.


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