In The Middle Of The Trail

Originally posted February 14, 2007

One of the things I like to ask friends is how they came to hear of one musician or another – what led them to, say, Long John Baldry or Bonnie Raitt? Jackson Browne or Heart? Or, to name a few more recent, how did they learn of David Gray or the Wailin’ Jennys? I’ve heard a few interesting tales over the years, many of them from my friend Rob, who was into a wider range of music than I was during our early college years. His record collection is a compendium of classic R&B and other delights over which I routinely break the commandment warning us not to covet things that belong to one’s neighbor.

(Regarding those performers listed above, for what it may be worth, I learned about David Gray and Heart from the radio and about Long John Baldry at a college radio station I worked at long ago. I learned about Jackson Browne from a college buddy, and I saw the Wailin’ Jennys on TV. Bonnie Raitt, I first heard through the walls of the hostel room where I lived during my college year in Denmark, hearing her take on Randy Newman’s “Guilty” time after time until it took on forever an aura of beer-soaked regrets and midnight grief.)

It’s not so easy to remember how I hear about a specific musician or group anymore, given the large number of artists I listen to, and – more to the point – the proliferation of ways to hear about them. About a year ago, some of my long-time buddies and I were hanging around the house, and I put Tift Merritt on the CD player. Dan asked where I’d heard about her, and all I could tell him was “I found some of her music on a website.” Both of her CD’s – Bramble Rose and Tambourine – are fine music, well worth hearing, but I couldn’t come close to remembering which website or blog tipped me off to her.

Another way one’s musical universe enlarges, of course, is from one record – or CD – to the next. If I like the production or the backing musicians on one album, I’ll look for more with the same producer or the same musicians. One artist can thus lead to another artist and onward!

And as I pondered that while I ripped today’s record, I thought that there are likely albums in my collection – most likely in everyone’s – that start trails from one artist to another, albums that are the fount of discoveries leading to more and more albums by more and more musicians. And I began to try to figure out which record in my collection had led to today’s selection, which is To Bonnie From Delaney by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. I decided it was the double album from the spring of 1972 called Clapton At His Best, a Polydor release that brought together selections from Clapton’s time with Blind Faith, his time as leader of Derek & The Dominos and from his first, self-titled, solo album.

It was the work from that solo album that got to me first, that tambourine-shakin’, root-celebratin’ sound provided by Delaney Bramlett’s production and the musicians he brought with him, the down home ’n’ gritty folks who were the Friends who recorded with Delaney & Bonnie. Over the next few years, that sound – and the sounds of Blind Faith and of Derek and the Dominos – led me to Delaney & Bonnie, to the Allman Brothers Band, to Traffic and Steve Winwood, to Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, to Boz Scaggs (via Duane Allman’s work on “Loan Me A Dime” on his posthumous anthology) and from there to the sounds of Muscle Shoals, where Scaggs recorded his first solo album and where Allman, of course, made a name for himself as part of the great crew there. And from there, the links go on and on, as I began during the late 1980s and early 1990s to buy old records and compile a pretty decent collection. So I suppose one could conclude that Clapton At His Best could be the most influential album I ever bought.

Somewhere in the trail from that Clapton album, we find To Bonnie From Delaney, a 1970 album that featured Duane Allman throughout and the Memphis Horns and Bobby Whitlock on nine of the twelve cuts. Even without the presence of many of those on the early Delaney & Bonnie records – Bobby Keys on sax and Jim Price on trumpet come to mind, as does bassist Carl Radle – the record still has that down-home groove throughout. Helping that groove along are Little Richard on piano on “Miss Ann” and King Curtis playing sax on “They Call It Rock & Roll Music.”

For whatever reason, of all of the releases by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, this one is almost impossible to find on CD. It deserves better.

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends – To Bonnie From Delaney [1970)]

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3 Responses to “In The Middle Of The Trail”

  1. ‘Riding With The Wind . . .’ « Echoes In The Wind Says:

    […] released The History of Eric Clapton. At the time, I opted for the Polydor set – I wrote about its influence on my life as a music fan some years ago – because it was the first of the two that I […]

  2. Delaney Bramlett: The Keystone « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] albums and musicians listed above. We all explore music in different ways. I wrote in one of the earlier posts on this blog about discovering in 1972 an anthology titled Clapton At His Best. The bulk of the […]

  3. ‘Dancin’ With You, Baby. . .’ « Echoes In The Wind Says:

    […] All that was interesting, and I may dig into the music of Scott and Benson, but what grabbed me – as regular readers might guess – was the song recorded by Scott and Benson as “Soulshake.” The first version I’d ever heard of the song was the 1970 cover by Delaney & Bonnie, who listed the tune as “Soul Shake” on their album To Bonnie From Delaney (an album I wrote about in early 2007; that post is here). […]

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