Part of Wolf’s appeal was his guitarist, Hubert Sumlin. An inventive player, he could move from distorted, gut-bucket noise to dexterous runs — all in a few seconds. For my money, he was the best of the blues guitarists, and his influence can be heard in the blues-based rock bands of the mid-1960s.
A few days later, again in my car, I was playing a compilation CD of various artists that came with a music magazine. One of the tracks was a Bo Diddley number I’d never heard, “Nursery Rhyme.” It’s Bo at his best — witty lyrics and his trademark shave-and-a-haircut, two-bits, rhythm guitar. Some criticize Bo because so many of his songs were built on that rhythm guitar pattern (the same charge is leveled against classic reggae) but sometimes no one scratches the rock ’n’ roll itch better than Bo.
Driving down the road, with Bo Diddley providing the beat, I started thinking about all these great players and what might have come of pairing them with players from various musical eras. Here’s my daydream line-up for a rock band for the ages:
The guitarists I’ve mentioned. I’d have Diddley on rhythm and Sumlin on lead. Together, I think they would have made a mighty, thundering wall of sound.
Now, for a rhythm section. I didn’t have to think very hard about the bassist. It would be David Hood from the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. His versatility is amazing, and anyone who’s heard him play live with the Decoys knows just how good he is. For further evidence of his skill, see the dozens of hit records he’s played on.
I had to think about the drummer for a while because there are so many good ones in the rock and soul canons. Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones? A definite contender. Al Jackson Jr., of Booker T and the MG’s and Al Green fame? Definitely.
But again, it came down to versatility, and that means the first choice would be Roger Hawkins, also of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. There ain’t nothing this guy can’t play, and he has the gold and platinum records on his wall to prove it.
Keyboardist was an easy choice: Spooner Oldham. The Muscle Shoals veteran is equally at home with rock, deep soul and country, and has toured recently with Neil Young and the Drive-By Truckers. Oh yeah, he can write hit songs, too.
Brittany Howard is my choice for singer. The voice of the Alabama Shakes is big and soulful enough to hold her own with these veterans.
Staff Writer Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.