James Cotton: “Going Down Main Street”
Today just so happens to be legendary harmonica player James Cotton‘s 76th birthday. He grew up with a harmonica in his hand (he got one as a Christmas present as a kid; it cost his father 15 cents), listening to radio shows like King Biscuit Time on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas, across the river from his home in Tunica, Mississippi. It was on that station he first heard Sonny Boy Williamson, the most notable mouth-harp player at the time.
By the time Cotton was 9 years old, both his parents had passed away, and his uncle took him to meet his idol, Williamson. When the two met, Cotton broke out his harmonica and played Sonny Boy’s theme song note-for-note. Cotton says they were like father and son from then on.
The bluesman played to packed clubs throughout the seventies, and signed on to Clifford Antone’s Antone’s Records in the late eighties for the release of a Grammy nominated live album, recorded at Antone’s legendary blues club. He finally took home a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1996 for Deep in the Blues.
Despite throat radiation and surgery, Cotton continues to record new material and tour. He was in Austin not long ago and dropped by KUT to perform some new material live. “Going Down Main Street” originally appears on the 2010 release, Giant, and showcases Cotton’s distinct harmonica virtuosity.