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Little Brother Montgomery -- Prisoner Bound Blues

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Uploaded on Jan 2, 2012

Born Eurreal Montgomery, April 18, 1906, Kentwood, LA; (died September 6, 1985, Champaign, IL); second wife, Janet Floberg.

Little Brother Montgomery was one of the most versatile pianists to emerge from the blues. Although he never achieved the fame of musicians like Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim, or Otis Spann all of whose playing was shaped early on by contact with Montgomery he was as comfortable playing New Orleans jazz or boogie-woogie as straight blues. His career in music stretched from the earliest years of recorded blues in the 1920s until the mid-1980s. But his playing, in particular his unaccompanied piano work, possesses timelessness, virtuosity, a serenity rare in any music. Little Brother Montgomery performances, right up until his death in 1985, were much more than mere blues shows. They transported the listener back to the New Orleans of the 1920s and made that old music sound as fresh as when it was first invented.

Eurreal Montgomery was the fifth of ten children five girls and five boys born to Harper and Dicy Montgomery. The family home in Kentwood Louisiana was located in the middle of timber country, and Harper ran a honky-tonk where logging workers gathered on weekends to drink, dance, gamble and listen to music. Most all of the Montgomerys were musical. Harper played clarinet, and Dicy played accordion and organ. Eurreal's brothers and sisters all learned to play piano to one degree or another. His brother Tollie made a record with him in the 1960s and brother Joe followed Eurreal to Chicago and performed regularly there in clubs and on record in the 1950s and 1960s. Little Brother Eurreal was called by that name almost from birth taught himself to play simple "three finger blues, as he called them, on a piano his father bought the family. "From then on," he told his biographer Karl Gert zur Heide, "I just created simple things on my own until later I got large enough and went to hear older people play like Rip Top, Loomis Gibson, Papa Lord God."

Montgomery had plenty of opportunity to hear older musicians. Most of them passed regularly through Kentwood and played at his father's honky-tonk. He decided at a young age that he wanted to be a piano player like them and he was an eager pupil. He would stand with them as they played rags, early blues and popular songs of the time, watch what they did with their fingers, and then imitate it himself. He was especially fond of the blues pieces they played; he copied them and modified them into pieces that would later become regular parts of his repertoire. A common feature of most of these proto-blues was a rollicking walking bass carried on by the left hand. Not much later the style would be called boogie-woogie; in the 1910s, however, it went by another name. "They used to call boogie piano Dudlow Joes," bassist Willie Dixon told Gert zur Heide, "I didn't hear it called boogie till long after. If a guy played boogie piano they'd say he was a Dudlow player."

Montgomery must have been a fast learner. He claimed that he quit seventh grade, left home at the age of eleven and began playing piano for a living wherever he could. His first job was in a juke joint in Holton, Louisiana where he was paid eight dollars a week plus room and board. He worked there for six months, playing and singing from seven until ten thirty on weekday evenings, and the whole night through on weekends. Feeling more confident, he left Holton and worked for six months at a "cabaret" in Plasquemine, Louisiana, where he earned ten dollars a night plus room and board. After that, he then moved on to Ferriday, Louisiana where he was paid $15 a night plus room and board. Within a year the pre-teen had doubled his earning power. More importantly, in Ferriday he made the acquaintance of two older piano players, Long Tall Friday and Dehlco Robert.

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