Classic Concert: Gunsmoke Blues with Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton and Big Joe Turner
By day, Link Wyler was a character actor who often appeared on TV Westerns, most notably Gunsmoke. By night, Wyler was a passionate blues fan, and in 1971, when he discovered that Muddy Waters, Big Joe Turner, Big Mama Thornton, and George “Harmonica” Smith would be making their way up the West Coast as part of a package tour, he persuaded several cameramen from Gunsmoke to pack up their camera equipment and sound gear and follow the tour for the weekend, catching up with them at a college gig in Oregon.
Gunsmoke Blues is the result, which features the long-lost footage from this weekend adventure, capturing these master blues artists in fine and funky form. Selections include “Got My Mojo Working,” “Long Distance Call,” and “Mannish Boy” Muddy Waters, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” Big Joe Turner, “Ball and Chain” Big Mama Thornton, and “Leaving Chicago” George “Harmonica” Smith.
This is a “must-see”! Just incredible all through.
Gunsmoke Blues (full concert):
1. Big Mama Thornton – Early One Morning
2. Big Mama Thornton – Ball And Chain
3. George “Harmonica” Smith – Juke
4. George “Harmonica” Smith – Leaving Chicago
5. Big Joe Turner – Hide And Seek
6. Big Joe Turner – Shake, Rattle And Roll
7. Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy
8. Muddy Waters – Long Distance Call
9. Muddy Waters – (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man
10. Muddy Waters – Got My Mojo Working
11. Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner, George “Harmonica” Smith – So Long
12. Big Mama Thornton – Hound Dog
13. Big Mama Thornton – Rock Me Baby
14. Muddy Waters – She’s Nineteen Years Old
15. Muddy Waters – Walking Thru The Park
“…The results, released here for the first time, is some of the best shot footage ever seen of these performers working their own element. Oh, 35mm cameras might’ve yielded better quality images, but in terms of where these guys placed themselves, on-stage or in the tour van, and how close they got to their subjects, and how they set up the audio feeds, this is as good a piece of work as was ever seen on Monterey Pop, and better than most other concert material of its era — it’s amazing to watch Thornton talk about writing “Ball and Chain,” and the royalty checks she gets thanks to Janis Joplin’s recording, in a segue right out of talking about her first meeting withMuddy Waters (who’s sitting right there). George “Harmonica” Smith moves almost too fast for the cameras to keep up with him. And Big Joe Turner, looking only a little less fit (and not sounding “lesser” in any way) than he did in Edward L. Cahn’s 1956 feature Shake, Rattle & Rock, is worth the price of admission by himself. And they’re just a prelude for some of the best footage ever seen onMuddy Waters, who was still playing his own guitar at the time — and superbly on “Long Distance Call” — but is so powerful a presence as a singer, that for the first time it’s easy for this reviewer to understand how Chess Records thought to make him “just” a vocalist.”
– Bruce Eder (Allmusic)