Magic Sam


musical style: 

photograph of Magic Sam

Magic Sam (Samuel Gene Maghett, February 14, 1937 – December 1, 1969) was an American Chicago blues musician. He was born in Grenada, Mississippi, and learned to play the blues from listening to records by Muddy Waters and Little Walter. After moving to Chicago at the age of 19, he was signed by Cobra Records and became well known as a bluesman after the release of his first record, "All Your Love", in 1957. He was known for his distinctive tremolo guitar playing.

Magic Sam moved to Chicago in 1956, where his guitar playing earned him bookings at blues clubs on the West Side. He recorded singles for Cobra Records from 1957 to 1959, including "All Your Love" and "Easy Baby". They did not reach the record charts but had a profound influence, far beyond Chicago's guitarists and singers. Together with recordings by Otis Rush and Buddy Guy (also Cobra artists), they were a manifesto for a new kind of blues. Around this time Magic Sam worked briefly with Homesick James Williamson.

Magic Sam gained a following before being drafted into the U.S. Army. He served six months in prison for desertion and received a dishonorable discharge.

In 1963, he gained national attention for his single "Feelin' Good (We're Gonna Boogie)". He successfully toured the U.S., Britain and Germany. He was signed to Delmark Records in 1967, for which he recorded West Side Soul and Black Magic. He continued performing live and toured with blues harp player Charlie Musselwhite and Sam Lay.

Magic Sam's breakthrough performance was at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969, which won him many bookings in the U.S. and Europe.

His career was cut short when he suddenly died of a heart attack in December 1969. He was 32 years old. He is buried in the Restvale Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois. In February 1970, the Butterfield Blues Band played at a benefit concert for Magic Sam, at Fillmore West in San Francisco. Also on the bill were Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite and Nick Gravenites.

His guitar style, vocals, and songwriting have inspired and influenced many blues musicians. In the film The Blues Brothers, Jake Blues dedicates the band's performance of "Sweet Home Chicago" to the "late, great Magic Sam".

The stage name Magic Sam was devised by Sam's bass player and childhood friend Mack Thompson at Sam's first recording session for Cobra as an approximation of "Maghett Sam". The name Sam was using at the time, Good Rocking Sam, was already being used by another artist.

"Magic Sam had a different guitar sound," said his record producer, Willie Dixon. "Most of the guys were playing the straight 12-bar blues thing, but the harmonies that he carried with the chords was a different thing altogether. This tune "All Your Love", he expressed with such an inspirational feeling with his high voice. You could always tell him, even from his introduction to the music."

Awards and recognition
1982, Blues Foundation Blues Music Award for Magic Sam Live in the category Vintage or Reissue Album of the Year (US)
1982, Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, induction as Performer
1984, Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, West Side Soul selected in the category Classics of Blues Recordings – Albums
1990, Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, Black Magic selected in the category Classics of Blues Recordings –

Partial album discography

1967West Side SoulDelmarkRecorded Chicago, 1967
1968Black MagicDelmarkRecorded Chicago, 1968
1969Raw Blues Live 1969Rock Beat RecordsRecorded in Berkeley, Calif., 1969
1980The Late Great Magic SamL+RRecorded 1963–64, 1969
1981Magic Sam LiveDelmarkRecorded live in Chicago, 1963–64, and Ann Arbor, 1969
1981Magic TouchBlack MagicRecorded live in Chicago, 1966
1989The Magic Sam LegacyDelmarkOuttakes and alternate takes recorded in Chicago, 1966–68
1991Give Me TimeDelmarkSolo demo and rehearsal home recordings, 1968
2001With a Feeling – The Complete Cobra, Chief & Crash Recordings 1957–1966WestsideMost pre-Delmark recordings; also available as Out of Luck, P-Vine, 2003
2002Rockin' Wild in ChicagoDelmarkRecorded live in Chicago, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1968
2008Genius: The Final SessionsIntermediaPreviously unreleased
2013Live at the Avant Garde June 22, 1968DelmarkRecorded live at the Avant Garde coffeehouse, Milwaukee, June 22, 1968 Read more about Magic Sam on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

Gear used by Magic Sam

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