Mississippi Fred McDowell


photograph of Mississippi Fred McDowell & Johnny Woods

One of the most talented musicians of his time. Fred McDowell performed to large crowds all over the United States and Europe for several decades. He also spent most of his life working at a service station in Como, Mississippi, where I first approached him. This was in 1967. Fred couldn't have been more excited about doing a rcording session and insisted we hire Johnny Woods, his old friend and a local legend to accompany him on harp.
No one in the area had seen Johnny in about eight years, but Fred had heard he was back in town. Three hours on a dirt road later, we pulled up to a dialpidated shack in a town called Senatobia and found Johnny Woods - whom I later found to be a cordial, gentle man, forty-something, one hell of a harp player - passed out on the front porch. Crammed inside the two-room house were fifteen or twenty men boisterously enjoying their Sunday afternoon, drinking and shooting craps. ''Hey. Shake 'Em, what you doing?'' they greeted Fred, who is best known in the area for his performance of ''Shake 'Em on Down''. When Fred stat down with his guitar and a bottleneck, everyone joined in. A couple of songs later, Woods dragged himself in, still in a haze so thick you could see it in his eyes. He started rummaging through his pockets for his harmonica, and when Fred launched into ''Shake 'Em on Down'', Johnny's shrill harmonica joined the whang of the guitar to make a sound powerful enough to bring the walls down. We arranged for Woods to meet us at Fred's house the following evening.
Woods never showed that night, so we spent the next few days trying to track him down. We finally found him at a barbeque, stopped behind a car sneaking a swig from a friend's bottle of corn. Woods agreed to go right then to a nearby house to record. It was hard to belive that these two men had not played together in eight years. No practice was necessary; there were no second takes. They sat facing each other while Fred gave Johnny instructions under his breath. The veins in Fred's face bulged as he sang and played, and the spit dropped from Johnny's harmonica which might as well have been a natural extension of his mouth. It is an honest of the greatest living blues men together, on tape, for you and the rest of the world to hear --- George Mitchell notes on the CD: Mississippi Fred McDowell & Johnny Woods - Mama Says I'm Crazy , 1967 Read more about Mississippi Fred McDowell on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

Gear used by Mississippi Fred McDowell

Mississippi Fred McDowell electric guitars

Mississippi Fred McDowell links

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Mississippi Fred McDowell gear

Various acoustics but best known playing an electric Italian built thinline Crucianelli hollow body.