The Jelly Roll All-Stars are a rare group of musicians comprised of some of the upper echelon of classic blues session men from the Golden Age of the genre: Calvin “Fuzz” Jones (Bass) and multiple Blues Music Award winner Willie “Big Eyes” Smith (drums/vocals) were the rhythm section for blues great Muddy Waters for nearly two decades; son of Robert Nighthawk, Sam Carr (drums) who played with the Jelly Roll Kings and the Delta Jukes and performed behind Sonny Boy Williamson II in the 1950’s; and Arthur Williams (vocals/harp) who shared stages with Elmore James and Junior Wells.
Arthur Williams: Born in Tunica, MS in 1937, Arthur is one of the few remaining authentic Delta-style blues harp masters. While growing up in Chicago, Williams carefully listened to the records and radio broadcasts of his two idols, Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter. He went on to play with Elmore James, Eddie Taylor, James Cotton, Junior Wells, and the great Muddy Waters. Arthur’s harp prowess on Frank Frost’s 1966 album earned the respect of legions of music critics and fellow blues men and, after moving to St. Louis, he recorded and toured with Big Bad Smitty. An incredibly gifted harmonica player, Williams is finally achieving long-overdue recognition as a world-class musician.
Sam Carr: Sam has lived the blues. When he was 8 or 9 years old his father, legendary blues man Robert Nighthawk, would take him along on gigs. Sam, dressed to the nines and looking sharp would dance and perform in front of the band and during breaks. Now in his 70’s he’s still that same showman with more energy than men half his age! Sam is known for his relationship with Frank Frost; they’ve been together since childhood and, when it comes to blues fans, their names are inseparable. While doing gigs up and down “Blues Highway” they joined up with Sonny Boy Williamson and became his last backing band. They’re best-known, however, for their work in The Jelly Roll Kings. It’s no wonder Sam has consistently been chosen as Best Blues Drummer in Living Blues Magazine.
Calvin “Fuzz” Jones: Born in 1926 in Greenwood, MS, bassist Fuzz Jones has been a longtime collaborator with drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. The two spent nearly two decades with Muddy Waters’ band and continued that legacy by forming The Legendary Blues Band. Jones’ rhythm combined with Smith’s traditional “shuffle” style helped shape the “Chicago Blues Sound”, as it is known today.
Willie “Big Eyes” Smith: Willie Smith was born in Helena, AK in 1936. At the age of 17 he ventured to Chicago where he saw his first Muddy Waters performance. He was so taken by the music that he immediately bought a harmonica and started playing along with various blues records. Willie got to know Muddy and it was Muddy who inspired Willie to learn drums from Freddy Below, Waters’ drummer. In 1954 Willie formed a trio and began gigging at various clubs. The following year he was asked to perform with Bo Diddley. He turned him down but did consent to play drums on Diddley’s seminal hit “Diddy Wah Diddy.” In 1956 Willie was playing harmonica for Arthur “Big Boy” Spires but soon returned to drumming, playing in Little Hudson’s Red Devil Trio. Shortly after, Muddy asked Willie to join his band as an understudy to drummer “Mojo” Buford. Willie replaced Buford in the studio within a year and gigged with the band until 1960. Lean times followed and Willie found himself working in a restaurant and collecting welfare until one night when he went to hear Muddy and asked to sit in. The next day, Muddy asked him to rejoin his band. After performing with Waters, Smith co-founded the Legendary Blues Band with Pinetop Perkins, Louis Meyers, Calvin Jones, and Jerry Portnoy. The group won six Grammy awards, recorded four critically-acclaimed albums on the Ichiban label, backed up Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf and Junior Wells, plus toured with Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. In 2011 Willie “Big Eyes” Smith passed leaving behind a musical legacy that will last forever. We feel incredibly honored that one of his last recorded works was Must Be Jelly.
Must Be Jelly (Severn CD-0029, © 2004)