Arthur "Big Boy" Spires, vo/g - Johnny Young, g - Recorded October 9th, 1965 - Chicago, IL. Originally recorded by Pete Welding, and released on the LP, “Blues Scene USA, Vol. 4 - Mississippi Blues.”
We were digging through our library the other day when we stumbled upon this little gem, quite overlooked, and for some reason, as yet unplayed. When we heard it, we knew it had to be featured for this week’s installment of “Friday’s Rare Vinyl.”
Arthur “Big Boy” Spires was another great — and unheralded — Chicago blues guitarist who cut a couple of vintage 78s during the postwar heyday. A compelling vocalist with a knack for brooding and dramatic lyrics, his recorded legacy basically boils down to just two 78s — one he cut for Checker in 1952 (one of the first issues on the label, a subsidiary imprint of Chess), and another he cut for Chance Records, some ten months later, in January 1953.
On the same day he recorded for Chance, he backed up Uncle Johnny Williams, but nothing came of it (Williams was another legendary figure in the annals of Chicago blues, who became a preacher at some point after his session for Chance, and lived to the ripe old age of 99). A final session, sometime in the mid 1950s, for a financially troubled United Records also yielded nothing.
Flash forward ten years later, and we find one more session, this time held by Pete Welding, for his newly formed Testament Records. Backed up by guitarist Johnny Young, the recordings were never issued on Testament — with this one lone track winding up on an anthology from the Storyville label. According to one rumor we’ve heard, the other titles recorded that day have since gone missing.
Although the scant recorded legacy of artists like Big Boy Spires can be a frustrating thing at times — leaving us to wish for there to be a little bit more — he left his indelible mark on the history of Chicago Blues nonetheless.
Spires died in Chicago at the age of 78, in 1990. Incidentally, his son, Bud Spires, remained in Mississippi, playing harmonica with the great Jack Owens. He recently recorded with Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, for the Broke & Hungry label.
To hear some classic down home blues from Arthur Sprires, be sure to check out Blues Unlimited #185 - Chance Records Down Home Blues at http://tinyurl.com/jqfmmsp