In the shadow of blues guitar greats including Albert Collins, Freddie King and Buddy Guy, Luther Allison enjoyed critical acclaim and a growing audience in what proved to be the final years of his life. He passed away today in 1997.
Lung cancer claimed the life of blues guitarist Luther Allison, who died at the age of 57.
Arkansas born, Luther moved to Chicago with his family in 1951 and learnt to play in the illustrious company of Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters and Freddie King – melding their influences into his own style.
Beginning his musical career with The Four Jivers (originally known as The Rolling Stones when they formed 1957), Luther played and recorded both in Chicago and also on the West Coast of the USA, releasing his first long-player, “Love Me Mama” on Delmark in 1969.
After a mixed spell with Motown Records, Allison relocated to France in 1977 , settling in Paris. A regular performer at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Luther continued to release albums for the European market, notably with Ruf Records – a label established by his manager, Thomas Ruf.
Luther’s 1994 release “Soul Fixin’ Man” did much to re-establish his name in his homeland however, on the back of some extensive touring. That and the follow-up release “Blue Streak” saw him collect a clutch of WC Handy Awards, while 1997′s “Reckless” saw him receive a Grammy nomination and another slew of Handy’s.
However, that studio recording and a live set from the Montreal Jazz Festival in July 1997 proved to be his epitaph. Just days after a storming show captured him in fine form – replete with his trademark incendiary guitar licks – he complained of feeling unwell and was soon diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
Within a month Luther had passed away, just days before his 58th birthday. His youngest son, Bernard, carries on the family tradition and appropriately enough records for Ruf – having learnt his trade playing in his father’s band.
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And here’s some footage of Luther in action: