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Son Seals Profile

By

Son Seals

Son Seals

Photo courtesy Alligator Records

Son Seals Profile:

Born: August 13, 1942 in Osceola AR

Died: December 20, 2004 in Chicago IL

Frank "Son" Seals was a talented showman and fiery guitarist that many fans believe to be the best bluesman of the 1970s. Even as blues music was being eclipsed by the commercial growth of R&B and funk and, later, the dancefloor appeal of disco, Seals continued to stay true to his uncompromising vision of guitar-driven blues. A gruff vocalist and raw, electrifying performer, Seals' weapon was his mastery of the almighty guitar riff, which attracted an audience weaned on 1960s-era blues-rock.

The Dipsy Doodle Club

Seal's father owned a juke joint, The Dipsy Doodle Club, in Osceola, Arkansas where the young musician would watch, and later sit in with traveling blues performers like Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Nighthawk. Originally a drummer, Seals learned the basics of guitar from the great Albert King.

During a 1963 trip to Chicago, Seals performed briefly with Earl Hooker's Roadmasters. While during a 1966 stay in the Windy City, Seals sat in on drums with Albert King's band. After his father's death in 1971, Seals relocated permanently to Chicago, working for a while with Hound Dog Taylor before beginning his own band.

Livin' The Blues

While playing a Southside club, Seals was discovered by blues fan Wesley Race, who excitedly phoned Alligator Records' founder Bruce Iglauer. Holding the phone towards the stage, Iglauer was convinced by what he heard to sign Seals to a deal. Alligator released The Son Seals Blues Band album in 1973, following in 1976 with the red-hot Midnight Son. The label would release six more Seals albums over the following 20 years.

Tragically, Seals' life was beset by the blues. He outlived all but one of his 14 brothers and sisters; he was shot twice in the face by his ex-wife; and he lost a leg, and eventually his life, due to complications from diabetes. Seals lost his home to a fire, and he once had several prize guitars stolen.

Seals had a number of champions. Author Andrew Vachss was a friend who often wrote cameos for the guitarist in his novels, and even co-wrote songs for Let's Go, Seals' final album. The rock band Phish often performed Seals' songs live, exposing the bluesman to an entirely new generation.

Recommended Albums: Midnight Son is the classic Son Seals album, but the bluesman's 2000 comeback, Lettin' Go, proved to be an appropriately rockin' swansong.

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