Here at Paste Music, we spend each day sorting through new albums to review, interviewing musicians, making compelling lists, and telling our readers about the songs they need to hear on any given day. But our first love has always been live music—the magic that happens when great artists create something spontaneous out of thin air and move people with it. That’s why, together with our sister sites Concert Vault, Wolfgangs and Daytrotter, we’ve spent so much time and effort acquiring and digitizing the world’s largest archive of live recordings—hundreds of thousands of concerts going back more than 50 years, including the archives of legendary promoter Bill Graham, the Newport Jazz and Newport Folk festivals, the old King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show, and our ongoing daily recording projects at Paste Studio in New York and Daytrotter Studios in Davenport, Iowa.
The entire vault, with exclusive audio and video recordings stretching from 1959 all the way to 2017, is available for free streaming here at Paste.com, and our mission is to make sure our music-loving readers explore every corner of it. We do it every day with regular peeks at live recordings by, say, Jimi Hendrix in 1968, or Run-DMC in 1984, or LCD Soundsystem in 2007. But there’s so much more to watch and hear! So this week, we’re taking a genre-by-genre deep dive into the archive and pulling out some of our most precious gems for your enjoyment.
Today, we’re starting with the blues because, well, that’s where rock ‘n’ roll started. (You can read our recent list of the 15 Greatest Delta Blues Songs here.) We have incredible unique recordings by old masters like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mississippi Fred McDowell; ‘60s-era revivalists like Taj Mahal and The Rolling Stones; and modern giants like Gary Clark Jr. and Marcus King. Check out these amazing performances by five monumental blues artists, and come back tomorrow for another curated odyssey through the world’s greatest archive of live music.
Here’s slide-guitar master Son House, one of the original Delta bluesmen, performing “Death Letter Blues” (later adapted by, among others, The White Stripes) in 1968 at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles. From 1958 to 1973, club owner Ed Pearl made the Ash Grove the West Coast mecca of American roots music, presenting new lions of the exploding folk scene like Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Joan Baez and Kris Kristofferson, as well as revitalized and rediscovered blues pioneers like Muddy Waters, Bukka White, Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon. You can find hundreds of recordings from the Ash Grove in the vault.
Let’s jump ahead 13 years for a collaboration between mentor and pupils: Muddy Waters with The Rolling Stones. On Nov. 22, 1981, the touring Stones had a night off in Chicago and decided to stop in to the Checkerboard Lounge to catch Waters’s show. Before the night was through, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ron Wood (not to mention Buddy Guy and Junior Wells) were onstage with Waters and his band. The recording of this historic meeting eventually became the live album, Checkerboard Lounge: Live Chicago 1981. Listen to Muddy and the Stones on “Got My Mojo Working.”
Four years later, Texas guitar-slinger Stevie Ray Vaughan was busy grabbing the baton from the electric gods of the 1970s and carrying it into a new era for blues-rooted rock music. With the raw power of Johnny Winter and the dexterity of Jimi Hendrix, Vaughan was a destroyer of any stage he took. Watch this video of Vaughan and Double Trouble ripping through “Ain’t Gone ‘N Give Up on Love” on Sept. 21, 1985. You can also find audio recordings of his momentous 1983 Texas Flood tour here.
A generation later, another Texan, Gary Clark Jr., emerged as the most natural 21st-century heir to Hendrix and Vaughan. On April 18, 2012, Clark visited the Daytrotter Studio to play the entirety of his 2010 The Bright Lights EP. Listen to the title track below. Over the past decade, more than 7,000 artists have made some 31,000 unique recordings at Daytrotter’s Horseshack Studios in Davenport, Iowa, from HAIM to Glen Campbell to Spoon. You can find them all in the vault.
Finally, here at the Paste Studio in New York City, we’re recording about 10 bands every week and adding them to the archive as we go. Just recently, we’ve hosted Steve Martin, Lady Antebellum, Nai Palm, Bill Frisell and Tank & the Bangas. In August, we were proud to host Taj Mahal and Keb Mo for some songs from their brand new joint record, Tajmo. Let’s bring our journey through the blues full circle with their version of “Diving Duck Blues,” which traces back to original master Sleepy John Estes in the 1930s.
Stay tuned tomorrow for another dive into the Vault with a tour through the voluminous collection of jazz recordings. Enjoy!