T-Bone Walker's 'Stormy Monday' T-Bone Walker swung the blues, made his guitar cry like no one else and wrote a classic in "Call It Stormy Monday." The Library of Congress agrees.
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T-Bone Walker's 'Stormy Monday'

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T-Bone Walker's 'Stormy Monday'

T-Bone Walker's 'Stormy Monday'

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

We'll turn now to history, specifically history you can hear. The Library of Congress keeps audio echoes of the past in its National Recording Registry. And every year since 2002, it's added 50 pieces to the collection. Tonight producer Ben Manila starts a series spotlighting a few of this year's entries. First up, the 1947 blues standard "Call It Stormy Monday" written and performed by Aaron T-Bone Walker.

Walker was born in 1910 in Texas. He spent time as a dancer in a traveling medicine show and a member of Cab Calloway's band before he created the gold standard for modern electric guitar. We have three cast members to tell the story of "Call it Stormy Monday." There's the musician.

Mr. DUKE ROBILLARD (Blues Musician): My name is Duke Robillard, and I'm a guitar player, singer, songwriter, and producer.

LYDEN: The king of the blues.

Mr. B.B. KING (Blues Musician): I'm B.B. King. I play the guitar, and I call it Lucille. I'm a blues singer, blues musician.

LYDEN: And the offspring.

Ms. BERNITA RUTH WALKER: My name is Bernita Ruth Walker. I am the daughter of Aaron "T-Bone" Walker, Sr. I was born in 1946, the year that he actually wrote they "Call it Stormy Monday."

(Soundbite of song "Call it Stormy Monday")

Mr. AARON T-BONE WALKER (Blues Musician): (Singing) They call it stormy Monday, But Tuesday's just as bad.

Ms. WALKER: What makes "Stormy Monday" vital today is it's so befitting for many of our lives that we go through. You know, Monday morning, most people don't want to get up to go to work because they've had a great time over the weekend. And now they've got to hit that nine to five. And as it progressed, you know, Tuesday is just as bad, Wednesday is worse because that's the hump day. And Thursday is also sad.

Mr. KING: Also sad. The eagle flies on Friday. The eagle flies on Friday means that he gets paid.

(Soundbite of song "Call it Stormy Monday")

Mr. WALKER: (Singing) Yes, the eagle flies on Friday. And Saturday I go out to play.

Mr. ROBILLARD: Meaning, they go out and party on Saturday, you know, which is still a common practice.

(Soundbite of song "Call it Stormy Monday")

Mr. WALKER: (Singing) Eagle flies on Friday, And Saturday I go out to play. Sunday I go to church, Then I kneel down and pray.

Mr. ROBILLARD: T-Bone Walker singlehandedly developed the style and way to play blues on electric guitar that was totally different than anything they had done before. He used a lot of double timing in his soloing, which at that time was something that only horn players did. You never heard a guitar player do it. Very unusual and very innovative. He'd be playing actually twice as many notes per beat. He really completely set the foundation for how blues guitar was to be played. If you talk to B.B. King, I'm sure he'll say something very similar to that.

Mr. KING: I've never heard anyone play it like him or like that before.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. KING: What makes T-Bone Walker so special, he played his guitar different from anyone else. He didn't play the guitar with the body of the guitar laying against him. He played the guitar with it turned horizontal. He would play it like that, and it looked so "today" then, if that's a good word. He was a very handsome-looking guy. He looked like an entertainer. He had that stage presence.

Ms. WALKER: And he would do the splits in time with the music that he was playing. The women would scream and holler, and even the men were clapping like, go Bone, go Bone. And I would just sit there smiling because that was my dad that was doing those great performances.

Mr. ROBILLARD: And some of the ideas that he had, developed into ideas that were important in the beginning of rock and roll guitar. Chuck Berry just took T-Bone's style and put it to a different beat.

(Soundbite of song "Johnny B. Goode")

Mr. ROBILLARD: So in essence, T-Bone was not only the first electric blues guitar player, but he was the first electric rock and roll guitar player, really. If a young guitar player comes up and he starts learning guitar off a Stevie Vaughan record or just any contemporary guitar player, he is still playing a lot of the technique that was invented by T-Bone Walker.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. KING: He had a way of bending the notes on his guitar that made it stand out from anybody else I ever heard.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. WALKER: "They Call it Stormy Monday" is one of those blues standards. At home, I have approximately nine CDs that have maybe 15 versions on each CD by different artists of that song. So it was just something that grabbed them about that song.

(Soundbite of song "Call it Stormy Monday")

Unidentified Singer #1: They call it stormy Monday, But Tuesday's just as bad.

(Soundbite of song "Call it Stormy Monday")

Unidentified Singer #2: (Singing) They call it stormy Monday, But Tuesday's just as bad.

(Soundbite of song "Call it Stormy Monday")

Unidentified Singer #3: (Singing) And Thursdays all so sad.

(Soundbite of song "Call it Stormy Monday" performed by Bobby "Blue" Bland)

Mr. BOBBY "BLUE" BLAND": (Singing) Yes, eagle flies on Friday, And Saturday I go out to play.

(Soundbite of The Allman Brothers live at The Fillmore)

Unidentified Man: While we're doing that blues thing, we're going to play this old Bobby Bland song for you. Actually, it's a T-Bone Walker song.

Mr. ROBILLARD: The guitar chord line, it's a little guitar ninth chord figure...

(Soundbite of humming)

Mr. ROBILLARD: Which is - that was like a unique thing. And it became T-Bone's signature as that little - that type of line. And that chord line, I don't know, it seems to have grabbed everybody because everybody plays it with that line in it. And it's almost like a law that you have to when you play "Stormy Monday."

(Soundbite of song "Call it Stormy Monday")

Mr. WALKER: (Singing) Crazy about my baby. Yeah, send her back to me.

LYDEN: T-Bone Walker's "Call It Stormy Monday," selected this year by the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress to be preserved for all time. Our series is produced by Ben Manila and Media Mechanics.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: Our parting words today from the nation's man of the moment, President-elect Barack Obama. "A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, huh, it works. It makes sense." That's All Things Considered from NPR News. Andrea Seabrook returns next week. I'm Jacki Lyden.

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