Friday Song: “Walkin’ Blues”

A classic blues piece from 1930, a superstar in the corner of a BBQ restaurant in Massachusetts — and magic!

Friday Song: “Walkin’ Blues”

Born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in Worcester, MA, Joanna Connor knew music was her future when she hear Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly” at age 2, singing along with it every time it came on the radio. In Worcester, she was surrounded by a strong and diverse musical landscape, memorably seeing Buddy Guy at a local college when she was 10 included. (Worcester remains a hot spot for music, by the way, even more interesting than Boston these days.)

Connor learned to sing and play the saxophone and guitar. She began performing professionally when she was 17. Connor was in her early 20s when she moved to Chicago and discovered that city’s renowned blues scene. Rising through the ranks with her rich voice and amazing guitar skills, she joined the house band of the Checkerboard Lounge, then owned by none other than Buddy Guy. In addition to Guy, Connor performed with Junior Wells, Otis Rush, A.C. Reed, Sammy Lawhorn, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Magic Slim, Son Seals, Lonnie Brooks, and Koko Taylor.

She has toured internationally, performing with many other artists across genres, including Luther Allison, BB King, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Robben Ford, Danny Gatton, Robert Cray, Jimmy Page, ZZ Top, Joe Cocker, and Etta James. She also had a 15-year residency at the House of Blues in Chicago.

A few years ago, Joe Bonamassa sought her out and offered to produce a record he thought she deserved. Released in 2021, 4801 South Indiana Avenue garnered critical acclaim and reached #1 on the Billboard Charts in the Blues category. It is a scorching hot record, based on my first listen this week.

This year, Connor was nominated for a Blues Music Award for her guitar playing.

“Walkin’ Blues” is an American blues standard, written and recorded in 1930 by Son House. While not released by House, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson recorded and released their own versions. The song has received numerous modifications over time, and proved a great bed for improvisation and interaction.

Proving that superstars are superstars even in the most humble of surroundings, Connor performed the version here in the corner yard of a BBQ restaurant in Norwood, MA. The video has millions of views on YouTube.

Connor is now on tour — including a stop in Norwood, again.

I might just go see her.

Enjoy!



Bonus

“Destination,” the opening track from 4801 South Indiana Avenue: