"Variations on Earl's Rumba" is The Guilty Men's tribute to one of our favorite guitarists, Earl Hooker. He's a legend among blues musicians, for peerless technique, his clean slide guitar style as well as his fluid single string picking (his playing is also respected outside the blues community - master Celtic/Folk/Rock guitarist Richard Thompson told me that Earl Hooker was one of his favorite guitarists - now, that's high praise!). From his earliest recordings at Sun Records, through the many tracks he cut for King, Chess, Argo, Checker, Chief, Arhoolie, Blue Thumb, both as a solo artist and as sideman (for Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells, Charles Brown and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee to name a few), Earl Hooker displayed how he was, in writer Bill Dahl's words, "an endlessly inventive fountain of ideas that other guitarists drank from regularly." He could also bring his hard blues chops to jazz, country and, as his original version of the instrumental (guitar rumba) shows, Latin music. Unfortunately, Earl Hooker died too young and never got the kind of "guitar God" acknowledgement he rightly deserved.
I only saw him play live once at The Ash Grove Club in the early seventies when I was a kid. Sadly, I got there late for whatever reason (I probably had trouble that night getting the ride the twenty miles up to the club - this was before I was old enough to drive) and only heard his last two songs. Oh well. Right place, almost the right time.
This recording features the 2007 Guilty Men line up and we cut it with Craig Parker Adams doing the engineering at his Winslow Court Studio in Los Angeles. Chris Miller is on the slide guitar (doing a damned fine recreation of Earl's slide style), Gregory Boaz on the laid back bass, Joe Terry playing the "Havana after midnight" piano and Steve Mugalian supplying the drums and persuasive percussion. We were fortunate to be joined in the studio by mi amigo Chris Gaffney on the seductive accordion and my hometown hero, Dale Spaulding, blowing some exotic harmonica. I love playing this song and every now and then it'll pop up in a live show when the mood strikes. I hope you enjoy it and then go out and get some Earl Hooker records.