Magic Sam

Samuel Gene Maghett (February 14, 1937 – December 1, 1969), known as Magic Sam, was an American Chicago blues musician. He was born in Grenada County, Mississippi, and learned to play the blues from listening to records by Muddy Waters and Little Walter. After moving to Chicago at the age of 19, he was signed by Cobra Records and became well known as a bluesman after the release of his first record, “All Your Love”, in 1957. He was known for his distinctive tremolo guitar playing.

The stage name Magic Sam was devised by Sam’s bass player and childhood friend Mack Thompson at Sam’s first recording session for Cobra, as an approximation of “Maghett Sam”. The name Sam was using at the time, Good Rocking Sam, was already being used by another artist.

Maghett moved to Chicago in 1956, where his guitar playing earned him bookings at blues clubs on the West Side. He recorded singles for Cobra Records from 1957 to 1959, including “All Your Love” and “Easy Baby”. They did not reach the record charts but had a profound influence, far beyond Chicago’s guitarists and singers. Together with recordings by Otis Rush and Buddy Guy (also Cobra artists), the Westside Sound was a manifesto for a new kind of blues. Around this time Magic Sam worked briefly with Homesick James Williamson. Magic Sam gained a following before being drafted into the U.S. Army. He served six months in prison for desertion and received a dishonorable discharge.

His career was cut short when he suddenly died of a heart attack in December 1969. He was 32 years old. Magic Sam was buried in the Restvale Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois. He was survived by his wife, Georgia Maghett. In February 1970, the Butterfield Blues Band played at a benefit concert for Magic Sam, at Fillmore West in San Francisco. Also on the bill were Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite and Nick Gravenites.

 

Share this post

Leave a Comment