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Pete Cosey: Guitar Catharsis

Pete Cosey

There’s a cryptic story that Pete Cosey tells about one notorious session he recorded during his days as a staff guitarist at Chess Records. The date was for the legendary Chicago bluesman Howlin’ Wolf, and took place in November 1968. Earlier that year, Cosey had participated in the controversial Electric Mud project, an attempt by Marshall Chess, son of label owner Leonard Chess, to market Muddy Waters to the burgeoning hippie market by surrounding the revered bluesman’s Deltafied pipes with fuzz bass, wah-wah guitar, flutes, tambourines and trance-like organ drones.

Electric Mud may have outraged some of the blues purists who had purchased Waters’ acoustic blues classic, More Real Folk Blues, just a year before, but Chess’ gamble paid off. Many of the same rock fans who that same year purchased copies of Jeff Beck’s Truth, Cream’s Wheels of Fire, Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland and Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes’ Journey To the Center of the Mind did indeed pick up on the psychedelic renditions of Waters classics like “She’s Alright,” “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Mannish Boy,” along with a curious cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”

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