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Elliott Sharp Remembers Pete Cosey

Oct. 9, 1943-May 30, 2012

Elliott Sharp
Pete Cosey

The search for hot guitar and cool licks took up an inordinate part of my teen years. An incendiary lead break with that elusive WTF?! factor might be found on odd sides, rescuing songs otherwise destined for the audio dustbin. When Jimi Hendrix and the Yardbirds inhabited the Top 40 the quest became easier, especially with the Isley Brothers, Mitch Ryder, the Temptations and Rotary Connection joining them on the air.

The Connection was an industry construction featuring diva Minnie Riperton, but their main attraction for me was the massive guitar of Pete Cosey, who played searing blues licks with a psychedelic dimension. Pete’s lines were unpredictable and larger than terrestrial life, clearly aligned with the Hendrix wing of the blues party but with a unique personal twist. Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters were perennial favorites, and when Chess released the notorious The Howlin’ Wolf Album and Electric Mud I ran out to get them. The purist in me hated the “groovy” veneer, but that part of my soul that craved sonic extremes was thrilled at the wah-wah vocalizations and sneering fuzz of Cosey’s leads, not to mention his sitar. The Wolf record provided one of my favorite quotes of the era, also courtesy of Cosey: “Howlin’ Wolf looked at me and he said, ‘Why don’t you take them wah-wahs and all that other shit and go throw it off in the lake-on your way to the barbershop?'”

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