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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Milton Hopkins and Jewel Brown

Milton Roosevelt Hopkins was born in Houston’s Fifth Ward on January 30, 1934. His first musical influences came from the numerous bands in his neighborhood of Trinity Gardens and one local gospel quartet in particular. He picked up an old guitar with 4 rusty strings that was hanging from a nail on the back porch. It wasn’t long before he formed a band with other aspiring neighborhood musicians. One of the first gigs found Johnny “Guitar Watson” sitting in. This was the beginning of a career that led Milton to play with B.B. King, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, The Drifters and many, many other great Blues and R&B artists. Milton tried copying some licks from his famous cousin, Lightnin’ Hopkins, but soon realized he had to find his own way. The artists that sought his talents were playing more modern styles of Blues and R&B. His talent and work ethic brought him to the attention of Little Richard, who formed a band with Milton and Grady Gaines called the Tempo Toppers in 1950. While creating Rock and Roll history, Milton did not feel comfortable with the wilder side of the band so he quit in 1952. Mr. Hopkins has always stayed away from the drinking and drugs that so many people associate with the world of music. His hero was Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and he wanted to stay true to the style of his guitar idol. By 1953 the legendary Don Robey formed Peacock Records and Milton was recruited to do session work with some gospel groups they were recording. There he met his first “teacher”, Joe Scott, who taught him the various chords and where to play them which became the basis for his distinctive rhythm guitar style. He soon went on the road with the late, great Johnny Ace and Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. The untimely death of Johnny Ace found him back in Houston in 1954. In 1956, Milton Hopkins was drafted into the Army where he was trained as a mechanic while stationed in El Paso. The following year he returned to Houston and was ready to use his new training but there were no jobs available in a time of segregation. He continued playing the music and had the opportunity to play with his musical hero, Gatemouth Brown. Things were on the upswing and he reunited with Grady Gaines joining The Upsetters. The Upsetters soon became one of the premier R&B/Rock & Roll bands in the country and were the band of choice for performers such as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and The Drifters. Barry Gordy was starting Motown Records in Detroit and tried to convince Milton to join his studio band – a decision Milton regrets declining. Milton left The Upsetters in 1963 and wound up in San Francisco. He met Lewis Madison, an original member of James Brown’s band The Famous Flames. He also worked briefly with Marvin Gaye and Lou Rawls. One night he was asked to substitute for the guitarist for Sly Stone’s band playing blues. He knew then that as much as he loved Jazz and R&B, the Blues was his true musical path. In 1971 he ran into B.B. King who remembered him from his days with The Upsetters and asked Milton to join the band. For the next 8 years Milton Hopkins was B.B.’s rhythm guitar player and traveled around the world with the premier blues band of his era. Milton Hopkins’ famous cousin, Lightnin’ Hopkins, was one of the most famous bluesmen in the world but usually played solo. Unfortunately, Milton only had the chance to play with his cousin once during his days in San Francisco. He saw him again later when they shared a dressing room in London but their paths seemed to move in different directions leaving few chances for collaboration. Milton has these words of sage advice for aspiring musicians: “You’ve got to stay clean and try to practice good musicianship. The way you dress and the way you present yourself on stage is half the game.” Milton Hopkins has always stayed true to these words and that is why he is so well respected as a serious entertainer and musician in the Blues world and the music world in general. Milton Hopkins has been featured in Living Blues magazine and has a Houston Blues Society Lifetime Achievement Award. He has long been recognized as Houston’s best rhythm guitarist and, among the people who know him, as a great human being. If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, ”LIKE” ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! I’m looking for great talent and trying to grow the audience for your favorite band!

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