Alexander in performance, 2012
July 23, 1942 |
Holly Springs, Mississippi, United States
|Genres||Chicago blues, electric blues|
|Labels||Delmark, Linsey Alexander, the L.A.B.B.|
Linsey Alexander (born July 23, 1942) is a blues songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist. He has been a fixture in clubs on Chicago's North Side for nearly two decades and has played with numerous blues musicians, including Buddy Guy, A.C. Reed, Magic Slim, and B.B. King. His album Been There Done That, released in 2012, was rated the best blues CD of the year.
Alexander was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, in an area along the Mississippi Blues Trail. His family was "poor but honest and hardworking"sharecroppers. He moved to Memphis, Tennessee, with his mother and a sister when he was 12 years old.
Alexander's interest in music started when a family friend he knew only as Otis taught him enough that when Otis left his guitar as a gift at Alexander's home, he was able pick it up and play. Alexander concentrated on singing as a teenager and later developed his guitar playing. His early influences were blues, country music, and rock and roll, including the blues keyboardist Rosco Gordon and the rock-and-roll artists Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.
In Mississippi, Alexander worked as a porter in a hotel laundry room and later as a bicycle technician. In 1959, he pawned his first guitar to help pay his way to Chicago by Greyhound bus, following a girl he had met in Memphis. In Chicago, he had a series of jobs, working for a car dealer, at a gas station, and as a cook and busboy. He received a pension after he was wounded while working for the Chicago Police Department.
Alexander was pulled into the Chicago South Side music scene, where he heard soul artists like McKinley Mitchell and Bobby Day and the bluesman Howlin' Wolf. His first guitar was never recovered from the pawnshop, but he bought another guitar and formed a band, the Hot Tomatoes, which was "good enough to enter a talent show at the well-known nightclub on 63rd Street called The Place." Alexander went on to form another band, the Equitable Band, which played at the Launching Pad, at 75th Street and Stony Island, for about eight years. When Alexander was playing at Red's, a Chicago club at 35th Street and Archer, he was approached by an agent who introduced him to the popular North Side blues clubs B.L.U.E.S. and Kingston Mines. His entry into "Blue Chicago" (downtown) exposed him to tourists to whom he started selling independently recorded CDs, which are still selling well. Alexander has been a fixture in Chicago North Side clubs for nearly two decades and has played with blues notables including Buddy Guy, A.C. Reed, Magic Slim, and B.B. King. He has performed for audiences in New York, Canada, and Europe and has appeared at the Mississippi Blues Festival. Alexander is a regular performer at Kingston Mines.
Music critic Jim White called Alexander a "still-present, real-deal bluesman" with "deep, rich, gritty vocals" and "guitar work as strong as his vocals." Alexander plays his own style of electric blues, influenced by soul, R&B, and funk. The original material he writes contributes to the survival of the blues genre. His sense of humor shown in his music and his act sets him apart from most other blues players. He is known for playing his guitar "with the energy of a 20 year old." Reviewer Greg Szalony wrote that "at times [Alexander's] vocal approach is more akin to talking than singing" and noted that his "distorted guitar tones" and vocals as "uncannily close to the late Son Seals."
The music critic David Whiteis wrote that Alexander's guitar style shows "lively improvisational imagination" and is in "good taste" and said Alexander was especially gifted as a songwriter "in command of a lyric vividness." Whiteis described Alexander's song "Saving Robert Johnson" as "a full-scale theatrical vignette set to music ... [that] take[s] on the crossroads myth." Greg Szalony observed that Alexander brings the blues into the present with the lyrics "I want you to e-mail the devil, I want you to poke him on Facebook." Alexander's song "Saving Robert Johnson" was included in the Mississippi Blues Project, a review of Mississippi blues produced by WXPN in Philadelphia.
The Chicago blues historian Karen Hanson wrote in 2007,
Veteran guitarist Linsey Alexander, the "Hoochie Man", plays classic Chicago blues spiced up with the occasional joke or double entendre. Watch him take his guitar for a crowd walk-through, where he'll stop often to flirt with the pretty women. ... These days Alexander is one of the hardest-working bluesmen in the city, appearing as many as six nights a week at Chicago clubs.