Magic Sam Biography

Samuel Gene Maghett, 14 February 1937, Grenada County, Mississippi, USA, d. 1 December 1969, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Although Maghett’s immediate family were not musical, he received encouragement from his uncle, Shakey Jake, a popular blues singer on Chicago’s west side. Maghett arrived in the city in 1950 and by the age of 20 had secured a recording contract with Eli Toscano’s Cobra Records, an emergent independent label. He also changed his name from Good Rocking Sam to Magic Sam. Debut single, ‘All Your Love’, a compulsive, assured performance that highlighted Sam’s crisp guitar figures, set the pattern for several subsequent releases, but progress faltered upon his induction into the army in 1959. Not a natural soldier, Sam deserted after a couple of weeks’ service and was subsequently caught and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. He was given a dishonourable discharge on release, but the experience had undermined his confidence and immediate recordings for Chief Records lacked the purpose of their predecessors.

Sam’s returned to the studio in 1966 to record several sides for the Crash Records label. His debut album for the Delmark Records label, West Side Soul, encapsulated an era when Maghett not only re-established his reputation in Chicago clubs, but had become an attraction on the rock circuit with appearances at the Fillmore and Winterland venues in San Francisco. This vibrant record included ‘Sweet Home Chicago’, later revived by the Blues Brothers. A second collection, Black Magic, confirmed his new-found status but its release was overshadowed by Sam’s premature death from a heart attack in December 1969. Only days before, Maghett had agreed to sign with the renowned Stax Records label. His passing robbed the blues genre of a potentially influential figure.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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