The late Big Joe Williams said: "Charlie Musselwhite is one of the greatest living harp players of country blues. He is right up there with Sonny Boy Williamson." The Memphis-born harp player is one of few white harp players who have stamped their mark on the blues, mainly because he was one of the first and also remains faithful to the style.
Musselwhite began playing blues with people he'd read about in Sam Charters' Country Blues-.-Memphis greats such as Furry Lewis, Will Shade and Gus Cannon. It was these rural roots that set him apart from Paul Butterfield.
Musselwhite migrated north from Memphis in his teens, in search of the mythical $3 per hour job, which had lured a significant portion of the black population onto the same route. He became a familiar face at blues haunts like Pepper's, Turner's, and Theresa's, eventually playing alongside harmonica greats such as Little Walter, Walter Horton, Good Rockin' Charles and Sonny Boy Williamson. Before recording his first album, Musselwhite appeared on LPs by Tracy Nelson and John Hammond and duetted with Walter Horton on Vanguard's Chicago/The Blues/Today series.
Best Of The Vanguard Years is a new overview of Charlie's recordings for the label, as part of Vanguard's 50th anniversary sessions series. This 20-tracker collects the best of Musselwhite's early recordings, from six albums, and includes John Hammond on two tracks.