THE VERY BEST OF ORIGINAL CHICAGO & COUNTRY BLUES SINCE 30 YEARS (1982–2019)
Wolf Records is an Austrian record label based in Vienna. Simply its emphasis is the blues. Today where nearly every second rate “pop star wanna be” attempts to incorporate the blues the need for a true representative of this music existed. The story of Wolf Records began in 1974, as 20 daring Austrian blues fans founded the Vienna Blues Fan Club (Mozart, too, would have rolled over!). Hungry for the blues played by the original artists, the club had enticed many of the blues favorites to Austria.
Through 1981 the likes of J. B. Hutto, Honeyboy Edwards, Eddie Taylor, Louis Myers, Homesick James, Snooky Pryor, Brewer Philips, Ted Harvey, Detroit Junior, Houston Stackhouse and Henry Townsend had come to play their specialty. From these tours came the television series “Fatty’s Saloon” hosted by Fatty George, which captures the highlights of these successful club appearances and two recordings, a sampler “Chicago Blues Live” and “Sad And Lonesome” featuring Homesick James and Snooky Pryor. Earmarked as the beginning of the Austrian blues scene, this genre of music has since exploded.
Undertaken by four of the club members (two of which remain: Dr. Herbert Pessiak and Hannes Folterbauer) the Vienna Blues Fan Club in 1982 trans-formed into what is now Wolf Records. The label was formed with two purposes in mind: re-releasing original country and blues recordings of the 30s and 40s, as compiled by Johnny Parth, and emphasizing the blues style of Chicago, home of the greats. The first Chicago Blues recordings included “Ingleside Blues” by Brewer Phillips and the combined effort of Eddie “Big Town Playboy” Taylor, Jimmy Walker, Smokey Smothers and Birmingham Jones.
The first 4 years of sales for Wolf Records were minimal. It wasn’t until the best selling release of Chicago’s superstar Magic Slim and the Teardrops that sales began to move. And, not only was Magic Slim’s release a fast seller, but it won the WC Handy Award for the best blues recording of the year. That was 1986; since then Wolf Records has been sinking its teeth deeper. THE CHICAGO BLUES SESSION SERIES (57 recordings to date) put the Wolf Record label to the forefront of the Chicago Blues scene, in addition to another pair of WC Handy Awards for Magic Slim and Wolf Records. “Down Home” field recordings gave the Wolf label something special to speak about… another WC Handy Award for the “Giants Of Country Blues Guitar – Vol. 1” release.
In 1990 Wolf cutlined tours for its roster of artists and others, featuring none other than Magic Slim & The Teardrops and Eddie Shaw & The Wolf Gang. Nurturing talents on the home front, Wolf Records has compiled the Austrian Blues Summit-CD, which features Hans Theessink, Mojo Blues Band, Dana Gillespie, Hooked On Blues and many more. Also Wolf recorded one more CD by Europe’s best women blues singer, Dana Gillespie, and the great newcomers Christian Dozzler & Blues Wave and Peter Garstenauer.
On the international scene Wolf Records is proud to present the best of Chicago live recordings during the well known Chicago Blues Festival. Performing in and around the famous Chicago club circuit – Buddy’s Legend, Checkerboard, Kingston Mines, Blues Etcetera, B.L.U.E.S., House Of Blues, and Blue Chicago, to name a few, will feature Wolf recording artists such as Magic Slim & The Teardrops, Willie Kent, Vance Kelly, Eddie Shaw, Dave Myers, Carey Bell, Booker T. Laury, and others.
Wolf Records would like to extend its thanks and gratitude for the hard work by our U.S. reps, Willie Kent, Phil Hammer, John Primer, Paul Smith, Brett Bonner, Ray Copeland, Ron Bartolucci, Carl Meyer, Anthony Brisbin, and to the many others who continue their support. We are proud of you all. And, in 1995 Wolf has been eating more… many productions by traditional blues musicians such as Houston Stackhouse, U. P. Wilson and contemporary blues artists Vance Kelly, Michael Coleman, Johnny Laws, Nick Holt, Johnny B. Moore, to name a few.
Also Wolf Records was really proud to win a Living Blues Award 1995 for the best contemporary blues CD of 1994, Vance Kelly “Call Me” (120.977 CD). In 1996 and 1997 Wolf continues its national and international activities: Wolf Records USA was founded in 1996 with the help of JoAnne Larson. Chicago was then the center for the mail order service for the US. Wolf Records USA celebrated its opening with a show at Buddy Guy’s Legends. But unfortunately Wolf USA never made it into the next century. In April 1999 Wolf Records USA closed.
Back in 1996 Magic Slim came for two more tours to Europe! In 1997 Wolf artists Willie Kent and Eddie Shaw got each a W.C. Handy Award and a Living Blues Award for their great music. And of course Wolf Records found another new talent in Chicago: Edward Taylor produced his first CD as a tribute to his father Eddie “Big Town Playboy” Taylor. In addition, Wolf succeeded in bringing back a great blues artist: Little Mack Simmons recorded a new CD after an absence of 20 years!
On the Zoo Bar Collection, which now comprises 6 CDs, you can hear the best Chicago blues has to offer. Also we want to state that the Chicago blues scene can’t be imagined without Wolf artists: L. V. Banks, Johnny B. Moore, John Primer, Michael Coleman, Vance Kelly, and Johnny Laws. All of them have released their first CDs on Wolf!
During the past 5 years, Wolf Records has organized European tours for Vance Kelly & The Backstreet Blues band (twice), Willie Kent & His Gents, and John Primer. In autumn of 2000, Wolf Records artists John Primer & Magic Slim were special guests at the Lucerne Blues Festival.
In 2001, Vance Kelly won the prestigious Chicago Music Award. In 2000, Kelly recorded his first live CD for our label, “Live at Lee’s Unleaded.”Other current waxing for Wolf Records include new recordings by Johnny Dollar (his first album after 20 years), Edward Taylor, and a “Tribute to Elmore James” CD by John Primer, all produced in Chicago.
Recent CD releases on Wolf Records by Vera Taylor, Easy Baby, and L. V. Banks were very well received by both critics and fans. Unfortunately, Vera Taylor, the widow of the late Chicago blues legend Eddie Taylor, passed away just two months after finishing recording her excellent Wolf CD. Harp player/singer Alex “Easy Baby” Randle, however, is enjoying a resurgence of his career on the blues scene after the release of his acclaimed CD on Wolf Records. On the more traditional side of blues, Wolf Records was very successful with the CD “The very best of Texas Blues Piano” (120.929 CD), and with two CDs by Santa Cruz guitarist/singer Robert Lowery.
Further releases in Wolf Records’ “Blues Classics” series by Charley Patton and Blind Willie McTell received very positive reviews, as did the “Harmonica Blues” CD in our “Best of” series.
In the last three years Wolf Records produced more great traditional Blues CDs with CeDell Davis & Hermann Alexander (120.920), Big Boy Crudup (BC 005) and Al Cook (120.972 & 120.973). Also the Best of Blues series (BoB) got great new artwork and liner notes, so did some CDs of the WSE-series. New CDs by Eddie Taylor Jr. (120.811), Vaan Shaw (120.894) and the CD 120.807 (Best of Chicago’s West- & Southside Blues Singers) documents that Wolf Records presents still the best of Chicago Blues. The Lucerne Blues Festival 2003 presented Vance Kelly & The Back Street Blues Band and “Teardrops” Nick Holt & John Primer also toured Europe. Vance Kelly also was a highlight at the Chicago Blues Festival 2004, so did Eddie & Vaan Shaw. In the last three years Wolf records has to reduce his production costs cause the different distributors wanted consignment deals – anyway Vance Kelly recorded another great studio CD (120.815 CD), so did his daughter Vivian (120.812 CD – “Hit me Up”) and Eddie Taylor Jr. with his third CD for Wolf “Mind Game” (120.813 CD).
Also Wolfs “Superstar” Magic Slim, recorded another great CD for Wolf with live and studio recording (120.809 CD – “Tin Pan Alley”). Also we produced great new CD’s from European musicians, Dana Gillespie (120.974 CD – “These Blue Nights) and Al Cook (120.873 CD – “The Birmingham Jam”). We did again Country Blues CD’s, prewar Blues CD’s (BC 005 – Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup “The Father of Rock ’n’ Roll”, BC 006 – “Big Bill Broonzy “Big Bill Blues” and WSE 177 – “Best of Country Blues Women Vol. 1”), postwar blues CD’s (120.920 – Hermann Alexander & CeDell Davis “Giants of Country Blues Vol. 5”) and the Best of Series (120.104 CD – “Blues Guitar Killers”). 2006 was also a very sad year for Wolf Records: Many artists, who wrote the WOLF Story, died this year: Henry Townsend, Homesick James & Snooky Pryor, who produced the first two WOLF CD’s ever 30 years ago, and the great Bonnie Lee. In February 2006 we lost Willie Kent. He wasn’t only a friend of Wolf owner Hannes Folterbauer, also a producer (he produced the first Johnny B. Moore CD ever for Wolf) and singer and bass player. 2008 Wolf produced another great CD by Vance Kelly. This time it was the first “blues only” CD by Vance (120.818). Also Eddie Taylor Jr. became a highlight in the Chicago blues scene: At every Chicago blues CD session, where somebody needs an “original“ Chicago blues guitarist he is present. He recorded 2008 his fourth (!) CD with Wolf Records. Also in the Blues Classics Series were two CD’s released – BC 007 Leroy Carr and BC 008 Memphis Slim.
Beginning December Wolf producer Hannes Folterbauer had the idea to produce a “back to the roots”-CD called “From The Country To The City” (120.819). This is a CD where Chicago blues artists Harmonica Hinds, Eddie Taylor Jr. and Tré played acoustic down home blues. At the Chicago Blues Festival 2008 in June many Wolf Artists performed. Eddie Taylor Jr., Demetria Taylor, Magic Slim & His Teardrops, Eddie Clearwater were highlights at the festival. 2009 and 2010 were also successful years for Wolf records: 2009 we produced the great CDs by Chicago artists Magic Slim, Smilin’ Bobby and Elmore James Jr. 2010 we produced the CDs by R.L. Burnside and John Primer, who got great reviews in all blues mags. Wolf artist MAGIC SLIM toured Europe twice last year and played also two great concerts in Wolf recs. hometown, Vienna! All Wolf CDS got in the Living Blues radio charts!
In 2012 Wolf Records celebrated its 30th anniversary in Vienna. A special sold out concert took place at the Vienna “Akzent Theatre” to
commemorate this event. The evening was tremendous success and unforgettable for the audience as well as the artists, who have all been friends for ages and remembering the past thirty years together that day. Special guest were Eddie Taylor Jr. and Harmonica Hinds, Dana Gillespie, the Mojo Blues Band, Al Cook and many others. Dana Gillespie produced another CD with us in 2011 “Best of Mystique Blues” featuring Joe Louis Walker and brand new CD’s by Eddie Taylor Jr., Vance Kelly and Elmore James Jr.
2013 we lost our greatest artist, Magic Slim. As we know today, his spirit is still there! His music will never die!
The next years there have been great historic recordings in Chicago Blues as well as in Country Blues:
We recorded a great Live CD with Vance Kelly at Kingston Mines, also historic live recordings (from the 1990- 1995) by John Primer & Magic Slim (with the CD 120.830 Magic Slim & The Teardrops – Pure Magic), who has been a long time in the radio charts.
In the Country Blues field we licensed great recordings by Harmonica “Terry” Bean, Louisiana Red found forgotten tapes from a Henry Townsend Tour in the 80’s in Austria.
We made also concert tours with Harmonica Hinds, Eddie Taylor Jr. (2012), Elmore James Jr. & Ed Williams (2013) and John Primer & The Real Deal Blues Band (2015). Also we recorded some of the concerts to release a great Live CD in 2016.
Last but not least we made a deal with the Windy City Blues Society, where different Wolf Artists (John Primer, Vance Kelly, Eddie Taylor Jr., Tré and many more) perform at the Chicago Blues Festival 2015 at their stage. Also Eddie Taylor Jr. presents there his new CD: Stop Breaking Down.
In the last years there was a highlight: Wolf Records won a Blues Music Award for “Keeping the Blues Alive” in 2017! Also there will be a concert-highlight in 2019: In May will be 2 concerts in Austria with Dana Gillespie with the Al Cook-Band to promote her CD “Take It Off Slowly”.
In the US we could met Mr. Carlos Tortolero from the Chicago Blues Festival and our Musicians Vance Kelly, Eddie Taylor Jr. and John Primer.
In Mississippi, we recorded 2017 Little Willie Farmer and L.C. Boyce, in 2018 Super Chikan and Harmonica Terry Bean. In the last 2 years, we produced great Cd´s by the Chicago Blues Legends Snooky Pryor and Homesick James. Also we produced piano player Eroll Dixon and great Chicago Blues CD´s with Vance Kelly & Big Golden Wheeler, also with Austrian Blueslady Katie Kern and Al Cook; also we produced historical recordings by Memphis Minnie. In 2019 we produce a great CD by Magic Slim and the Teardrops, also a Chicago Blues CD with Vivian Kelly.
Last not least will be great Country Blues CD´s in 2019: One with Terry Harmonica Bean & Super Chikan and one with Eugene Powell & Piano Boogaloo Ames. There will also be a new serie called “The Greatest Bluessongs”, the first CD on this serie will be “Best of Como Blues” with Fred McDowell and Jessie May Hemphill and others.
Wishing you all the best, Wolf leaves you with this thought: THE BLUES WILL NEVER DIE