“All your love—baby, can it be mine?”
On February 14, 1937, blues musician Samuel “Magic Sam” Maghett was born in Grenada, Mississippi. He was part of a younger generation of Chicago electric blues artists that defined the smooth West Side sound. A guitarist and vocalist, Magic Sam’s gutsy style was often rawer than what South Side bands played.
Unlike most of his blues contemporaries, Magic Sam grew up in a community where fiddle music, hoedowns, and square dances were popular among the African American population rather than the blues. Roy Moses, a renowned Black fiddler in Grenada County, was the leading caller of steps at such dances and also a mentor and inspiration to young local musicians. Magic Sam carried these musical influences with him when he moved to Chicago with his family at age thirteen, and three years later, he played his first gig with his uncle Shakey Jake Harris. Blues guitarist Syl Johnson, who later rose to national fame as a soul singer, recalled that Magic Sam was playing “a hillbilly style” at the time, and Johnson began teaching him blues and boogies.
In the late 1950s, he released several singles for Cobra Records, playing an updated style that borrowed freely from R&B and soul. Even as he gained greater recognition, Magic Sam remained a staple on the Chicago club scene. He released two albums with Delmark Records—West Side Soul (1967) and Black Magic (1968)—that are considered prime examples of the electric blues sound. Magic Sam’s notable hits include “All Your Love,” “That’s All I Need,” and “I Feel So Good.”
In 1969, Magic Sam performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Michigan as well as in Europe, but his life was cut short when he died of a heart attack at the age of thirty-two on December 1. His music and playing style continue to influence and be enjoyed by musicians and blues fans.
See more images of Magic Sam from our collection.
Google Arts & Culture
Turn up your speakers and enjoy some tunes in our Google Arts & Culture exhibit Sweet Home Chicago. Through the work of photographer and music industry veteran Raeburn Flerlage, explore the streets, clubs, homes, and studios where a community of musicians defined the Chicago blues sound.