Lightnin' Hopkins Meets Bobby Timmons

Sep 13, 2017

I guess everyone in the immediate vicinity of Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins referred to Mr. Hopkins as "Lightnin'," but just thinking about that got to me wondering about blues and jazz musicians without a nickname. It's all downhill and shady once you're answering to Bird, Jellyroll, Cannonball or Diz – or Gatemouth, T-Bone, Hound Dog or Wolf, for that matter. But plenty of musicians have had to scrape by with just what's on their birth certificate, and it's gotta sting going through life as Charles, Albert, Horace or Otis, even for a Charles Mingus, Albert King, Horace Silver or Otis Spann. How could you not help but think, "Man, couldn't the folks have thrown me a bone on this one? The Leakes named their kid Lafayette, for cryin' out loud. That's a cool handle. And don't get me started on the Monk family."

So I feel for Bobby Timmons, I really do. Despite playing with Art Blakey and composing one of the hard bop era's most iconic tunes, "Moanin'," he didn't score a nickname like "Prez" or even a cool contraction of his real name, like "Trane." But he did become known for his ability to, in the words of Benny Golson, "play bebop funky." And while this week's lesson doesn't really involve any bebop, it does take some Timmons-inspired blues moves, filter them through a Lightnin' Hopkins-derived scale fingering and coordinate the whole shebang over a funky steady bass line.