J B Lenoir – The Mojo
J B Lenoir
J. B. Lenoir (March 5, 1929 – April 29, 1967) was an African American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter, active in the 1950s and 1960s Chicago blues scene.
In 1949, he moved to Chicago and Big Bill Broonzy helped introduce him to the local blues community. He began to perform at local nightclubs with musicians such as Memphis Minnie, Big Maceo Merriweather, and Muddy Waters, and became an important part of the city’s blues scene. He began recording in 1951 the J.O.B. and Chess Records labels. His recording of “Korea Blues” was licensed to and released by Chess, as having been performed by ‘J. B. and his Bayou Boys’. His band included pianist Sunnyland Slim, guitarist Leroy Foster, and drummer Alfred Wallace.
During the 1950s Lenoir recorded on various record labels in the Chicago area including J.O.B., Chess, Parrot, and Checker. His more successful songs included “Let’s Roll”, “The Mojo” featuring saxophonist J. T. Brown, and the controversial “Eisenhower Blues” which his record company, Parrot, forced him to re-record as “Tax Paying Blues.”
In 1963, Lenoir recorded for USA Records as ‘J. B. Lenoir and his African Hunch Rhythm’, developing an interest in African percussion. However, he struggled to work as a professional musician and for a time took menial jobs, including working in the kitchen at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Lenoir was rediscovered by Willie Dixon, who recorded him with drummer Fred Below on the albums Alabama Blues and Down In Mississippi (inspired by the Civil Rights and Free Speech movements). Lenoir toured Europe, and performed in 1965 with the American Folk Blues Festival in the United Kingdom.
Lenoir’s work had direct political content relating to racism and the Vietnam War.
He died on April 29, 1967 in Urbana, Illinois, aged 38, from a heart attack related to injuries he suffered in a car accident three weeks earlier.