Sammy Lewis with Willie Johnson Biography
The productive and all too brief meeting between vocalist/harp player Sammy Lewis and guitarist Willie Johnson produced one of the best blues issued by Sun. In the eyes of many collectors and Sun blues fans, there is no finer release for this period than “I Feel So Worried.”
It is easy to see the appeal of this record. For one thing, it lives in that tense netherworld between a major and a minor key. The material is, as Billboard used to say, “potent stuff.” Sammy Lewis’ vocal combines those octave leaps with a really engaging talk/sing approach that hooks even the casual listener. When he greets us with “Let me tell you ‘bout one thing I done wrong,” we want to respond with an appropriately church, “Yeh, tell us, Sammy. Go ahead!” Even allowing for the charm of Lewis’ vocal, it is the Willie Johnson combo that really carries the day. The sound of this record, beginning with the haunting stop-time intro, is something to treasure. Even rockabilly fans who merely tolerate Sun blues are often fond of this record, owing in no small way to Willie Johnson’s guitar style. Johnson’s playing is largely familiar to blues fans through his backup work for Howlin’ Wolf, both on his recordings for Phillips and Chess.
The flipside, “So Long Baby Goodbye,” is more conventional R&B that showcases Sammy Lewis’ harp. How could Lewis not have responded when Johnson issued him the immortal edict “Blot the backs off it!”