Samuel Gene Maghett (later to become known as ‘Magic Sam’) was born on February 14th 1937.
His guitar style, vocals, and song-writing ability have inspired and influenced many blues musicians. In ‘The Blues Brothers’ Jake Blues dedicates the band’s performance of ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ to, “the late great Magic Sam”.
The stage name, ‘Magic Sam’, was devised by Sam’s bass player and childhood friend Mack Thompson, at Sam’s first recording session for Cobra Records, from an approximation of “Maghett Sam”.
For me Sam’s most impressive asset was his clear and soulful tenor carrying an excellent true vibrato. Few blues guitarists better represented the sound of Chicago’s West side than Sam Maghett.
Maghett was born in Grenada, Mississippi, and learned to play the blues from listening to records by Muddy Waters and Little Walter. After moving to Chicago at the age of nineteen, he was signed by Cobra Records and became well known as a bluesman after his first record, ‘All Your Love’ in 1957. He was known for his distinctive tremolo-guitar playing.
After Cobra folded, Sam didn’t follow label-mates Otis Rush and Magic Slim over to Chess Records. Instead, Sam opted to go with Mel London’s ‘Chief’ label in 1960. His raw-boned Westside adaptation of Fats Domino’s mournful ‘Every Night About This Time’ was the highlight of his stay at Chief.
Gigs on the Westside remained plentiful for the charismatic guitarist, but recording opportunities were few until 1966, when Sam made a ‘45’ for Crash Records. ‘Out of Bad Luck’. Another notable 1966 side, the plaintive ‘That’s Why I’m Crying,’ wound up on Delmark’s ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ anthology, along with Sam’s stunning boogie instrumental ‘Riding High’, (aided by the muscular tenor sax of Eddie Shaw).
Sam’s reputation was growing exponentially. He wowed an overflow throng at the 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival, and Stax was reportedly primed to sign him when his Delmark commitment was over. However, heart problems were taking their toll on Sam’s health. On the first morning of December of 1969, he complained of severe heartburn and collapsed.
Samuel Gene Maghett – ‘Magic Sam’ – passed away on December 1st 1969 (tragically aged only 32). He was buried in the Restvale Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. In early February 1970.