Charles Blackwell

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This drummer is equally likely to be credited as Chuck Blackwell, Charles Blackwell, Charlie Blackwell, and last but not least, Chuck "Brother" Blackwell. It is all the same drummer, a Tulsa native from…
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This drummer is equally likely to be credited as Chuck Blackwell, Charles Blackwell, Charlie Blackwell, and last but not least, Chuck "Brother" Blackwell. It is all the same drummer, a Tulsa native from the same clique as Leon Russell and Carl Radle. His stature in American music can be confirmed with one snap of the snare drum on a Freddie King record. But he is more than just a damn good blues and rock drummer. Like his Tulsa buddies, he was ultra-experienced at studio recordings in the '60s, leading to a whirlwind of glory and apparently more than a taste of depravity in the '70s, when the name Mad Dogs & Englishmen meant something significant to high school students.

Said teenyboppers may have first glimpsed Blackwell on the Shindig show in 1965. This was a hits and dancing television series with hit parade artists, by that time evolving into a psychedelic version of Soul Train despite itself. The house band was the Shindogs, featuring Glenn D. Hardin on piano and James Burton on guitar. These musicians would later back Elvis Presley, among others, yet there are other rhythm sections involving Blackwell that evoke even further frothing from fiendish fandom. Listeners who perceive blues and world music performer Taj Mahal's very first recordings as his most inspired are talking about a combo that featured the native American Jesse Edwin Davis on guitar, bassist Gary Gilmore, and Blackwell. The entire early period of Mahal is enhanced by the drumming itself as well as its effect on the rhythm section, and the same can be said about Blackwell's role in the sometimes fuzzy little world of Leon Russell, much of it chronicled by his personal Shelter imprint. Their songwriting efforts together, some of it material crafted for Freddie King, has been covered by a variety of younger blues bands.

Russell's ascension into pop stardom in the late '60s presented opportunities for many of his old Tulsa cronies, especially those as talented as this drummer. From this era, Blackwell became something of a minor character in a soap opera, showing up here and there in various biographical obsessions related to Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and of course Russell. Such reflections will invariably include a line such as, "I mean, there was 13 of us living in this house!," but are thankfully free of further detail of what actually went on. While some of the crowd from this time had habits such as combining morphine and Tequila, Blackwell and his wife eventually headed back to Tulsa, where he continued to play. The "brother" has never been accused of droppin' a beat, no matter what was going on.