Hudson Shower

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With a name that sounds like something that might be installed in a bathroom, Little Hudson Shower recorded for several of Chicago's lesser-known indie blues labels in the '50s. His band, known as Little…
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With a name that sounds like something that might be installed in a bathroom, Little Hudson Shower recorded for several of Chicago's lesser-known indie blues labels in the '50s. His band, known as Little Hudson Shower's Red Devil Trio, was something of a training ground for hip rhythm section players such as the drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, who began his professional career in the Shower before jumping into the Waters -- as in Muddy Waters. Take a shower, then jump into muddy water? It doesn't sound like mom's instructions for cleaning up, but then again, this is the blues. Thanks to the possessive tense in his band name, this blues artist is sometimes mistakenly pluralized into "Hudson Showers." A type of rain jacket is available called the Hudson Shower, but this is not a merchandising tie-in for a "Stormy Monday."

Like many Chicago bluesmen, Shower hailed from Mississippi, where he took up the guitar at the age of 12. In 1939, he relocated to Chicago from Louise, MS, but did not get involved in the big city blues scene until after the mid-'40s. His first Chicago gigs were backing senior statesmen such as Big Bill Broonzy, Big Maceo, and Tampa Red. He formed his first version of the Red Devil Trio in 1950, with pianist Henry Gray and a drummer who has not been identified beyond the name of "Al," although perhaps this is the guy the song "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" is all about -- "Don't you remember, you called me 'Al'/ It was 'Al all the time." Whoever he was, he was soon replaced by James Bannister, while pianist Lazy Bill Lucas came in on keyboards as an alternative to the shades of Gray. The band was a regular at dives such as Club Alibi, Du Drop Lounge, Cotton Club, Club Evergreen, Laura's 819 Lounge and Vi's Lounge as well as the Gayspot, apparently one of Chicago's first openly lesbian bars.

Shower and his group did recording sessions for the Chance and JOB labels, sometimes as part of marathons that went on for 48 hours at a time with several different artists involved. Songs cut by Shower include "Shake It Baby," the Red Devil Trio's most popular number, but inexplicably, not one that the label chose to release at the time. This was despite the fact that the group promoted the tune so heavily that it even shimmied its way into the band's name itself: a 1955 engagements at the 830 Mambo Club and the Hob-Nob Lounge billed the group as Little Hudson & His Shake It Baby Red Devil Trio. "I'm Looking for a Woman," "Things Going so Tough with Me," and "Don't Hang Around" were some of the better numbers from these sessions, representing the main body of Shower's recording archive.

His final recording, and no doubt most obscure, was a version of "No Money Down" done as a radio commercial done for a record store. This may possibly be one of the only instances when the title of a song describes the financial arrangements of the recording session itself. The bluesman continued to perform throughout the early '60s, although like many of the less popular artists in this genre he began to have trouble competing against stylish new musics such as soul and rock & roll. The black community began to reject blues, meaning performers such as Shower had to head to other parts of town, to perform at wimpy-sounding clubs such as the Fickle Pickle. Shower had retired from the music business completely as of 1964.