Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
When Bobby Radcliff’s first album on the revered Black Top label hit record stores all over the world, critics declared him the next in a long line of guitar heroes. Jazz-lovers awarded him a coveted five-star review in downbeat, New York rockers took him to heart for his edgy energy, and blues fans everywhere knew their favorite music was alive and well.
Long before all that, it was the time he spent in the sixties with “Magic Sam” Maghett that bound him forever to the raucous mixture of deep blues and flashy funk that defined the sound of Chicago’s West Side. After running away from a suburban childhood in Chevy Chase, Maryland, at the tender age of seventeen Bobby sought out the guitar master who had changed his life on record. With the help of Bob Koester, Bruce Iglauer, and Jim O’Neal (the blues trinity at Chicago’s legendary Record Mart), he found his idol in Cook County Hospital recovering from a minor stroke. Although he was a little shocked that anyone would come so far simply to meet him, Sam took Bobby under his wing and introduced him to the Chicago blues scene at the peak of the blues renaissance.
“Seeing Sam perform was like watching Elvis. He had that total kind of style and magnetism… beyond musical genre and beyond race,” Radcliff remembers. “He showed me the way to sing in a clear concise way, with a crisp and clean sound on the guitar. And then there’s the freedom of working in a trio, but also the risks. Don’t forget, these were the days of Cream and Hendrix, with tons of distortion alternating with lavish studio production. I wanted something different!”
By the release of “Dresses Too Short” in 1989, Bobby was already a twenty-year veteran of the club circuits in Washington, DC and New York City. He had shared the stage with the likes of Otis Rush, Roy Buchanan, James Cotton, Danny Gatton, Lowell Fulsom, and Dr.John.
In the nineties, three more brilliant albums followed on Black Top Records: “Universal Blues” (1991), “There’s A Cold Grave In Your Way” (1994), and “Live At The Rynborn” (1997). With the label based in New Orleans, Bobby also had the further pleasure of touring with more of his idols, label-mates like Snooks Eaglin, Earl King, and George Porter, Jr.
Unhappily, Black Top founder Nauman Scott passed on in 2002, and the label never really recovered. As the rest of the record industry was racked with corporate consolidations, format-wars, and the hi-tech upheaval of the Internet, many artists have found themselves out in the cold. Bobby Radcliff made a choice: make your own records your own way on your own label, with no one to please but the fans.
It’s out of this philosophy that Rollo Records was born, to provide a home for musicians too uncompromising, too challenging, and too kick-ass to either pigeon-hole or ignore. Combining vintage techniques and current technologies, we put the artists in the driver’s seat and hit “the highway to your soul.” “Natural Ball” is our first offering and one to make any label proud.