Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

Little Walter's 'Mellow Down Easy' rips through time

The Blues Time Machine

Little Walter made a harmonica sound like nothing that had been heard before – somewhere between a saxophone and an electric guitar. By the early 1950’s he not only used amplification, he used the amp to creatively alter his sound with distortion and sonic effects.

You might say he was the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica. One song in particular has rolled through history: 'Mellow Down Easy.'

Here’s a clip from his 2008 induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

John Hammond has spent his career keeping alive the blues of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, usually performing as a one-man band with guitar, harmonica and foot stomping. On albums, he’s worked with a wide range of artists including Dr. John, Duane Allman, and Tom Waits. On his 1982 version of “Mellow Down Easy”, it’s just Hammond joined by “Washboard” Chaz.

When The Black Crowes became popular in the 1990’s they were playing a bluesy form of rock and roll that appealed to fans of hard rock as well as blues-rock. They recorded “Mellow Down Easy” in 1996, and also recorded the song with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.

Here’s a clip of The Black Crowes and Page performing it live:

Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch are successful Nashville songwriters, and with instrumentalist Fats Kaplin recorded “Mellow Down Easy” in 2006. It certainly has a country flavor, and they create a hypnotic groove using guitars and dobros.

Here are the complete versions of "Mellow Down Easy:"

Little Walter “Mellow Down Easy” 1954

John Hammond “Mellow Down Easy” 1982

Black Crowes   “Mellow Down Easy” 1996

Kieran Kane  “Mellow Down Easy” 2006