Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins, pianist in Muddy Waters’ last great band, is dead. He died at his Austin, Texas, home at the age of 97.
During his varied carrier, Perkins played with, among others, Sonny Boy Williamson’s King Biscuit Boys and Earl Hooker. He taught Ike Turner how to play piano, and replaced Otis Spann in Muddy Waters’ band.
Perkins was with Waters when he played The Last Waltz in 1976, and performed alongside Paul Butterfield, Bob Margolin, and members of The Band.
Bob Margolin wrote about that legendary evening. Here are some excerpts that refer to Perkins:
Pinetop, Muddy, and I were scheduled to rehearse our songs for the show. I didn’t realize that some of those blues-oriented rock stars must have been in the room to watch Muddy.
The next night, at the concert, Muddy, Pinetop, and I waited backstage to perform. Pinetop told me he heard one of The Beatles was there, not realizing that Ringo was sitting right next to him. Born in 1913, Pinetop knew as much about The Beatles as I know about The Backstreet Boys.
When it was our turn to play, Muddy and Pinetop sang the light, swinging “Caledonia” as they had for “The Woodstock Album.”
Fatefully, only one camera was operating during our song, zooming on Muddy, but not changing angle. Standing close to Muddy, I was in every frame. Pinetop, at the piano way off to the side, unfortunately was never seen in the film. But as Muddy hollers “I’m a MAN” and we shout “Yeah” to answer, as we always did in that song, you can hear Pinetop also yelling, “Wahoo!” — which is a line from a politically incorrect joke that Pine had heard on the road, and was fond of telling over and over in 1976.
Muddy and Pinetop went right to their rooms after our set, but I went down to jam back at the hotel after the concert.
I was shocked to find that because of time and budget constraints and Band politics, Muddy was nearly bumped from the show. Levon fought bitterly behind the scenes and prevailed to not only keep Muddy in but to indulge him with me and Pinetop too. We were treated as honored guests at The Last Waltz and I enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime jam afterwards, but Levon never told us about making a stand for us. He just made us welcome.
Any fan of Bob Dylan should read the entire article, as there is a story about Dylan and Governor Jerry Brown, and an after hours jam session where Dylan sang “Kind Hearted Woman” and “a few other well-known blues songs.”
I was fortunate enough to witness Perkins accompany Waters at Paul’s Mall in Boston in 1977 – The first concert I saw after I moved here.
Keep up with Bob Dylan Examiner news. Just click on “Subscribe” above, or follow @DylanExaminer on Twitter. Thanks for your support.