J. B. At Home. His name is J. B. Lenoir
In footage captured by husband and wife Swedish blues enthusiasts the Seaberg’s, J. B. Lenoir introduces himself in song from the living room of his Chicago home in 1965, accompanied by Steve Seaberg on second guitar. From the original half hour 16mm black & white monaural film featuring J. B. Lenoir in his home on Dante Street in Chicago in 1965, playing with Steve Seaberg. The camera man is Marshall Matson. This was original filmed for Swedish Television and includes some interpretation by Steve Seaberg who wore a bandage due to a minor eye infection.
Although his name is sometimes pronounced as French “L’n WAHR”, Lenoir himself pronounced it “La NOR”. The initials “J.B.” had no specific meaning, his given name was simply “JB”.
Lenoir was known in the 1950s for his showmanship – in particular his zebra-patterned costumes – and his high-pitched vocals. He became an influential electric guitarist and songwriter, and his penchant for social commentary distinguished him from many other bluesmen of the time. His most commercially successful and enduring release was “Mamma Talk To Your Daughter”, recorded for Parrot in 1954 which reached #11 on the Billboard R&B chart and was later recorded by many other blues and rock musicians. In the later 1950s (recording on the Checker label), he wrote several more blues standards including; “Don’t Dog Your Woman”, and “Don’t Touch My Head!!!” (1956).
In 1963, Lenoir recorded for USA Records as ‘J. B. Lenoir and his African Hunch Rhythm’, developing an interest in African percussion. However, he struggled to work as a professional musician and for a time took menial jobs, including working in the kitchen at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Lenoir was rediscovered by Willie Dixon, who recorded him playing acoustic guitar, with drummer Fred Below on the albums Alabama Blues and Down In Mississippi (inspired by the Civil Rights and Free Speech movements). Lenoir toured Europe, and performed in 1965 with the American Folk Blues Festival in the United Kingdom.
Lenoir’s work had direct political content relating to racism and the Korean and Vietnam War