Gabe McManus owned Seattle’s Shamrock Tavern back in the 1950s and 1960s, turning the regular old dive bar into a blues and jazz dive bar. He also had a prodigious record collection, one said to have consisted of more than 60,000 titles. In the late 1970s his son suggested he try to put together an album of some of the lost blues classics in his collection, and in 1978 they miraculously pulled it off in the form of the 30-song, 2XLP Gabe’s Dirty Blues. The record is said to have sold about 15,000 copies, mostly in the Seattle area, and that’s how I ended up coming across a copy at Georgetown Records a few weeks back. The jacket is pretty thrashed, but the vinyl is in great shape.
I’m not even remotely knowledgeable about blues, but even so I was surprised at how many songs I recognize on this record, even if it’s not the same version I know. Right from the get-go I got hit with Little Willie John doing “Fever” and found myself thinking, “Alright, this could be cool”. “Sixty-Second Man” I know from it’s inclusion in the movie Bull Durham, while “Big Ten Inch Record” is familiar due to Aerosmith’s well-known cover version. And frankly the ones I don’t know are every bit as good.
I’m not much of a blues guy, to be sure, but every no and then I want to hear it. And a well-curated comp like Gabe’s Dirty Blues is perfect for those times.