Mark Hummel was born in New Haven, CT in 1955, but his family relocated to Los Angeles soon later. While in high school he studied the music of Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson. He frequented the Ash Gove, an LA nightclub, where he witnessed Sonny Terry, James Cotton and Charlie Musselwhite. Hummel, harmonica and vocals, formed his band The Blues Survivors in 1980 and released his debut recording as a bandleader in 1985. Since 1991 Hummel has produced the Blues Harmonica Blowout, a touring revue, with his band and guest harmonica players. This is Hummel’s 22nd recording in his own name. He also appears on fourteen anthologies including the Grammy nominated “Remembering Little Walter” which he produced and for which he won two Blues Music Awards. Overall Hummel has eleven BMA nominations.
The band on the “Wayback Machine” features Hummel, harmonica and vocals; Billy Flynn or Rusty Zinn, guitar; R.W. Grigsby or Kid Andersen, bass; and Alex Pettersen, drums. Featured guests include Joe Beard (who played with Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Ronnie Earl), vocals and guitar; and The Deep Basement Shakers including pianist Aaron Hammerman and percussionist Dave Eagle. The album was engineered and recorded by Andersen at his Greaseland Studios in San Jose, and produced by Hummel.
The opener “Flim Flam” was written by bassist Grigsby while two more originals, “Road Dog” and “Say You Will” are from Hummel; the latter featuring a vocal from Beard. The remaining tracks are chestnuts from artists who were the fore-bearers of the Chicago blues scene. Three songs are from John Lee Curtis “Sonny Boy” Williamson I: “Cut That Out”, Good Gal” and “Reefer Head Woman”. Williamson was a direct influence on harmonica players Billy Boy Arnold, Sonny Terry, Little Walter and guitarist Muddy Waters who played with him in the 1940’s. “Hello Stranger” was written by Baby Boy Warren and recorded with Sonny Boy in 1954.
Two songs, “Crazy About You” and “Gillum’s Windy Blues”, are from William McKinley “Jazz” Gillum who recorded as part of the “Bluebird beat” recordings of the 1930’s and 40’s produced by Lester Melrose. Bluebird Records was a low budget subsidiary of RCA Victor Records run by Melrose and became the home of Chicago blues. These records were sold primarily in Woolworth’s and Montgomery Ward retail stores. The Bluebird sound came from the session band that included Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy. “Pepper Mama” was written by Robert Lee McCollum who recorded for Bluebird under the name Robert Lee McCoy in 1937.
Two more songs are from Hudson Whitaker a.k.a. Tampa Red; “Play With Your Poodle” first recorded in 1942 and “So Much Trouble” recorded in 1953. “Breathtaking Blues” recorded in 1938 is from Rhythm Willie Hood. “Rag Mama Rag” was written and recorded in 1935 by Fulton Allen a.k.a. Blind Boy Fuller. “Mean Old Frisco” from Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup was recorded in 1962, and recorded three years later by Little Walter. “Five Long Years” from Eddie Boyd was first recorded in 1966.
These are great traditionally styled versions performed by Hummel who is harmonica player, vocalist, bandleader, songwriter and historian.