Willie Cobbs

Listen to Willie Cobbs on You Don't Love Me

If for nothing else, the name of Willie Cobbs will always ring immortal for the prominence of his composition "You Don't Love Me," covered by everyone from Junior Wells to the Allman Brothers. But Cobbs' own discography is dotted with other triumphs, including a 1994 album for Rooster Blues, Down to Earth, that made it clear that Cobbs was alive, well, and committed to playing the blues.

Cobbs decided the prospect of rice farming didn't appeal to him enough to stick around his native Arkansas, so he migrated to Chicago in 1947. He hung out with Little Walter and Eddie Boyd while honing his harp chops on Maxwell Street. But Cobbs' recording career didn't fully blossom until 1960, when his waxing of "You Don't Love Me" for Billy Lee Riley's Memphis-based Mojo logo made him something of a regional star (one previous 45 for Joe Brown's Ruler imprint back in Chicago had stiffed instantly). "You Don't Love Me" eventually was leased to Vee-Jay — no doubt warming Cobbs' heart, since Vee-Jay boss Jimmy Bracken had once turned down Cobbs' audition, explaining that he sounded too much like Vee-Jay breadwinner Jimmy Reed.

Throughout the '60s,'70s, and '80s, Cobbs recorded a slew of obscure singles, often for his own labels (Riceland, Ricebelt, C&F), and operated nightclubs in Arkansas and Mississippi before cutting a long-overdue album for Rooster Blues (backed by labelmates Johnny Rawls and L.C. Luckett). He's also managed to slip in a little cinematic action into his schedule, appearing in the films Mississippi Masala and Memphis. — Bill Dahl

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