Arthur Lee Stevenson (May 7, 1926 - May 7, 1991), known as Kansas City Red, was an American blues drummer and vocalist who played a major role in the development of urban blues. He performed and/or recorded with many blues artists such as David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Robert Nighthawk, Sunnyland Slim, and Walter Horton.
Stevenson was born in Drew, Mississippi. After he was rejected for the service in 1942, he took a brief trip to Kansas City and then became nicknamed Kansas City Red. David "Honeyboy" Edwards was his first musical influence. He started following Robert Nighthawk in the early 1940s and when Nighthawk's drummer was ill and unable to play a gig, Kansas City Red offered to fill in even though he had never played drums. He was Nighthawk's drummer until around 1946. Nighthawk recorded Red's song, "The Moon is Rising". He became part of Sonny Boy Williamson II's inner circle and he played on the famed King Biscuit radio show in Helena, Arkansas. He had brushes with law enforcement, women, and jealous boyfriends in the south and California before moving to southern Illinois. He moved to Chicago in the 1950s. where he was a regular at Chicago blues clubs, playing with Johnny Shines, Walter Horton, Sunnyland Slim,Earl Hooker, Blind John Davis, Johnny "Man" Young, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Eddie Taylor, Floyd Jones, and Elmore James, among others. He briefly played with Honeyboy Edwards and in 1950s he formed a band with Earl Hooker. He led his own bands, including one that gave Jimmy Reed early professional experience. He owned and operated well-known clubs on Chicago's west side such as the Boola Boola, the Shangri-La, and the Club Reno.
Music and performance style:
Red's music career lasted more than 40 years. Blues reviewer Whiteis wrote that Red's vulnerable personality likely prevented his career from breaking out of the local circuit. According to Whiteas, Red was known to openly weep when he sang his song, "I Am a Prisoner", that he wrote about time in he spent in jail in 1980. However, Whiteis stated that Red "played a major role in transforming the blues from a southern tradition to a forward-looking urban form." Whiteis described his drumming style as "one of the most identifiable in Chicago Blues, 'busy and eccentric... punctuated by cymbal crashes" and controlled in with drum rolls. His signature solo, "Freedom Train", was marked by explosive drumming unanticipated in the middle of slow blues shuffles. Whiteis wrote that Red's "legacy transcended his musical contributions" by owning a series of clubs, his role of encouraging artists and listeners from diverse backgrounds, and his "warm and amiable" emceeing style of his ongoing jams sessions in numerous clubs ranging from the B.L.U.E.S. and V and J Lounge that were attended by musicians and fans from throughout Chicago.
Old Friends Together for the First Time
Kansas City Red, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Sunnyland Slim, Floyd Jones
1981 - Kansas City Red as vocalist on "I'm a Prisoner", "Freedom Train", and "Lightning Struck the Poor House"
Original Chicago Blues
Kansas City Red
P-Vine Records,JSP Records
1982 - features Kansas City Red as vocalist on 6 of 9 tracts, also features Eddie Taylor and Big John Wrencher
Earwig Anniversary Sampler
1995 - features Kansas City Red as vocalist on "Lightnin' Struck the Poor House"
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