Transcription from Corky Siegel introduction to Induct Sam Lay into Blues Hall of Fame: 5/9/18
I first met Sam Lay when he played with Elvin Bishop & Paul Butterfield at Big Johns in 65. To this day I've never heard such a brilliant group as that four-piece with Elvin's beautifully placed guitar licks. The whole band was being driven by Sam who was coming at you like four multi-colored locomotives.
I played with Sam a bit in 69 but didn't start our 30 year stint with Siegel-Schwall until 1987.
Let me take you back to 1971. In 1971 Sam was NOT part of my life. In fact, I was steeped in this mission to bring a Chicago blues flavor to symphony orchestra. Picture me in San Francisco surrounded by 100 classical musicians, a world renowned maestro, an opera house filled with classical music lovers and the exclusively classical label, Deutsche Grammophon, waiting to record this for history.
Sam Lay was the last thing on my mind on that day in 1971 when I was interviewed by Rolling Stone Magazine for an article called SIEGEL-SCHWALL PLAYS THE OPERA, and asked;
"Who is your main musical influence?"
Here's a direct quote from the 1971 article:
"Corky says his main musical influence was Sam Lay the drummer with the Paul Butterfield blues group. He’s the best blues drummer in the world [says Corky]. The best drummer of any sort I've ever heard. He has taste, he has ideas of his own. Most of my concepts of the blues are things he showed me.
Literally written in stone back in 1971
Jim Keltner who drummed for Dylan, Clapton, Lenon, Joe Cocker, George Harrison, said;
"When I play the blues I want to sound like Sam Lay! - I want to feel like Sam Lay! - I want to BE Sam Lay! - period!"
The highly respected Jazz drummer from Journey, Steve Smith, came to Chicago - gave me a call - and sought out a private audience with Sam and said:
"Every drummer needs to understand what Sam Lay is doing, why he is doing it, and how he is doing it."
Charlie Musslewhite said;
"Sam does't just play the drums, Sam sings the drums"
Imagine the Rolling stones in their little rooms across the sea listening over and over to Sam drumming on so many of the Chess record hits like Howlin' Wolf's Killing Floor.
Well, Sam's history - (who he's played with - what he's done) - it's certainly remarkable.
But the music performance he brought to the world - 'in purely musical terms' - is nothing less than profound.
Bob Dylan invited Sam to attend his concert and introduced Sam from stage as the world's greatest blues drummer. He then invited Sam to the dressing room. When Sam came back out into the audience people gathered around;
"Sam Sam what's it like to hang with a super-star?"
"I guess Bob was thrilled."
It is now my pleasure to induct Super Star - Rock N Roll Hall of Famer - Sam Lay into the BLUES Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2018. Congratulations Sam - but first here's Elvin.