Died: April 1988
To the avid blues fan, the name Alabama Jr. (Daddy Rabbit) has been synonymous with that of Magic Slim & The Teardrops for 10 years, From 1973 to 1983. Alabama Jr. was a staple of the Teadrops band providing sympathetic backing to the driving lead of Magic Slim and pulsating bass of his brother, Nick Holt. Coleman Pettis Jr. (his real name) was born in Alabama in the mid 1930s. At the age of 8 his mother taught him to play the guitar, which he practiced sporadically throughout his childhood. When there wasn't a guitar handy for him to play on, he would make his own by winding bothe ends of some baling wire around a long stick and plucking out whatever sound he could get. By the time he was a teenager, he was playing at local fish fries, first as a solo guitarist, then adding another guitar and playing as a part of a duo, for the then grand sum of $5. - per night. In 1952 he moved to Chicago, where he was eventually to meet and play with many of the great musicians who were building the foundations of what was to become known as "Chicago Blues". On his arrival in Chicago, Alabama Jr. became an avid club goer, finding out where the hottest blues was being played, and going initially, just to listen. By 1956, he was playing bass with Little Walter, at various clubs on the Southside, and one or two in Joliet. One club that Jr. hung out at was Turner's Lounge at 40th and Indiana, where he met and played with Lee Jackson, Big Walter Horton, J. B. Hutto, Hayes ware and others. Lee Jackson became a major influence on his career by encouraging him to keep playing the guitar. After his stint playing bass with Little Walter, he joined Lee Jackson for three years on rhythm guitar at a small club called Tony's Blue Lounge. By 1973 Alabama Jr. had some solid playing experience behind him. He had recorded with J. B. Hutto on J. B.'s first Delmark album called "Hawk Squat" and had built up a solid reputation as a fine and original accompanist.
One night in '73, he went to hear a band called Mr. Pitiful & The Teardrops at the club named The Bo Weavil at 29th and Wentworth. He liked what he heard there and began to go often, sometimes to sit in, sometimes just to listen. Magic Slim was in the band at the time, and was soon to become the band leader because Mr. Pitiful, who played bass, was about to quit. Slim liked Alabama Jr.'s style of playing and after Mr. Pitiful left the band went through a few changes before Slim eventually hired Junior and changed the band name to magic Slim & The Teardrops. In '73 Slim and the band took over the farmed Sunday afternoon jams at Florence's from Hound Dog Taylor and began to establish themselves as the hottest, tightest blues band in Chicago. Alabama Jr.s reputation grew in this band. Slim had found the perfect complement to his sound in Junior's precise rhythm playing. The key to this successful combination was due to his ability to know the proper notes to play in order to enhance the sound of the other band members. As he explains, "a lot of people ask me what kind of chords am I playing? You don't play ordinary chords like most guitar players. But the type of chords that I play is what I call a down chord. I make a flat 9th chord which most chordmen don't make that type of chord. I try to make Slim's guitar sound by blending in with a 9th chord, with a Jimmy Reed beat on it. What it does, it given a heavy background between the lead guitar and the bass."
It was this conscious creativity and expertise that made Alabama Jr. such a fine musician...
Sources: Alabama Music Hall of Fame; Liner notes by Beverly Zeldin
Alabama Junior Pettis - I'm mad http://youtu.be/6ej__SrdXV4
Video: Alabama Junior Pettis - I'm a Poor Man http://youtu.be/BMPDRcvE4PE
Amazon Hawk Squat and Nora Lee