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Blues drummer Sam Lay dies at 86; played with Wolf, Butterfield, Waters, and Dylan

Lay is best known as drummer for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, but also played with Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Bob Dylan at the legendary 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
Blues drummer Sam Lay dies at 86; played with Wolf, Butterfield, Waters, and Dylan

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CHICAGO (AP) — Sam Lay, a Chicago blues drummer and vocalist who played with Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, has died at age 86.

Lay died Saturday of natural causes in Chicago, Alligator Records said Monday.

Lay, known for wearing a cape and carrying a walking stick, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 as part of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

“Words can’t describe it if you like blues like I do,” Lay told the South Bend Tribune that year, referring to the band.[1] “I enjoyed the moment of it, and everybody that was in that band, I enjoyed. I learned a lot from everybody in there, and they claim they learned a lot from me.”

Alligator Records said Lay was known for his “trademark, hard-to-copy ‘double-shuffle’" drumming, based on double-time hand-clapping in his childhood church.

Lay, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, played professionally in Cleveland in the mid-1950s before moving to Chicago, the record label said.

In 1969, he played drums on “Fathers & Sons,” Waters' best-selling record on Chess Records.

Lay backed up Dylan on drums in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival. It caused a stir in the crowd because Dylan played an electric guitar and had turned to a rock sound.

You may also like the Chicago Journal's Brief History of Music in Chicago!

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Notes & References

  1. Hughes, Andrew S. “Sam Lay Turns 80, Joins Hall of Fame.” South Bend Tribune. South Bend Tribune, April 30, 2015. https://www.southbendtribune.com/story/entertainment/2015/04/30/sam-lay-turns-80-joins-hall-of-fame/46407527/. ↩︎