Blues Unlimited on the road: Little Jr. Parker, standing (far left), Bobby “Blue” Bland, kneeling (far left),
Pat Hare, standing (far right). South Carolina, 1952.
Clipping from St. Paul Dispatch, Dec. ’63 concerning Hare’s double murder.
Pat Hare (right) with James Cotton, 1959
Pat Hare: A mean little shit, Memphis, 1955.
Muddy Waters at Newport, 1960, Pat Hare on guitar (to Muddy’s right).
Pat Hare was born Auburn Hare, December 20, 1930 in Cherry Valley, Arkansas where he was raised by his grandmother on a plantation owned by a Mrs. Fay Van, he had had a brother who died at the age of six.
In 1940, the family moved to a farm near Parkin, Arkansas, and around the same time young Auburn, whose grandmother nicknamed him Pat, started playing guitar. In his teens he took lessons from Joe Willie Wilkins, who played in Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller)’s band, appearing on Sonny Boy’s King Biscuit Flour radio show. He also fell in with Howlin’ Wolf, and played in Wolf’s band on weekends around the Forrest City/West Memphis area while still in his teens. He also played minor league baseball, and drove a “big John Deere tractor” on the farm. He was already developing into something of a bad drunk, a mean little shit who at one time climbed up on a chair to punch Howlin’ Wolf who towered over him (and probably could have killed him bare handed had he retaliated).
Wolf took him back to his family and recommended they give him a whupping. There are other stories about young Pat Hare, it’s hard to tell which ones are true and which are exaggerations, athough there’s probably at least a kernel of truth to most of them– that he took a few shots a Wolf with a pistol, that he attacked a man with a rake, breaking his own finger in the process (one of his little fingers was bent and would remain so for the rest of his life). Wolf kept him on, using him for his own radio show that broadcast from West Memphis’ KWEM, and Hare also appeared on the radio with James Cotton, Willie Nix, Joe Hill Louis and later on Memphis’ all black WDIA playing behind his cousin Walter Bradford.
Pat Hare made his recording debut backing up Bradford on a session held at Sam C. Phillips’ Sun Studio in the spring of 1952. The record– Walter Bradford’s Dreary Nights b/w Nuthin’ But The Blues (Sun 176) is so rare that no one has actually ever seen a copy. Hare claimed to have played on several of Howlin’ Wolf’s RPM sides cut around the same time (the ones produced by Ike Turner and recorded at KWEM’s studio), but Wolf’s guitarist of the time Willie Johnson claims that he played on the sides in question. To my ears it sounds like Johnson, although their playing had many similarities. Both musicians could play complicated jazzy leads which would be followed up by crude, violent fills and chord crashes. Both used an extremely distorted tone (in day and age well before the invention of foot pedals and distortion boxes which are standard fare for any guitarist for the last forty years). Pat Hare had left Howlin’ Wolf’s band (or more likely, was fired) in 1952, and it was then he joined up with Little Junior Parker’s band, staying with them until April of ’53. Parker shared his band with Bobby “Blue” Bland, and they toured together as “Blues Unlimited”. When not touring, he would return to the family farm, and play around Memphis working with various musicians including Johnny Ace, Rosco Gordon, Ike Turner, and James Cotton whose band became his most regular gig of the time. He also became the favorite session guitarist of producer Sam Phillips who had just opened his studio on the corner of Union and Marshall in Memphis and was leasing tunes to RPM in Hollywood and Chess in Chicago, and then releasing them on his own Sun label. Hare appeared on sides by Rosco Gordon, Little Junior Parker (including this one which appeared on Duke– Sittin’ Drinkin and Thinkin’), Walter Horton, Big Memphis Ma Rainey, Kenneth Banks and others. One of the greatest thrills for young Pat Hare however was getting to play with one of his musical heroes– Memphis Minnie who had retired to Memphis and whom Hare backed at a Memphis gig one weekend in 1953.
At Sun he appeared two early James Cotton singles, which in retrospect, would be the greatest recordings ever issued under Cotton’s name– My Baby b/w Straighten Up Baby (Sun 199) and Cotton Crop Blues b/w Hold Me In Your Arms (Sun 206). What made these discs so special was Hare’s demonically, distorted guitar attack, it sounded as if his strings were made of barbed wire, most especially on Cotton Crop Blues.
Another excellent session for Sun was led by harmonica player Coy “Hot Shot” Love. It would produce another disc of singular greatness– Wolf Call Boogie b/w Harmonica Jam (Sun 196). Here’s an alternate take of Wolf Call Boogie for those who prefer to lead an alternative lifestyle.
In May of ’54, Sam Phillips decided to record Pat Hare under his own name. James Cotton was scheduled to play harmonica on the session but the two got into a fist fight that day, and Cotton disappeared. Instead, Hare is backed up by Israel Franklin on bass and Billy Love on piano on the two tunes. The first is a monstrous reading of Dr. Clayton’s Cheatin’ & Lyin’ Blues, re-titled on the tape box I’m Gonna Murder My Baby, it was and still is, one of the most foreboding and ominous recordings in the entire blues canon, along with Bonus Pay which is actually a cover of Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s Ain’t Gonna Be That Way. Phillips chose not to release Hare’s disc which would not be heard until it slipped out on a bootleg on the Redita label in 1976, and later appeared on Charley Records’ Sun Blues Box in the eighties. I paraphrase the late, great, Memphis institution Jim Dickinson– “the best performances don’t get recorded, the best recordings don’t get released, the best releases don’t get heard”. However, like, say Robert Johnson (whose first LP, issued twenty four years after his death sold only a few thousand copies in the first few years on the market, but by the late 80’s would become a platinum, million selling, box set) the few who heard I’m Gonna Murder My Baby knew it was something special and they all told someone else who told someone else and eventually it would become something of an underground blues hit amongst hardcore fans and collectors. Perhaps helped along by the way history would play itself out.
Meanwhile, Pat Hare had become a full time musician, and he would appear on many other discs, most notably Bobby “Blue” Bland’s hit Further Up The Road (Duke 170) where his guitar is featured prominently and Little Junior Parker’s I Wanna Ramble (Duke 137), one of his best discs, Hare adds his own unique attack to a riff developed by Floyd Murphy on Parker’s earlier Sun recordings Mystery Train and Love My Baby. Hare went back on the road with the Blues Unlimited tour until Bland fired him sometime in 1957. It was the same year that James Cotton, who had joined Muddy Waters’ band brought Pat to Chicago to replace Jimmy Rogers in, what was known to their contemporaries as Muddy Waters’ Drunk Assed Band. He would play with Waters for the next few years, appearing on the Muddy Waters Live At Newport and Muddy Waters’ Sings Big Bill LP’s.
Pat Hare did not get along with Leonard Chess and was not featured much on the Chess discs he plays on, although Hare has some nice moments on the Sings Big Bill album, the first Waters LP to be recorded in stereo. His trademark distorted sonic attack is replaced by a cleaner, low volume sound. Probably at Leonard Chess’ insistence, trying to make him sound more like Jimmy Rogers who favored a more twangy sound. Hare shines brightest on Hey Hey and Moppers Blues from Muddy Waters Sings Big Bill.
Somtime between 1960-63 (the exact date is unclear) came the first “incident” to hint that Hare, who was fairly mild mannered when sober, was becoming an out of control drunk. Having left his wife in Cleveland, Hare had a girlfriend in Chicago named Louise Kennedy. They fought a lot, Hare often accused her of cheating. One night he couldn’t get her on the phone so he went to her apartment with a loaded Winchester rifle and emptied it through her front window. She was home, but just too afraid of Hare’s temper to answer the door. The police put out a warrant for Hare, who first hid with Muddy Waters then went back to Memphis to stay with Joe Willie Wilkins. Finally, in ’63 he returned to the family farm in Parkin, it was there that former Muddy Waters sidemen Mojo Burford and Jojo Williams tracked him down. They were starting a new band in Minneapolis and brought Pat north to play with them. Soon they were gigging at Mattie’s Bar-B-Q in South Minneapolis. Pat Hare was drinking heavily and often had to be sent home for passing out on the bandstand. Once, after being sent home for two nights running, Hare demanded that Burford pay him anyway. When Burford refused Hare threatened to shoot him. Things would get worse from here, much worse.
On Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15, 1963 Hare spent the afternoon drinking wine with well known blues drummer S. P. Leary (who was in town working in band with former Howlin’ Wolf guitarist Willie Johnson and Elmore James’ former sax player J.T. Brown). Pat Hare at the time was living with a married woman named Aggie Winje. Pat called a friend of Aggie’s named Pat Morrow who drove him to a third friend’s house where he drank a half pint of gin. There the two proceeded to the house of James McHie, who was Hare’s boss at his day job as a window washer. James McHie wasn’t home, so Hare told McHie’s wife to bring him to his apartment when he got in, explaining he was having trouble with Aggie who wanted to return to her husband. When Hare got home he took a couple of potshots at Aggie who ran out to Morrow’s car and asked if she’d take Hare with her, she was throwing him out. Morrow took off leaving Aggie with Pat, who had worked himself into a lather. Hare got a phone call at a neighbor named Charles Cook’s apartment, and while he was on the phone Hare told Cook– “That woman is going to make me kill her”. The phone call was from Pat Marrow’s husband who was looking for her– “You got the wrong Pat”, Hare told him. Hare returned to his and Aggie’s apartment where they continued to fight, soon, more shots were heard. A woman named Florence Whipps called the police. Officers James E. Hendricks and Chester Langaard responded within minutes. Officer Hendricks, armed with a shotgun headed to Hare’s apartment and was heard to say “Give me the gun”, followed by three shots. When Office Langaard, a few steps behind his partner arrived to see Hendricks on the floor and Hare pointing a pistol at him. Aggie was on the couch with two bullet holes in her. Langaard shot Pat Hare twice and called for back up. Two ambulances arrived, the first took away office Hendricks who died en route to the hospital. Aggie and Pat were taken to General Hospital and both underwent surgery. Aggie would die on January 22, 1964. When questioned, Hare remembered only that he was drunk and claimed to have no recollection of shooting anyone.
At the trial Pat Hare waved his rights to a jury trial, and the judge was Tom Bergin, a former cop. The trial, held February 14, 1964 lasted all of one day and Pat Hare was found guilty of first degree murder of Officer Hendricks while at the same time pleading guilty to third degree murder in the case of Aggie Winje’s shooting. He was sentenced to life in prison and was sent off to Stillwater State Prison, changing his stage name to 21961-E. In prison Hare joined AA and quit drinking, he played in the prison band– Sounds Incarcerated, playing jazz, country, blues, and rock’n’roll to fellow inmates and later the band was allowed to travel outside the prison, appearing at public events, concerts, hospitals, and other venues. Hare was denied parole in 1974, and in 1975 he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was operated on and had part of one lung removed. In 1977 the cancer returned and he was given chemotherapy for cancer of the throat and underwent a second surgery, this time having the muscles from the left side of his neck and under his tongue removed. He was transferred to a minimum security prison. He was often allowed to leave the prison to perform music, even appearing with Muddy Waters at a local concert where Muddy was opening for Eric Clapton.
He was filmed in 1980 for a local Minnesota tv show called PM Magazine, and was about to be given a medical pardon when he succumbed to cancer on September 26, 1980. By the time of his death, the ironic story of Pat Hare and I’m Gonna Murder My Baby had entered blue lore. There was an interview with him, done in prison, that appeared in Living Blues magazine, and later a long feature about him in Juke Blues (the later being the source for the names and dates in this posting).
His Sun material would be re-issued many times, including on a Japanese P-Vine LP called Memphis Aggressive Guitars Vol. 1. So goes the story of Pat Hare, killer blues guitar player.