Revolutionary slide singer, writer and guitarist Ellen McIlwaine dies at 75

Slide singer, songwriter and guitarist Ellen McIlwaine, who rose to prominence in the late 1960s and released several solo albums from the early 1970s, died on June 23 at a hospice in her adoption home in Calgary, AB. She was 75 years old.

McIlwaine was born in Nashville in 1945 but was raised by missionary adoptive parents to an international community in Kobe, Japan, then made her musical debut in Atlanta. She has been influenced by New Orleans R&B, European classical music, traditional country, and many international genres.

As his website describes it, “his high energy rhythm & blues, along with Middle Eastern wailing, Indian, Pakistani and West African influences and a capella gospel numbers all drive his incredible slide guitar and acrobatics. vocals to create a dynamic spectacle “.

She began appearing on the Greenwich Village stage in 1966, performing with a then little-known Jimi Hendrix, before moving to the UK which became the catalyst for his career. Hendrix “left an impression on me,” she said. Beetle in 1972. “We played Go-Go in New York together and I watched him make some sounds on his guitar and I learned to use the guitar as a voice. I think I got that from him.

While in New York, she also met Odetta, Richie Havens, and Mississippi John Hurt. McIlwaine then returned to Atlanta and, most unusual for the time, became the singer for a psychedelic female-led rock band, Fear Itself.

The group’s only album, an eponymous ensemble produced by frequent traveler Tom Wilson, was released on Dot Records in 1968. McIlwaine then began a solo career, signing with Polydor, for whom she released Honky Tonk Angel in 1972 and We the people the next year.

The first of these was a half-live, half-studio record, with live versions of Jack bruce and “Weird of Hermiston” by Pete Brown and “Up From The Skies” by his old friend Hendrix; studio cuts included a cover of Blind faith‘s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and two of his own songs. This and We the people were reissued in a 1993 double version as From the sky: the Polydor years.

She recorded as a freelance artist from the years 1975 The real Ellen McIlwaine onwards, forming a particular suite in Australia, where an eponymous album was mapped in 1978. In 2008, she toured in America with Patty Larkin’s La Guitara ensemble, then in 2009 and 2010 in Canada with Sue’s Guitar Women Foley.

McIlwaine most recently appeared on the album Living in Gray Creek in 2010. In 2013, she appeared in the documentary Hendrix Listen to my train A Comin, and in recent years had been working on his autobiography.

“I think it’s terrible that no one takes a guitarist seriously,” said McIlwaine. Sounds in 1974. “A woman who plays the guitar is just not done. You know why? Because a guitar is in front of you and it covers your middle, which a lot of people want to see. Even the record companies think you can still ditch the guitar and squirm in front of a band.

“As a performer,” she added, “I have to create an energy between myself and the audience. I keep playing, I let the feeling pull me out until it stops.


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