Produced by Brian Brinkerhoff and Jesse Harms, WATCH YOUR BACK finds Guitar Shorty singing and playing with ferocious urgency. While his previous releases have surveyed the musical landscape from New Orleans funk to Texas shuffles to classic R&B, WATCH YOUR BACK burns with heavy rock and roll fire from start to finish, putting Shorty’s infectious energy and guitar pyrotechnics on full display. In all the years Guitar Shorty has been playing and recording, he’s never reached the heights – either vocally or instrumentally – that he does here.

David William Kearney was born on September 8, 1939 in Houston, Texas and raised in Kissimee, Florida by his grandmother. He began playing guitar as a young boy, excited by the sounds of B.B. King, Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker and Earl Hooker. At 17, he was already good enough to earn a gig as featured guitarist and vocalist in Walter Johnson's 18-piece orchestra. Being younger - and shorter - then the rest of the band, the club owner dubbed him Guitar Shorty, and the name stuck. After a Shorty performance in Tampa, the great Willie Dixon, who was in the audience, approached the teenager and said, "I like what you're doing; you've got something different. I gotta get you in the studio." A few weeks later Shorty was in Chicago with Dixon as producer and, backed by Otis Rush on second guitar, he cut his first single for Chicago's famed Cobra Records (first label home for Rush, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy) in 1957.

Soon after, Shorty met one of his idols - Guitar Slim, famous for his hit "The Things That I Used To Do" as well as for his wildman stage antics. Inspired by Slim, Shorty began incorporating some of Slim's tricks into his own shows. Soon he was doing somersaults and flips on stage, while continuing to hone his own high-energy musical style. He recorded three 45s for the Los Angeles-based Pull Records label in 1959. Those six sides - all Guitar Shorty originals - showcased his tough vocals and his wild guitar, and earned him a loyal following.

Shorty gigged steadily, working with Little Milton, B.B. King, Lowell Fulson, Johnny Copeland and T-Bone Walker. He eventually settled down in Seattle where he married Marsha Hendrix, Jimi's stepsister, and became a strong influence on the young guitarist. Hendrix confessed that in 1961 and 1962 he would go AWOL from his Army base to catch Shorty's performances. "I'd see Jimi at the clubs," Shorty recalls, "He'd stay in the shadows, watching me. I can hear my licks in Purple Haze and Hey Joe. He told me the reason he started setting his guitar on fire was because he couldn't do the back flips like I did."

Shorty migrated to Los Angeles in 1971, working as a mechanic during the day while playing gigs at night. By 1975 he was playing full-time again - although he still had his share of career tribulations, including a performance (albeit a winning one) on The Gong Show in 1978, playing guitar while standing on his head. After overcoming a serious 1984 auto accident, he recorded an EP and a few more singles, showcasing his fat-toned guitar licks and rough-edged vocals.

He finally cut his debut album for the JSP label in 1990 while on tour in England. Released in 1991, MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY won the W.C. Handy Award for Contemporary Foreign Blues Album Of The Year and revitalized Shorty's career in the U.S. The New Orleans-based Black Top label signed him and released three albums during the 1990s and Evidence issued a CD in 2001. All received massive critical acclaim as Shorty barnstormed his way across the U.S. and around the world, with stops in Europe, China and Malaysia. Appearances at major festivals brought him to larger and larger audiences. At the 1998 Chicago Blues Festival, Shorty opened for his old boss, Ray Charles, and thrilled an audience of thousands with his jaw-dropping stage show.

With the release of WATCH YOUR BACK, Guitar Shorty’s long rise to blues stardom continues unabated. The outpouring of soulful emotion, the power of his playing and the strength of the material all add up to the toughest album of Shorty’s renowned career. According to the man himself, “this is the record I’ve always wanted to do. The songs and the arrangements are what’s been in my head my whole life.” Now he’s rocking harder, singing stronger and playing with a passion and dedication almost unmatched in today’s music scene.


RELEASE THE HOUND is a sizzling collection of some of the best previously unreleased Hound Dog Taylor material in existence. Featuring over 68 minutes of music, RELEASE THE HOUND boasts 14 live and studio performances, including stunning versions of “Wild About You, Baby,” “What’d I Say?,” “She’s Gone,” “Sen-Sa-Shun” and “Gonna Send You Back To Georgia.” Taylor’s wild guitar exuberance and joyous, soulful abandon fuel each and every song. Three instrumentals on the CD showcase Brewer Phillips’ crazed lead guitar playing. From the audience reactions on the live cuts to the untamed blues energy of the studio tracks, RELEASE THE HOUND will delight old fans and introduce new ones to Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers’ one-of-a-kind blues experience.

Born in Mississippi in 1917, Taylor didn't start playing guitar until he was 20. He worked as a sharecropper by day and played at Delta juke joints and house parties in the evenings. After a harrowing encounter with the Ku Klux Klan in 1942 (he had a cross burned in his yard), Taylor moved north to Chicago, where he performed at the famous outdoor market on Maxwell Street, competing for tips with Muddy Waters and Robert Nighthawk. Hound Dog played in ghetto bars at night while working a factory job, until the late 1950’s when he became a full time musician. He recorded one single, “Christine”/”Alley Music,” for Firma Records and another, “Take Five”/”My Baby's Coming Home,” for Bea & Baby Records in the early 1960’s. Both records were good local sellers but went largely unnoticed outside of Chicago. A session for Chess remained unissued until the 1990’s. Taylor toured Europe without his band as part of the American Folk Blues Festival, playing behind Little Walter and others, but never got a chance to show European audiences the magic of his own music.

Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers appeared at the second Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1970 (and became a featured attraction at the third, fourth and fifth Ann Arbor Blues festivals), playing to thousands of cheering college kids. When his Alligator album hit the streets in 1971, Taylor’s transition from local hero to national and international blues hero was almost immediate. Taylor began touring the country, continuing to win new, young fans. And he never changed a bit. Taylor played his music with furious abandon whether he was at Florence’s on the South Side of Chicago or entertaining college kids at Yale or Harvard. “Nobody but nobody brings the house down with a frenzy and madness like these cats,” raved Living Blues. “Deliciously raucous,” said Guitar Player.

In all, Taylor recorded a total of three Alligator albums before dying of cancer in 1975. Aside from his self-titled 1971debut, Taylor's records are 1974’s NATURAL BOOGIE and 1976’s live, Grammy©-nominated BEWARE OF THE DOG!, released a year after his death. The success of these records gave life to Alligator, allowing the fledgling label to survive and eventually thrive. In 1982 Alligator issued the Grammy©-nominated GENUINE HOUSEROCKING MUSIC, a collection of unreleased studio tracks. The continuing demand for more of Taylor’s material has brought forth a number of poorly recorded, bad sounding bootlegs over the years –recordings for which Taylor and his bandmates never saw any payments or royalties.

Years after his death, Taylor’s legendary status still continues to grow. He was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall Of Fame in 1984. And his debut album received the Blues Foundation’s Classics of Blues Recordings Award in 1996. His influence on slide guitarists who came after him is immeasurable. Artists from George Thorogood to Sonny Landreth to Vernon Reid to Gov’t Mule continue to be inspired by Hound Dog’s music. That’s why these artists and others including Elvin Bishop, Luther Allison, Ronnie Earl, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Son Seals, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sonny Landreth, Dave Hole, Michael Hill’s Blues Mob and Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin contributed songs to Alligator Records’ HOUND DOG TAYLOR – A TRIBUTE in 1998. A 1999 “Best Of,” collection entitled DELUXE EDITION, continued to spread Hound Dog’s legend around the world.

Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers played foot-stomping boogies to make fans forget their troubles and dance. They played grinding slow blues to exorcise their demons. “I’m with you, baby I’m with you,” Taylor would shout when someone yelled a request out of the audience. “Let’s have some fun,” he’d holler after sitting down and plugging in his ultra-cheap Japanese guitar into his cracked-speaker Sears Silvertone amp. And with Brewer Phillips plying bass lines on his old Fender and Ted Harvey pounding away at the drums, this three-piece blues band made a lot of wonderful noise. “When I die,” Taylor once said, “they’ll say, ‘he couldn’t play shit but he sure made it sound good.’” Almost 30 years after his death, RELEASE THE HOUND proves just how good that sound can be.