Arthur 'Big Boy' Spires (February 25, 1912
- October 22, 1990) was an American blues singer and guitarist, who recorded
for a number of record labels in Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s.
Life and career
Spires was born in Natchez, Mississippi (some sources give his birthplace as
Yazoo City) on February 25, 1912. Although he didn't take up the guitar
until the late 1930s, he was proficient enough by 1939 or 1940 to work with
Lightnin' Hopkins at the Beer Garden in Yazoo City.
In 1943 Spires moved to Chicago, and started playing for house parties,
graduating to playing clubs by the early 1950s. Spires was a limited
guitarist, and during this time he recruited the young guitarists Louis and
David Myers, who later went on to form The Aces, as part of his backing
By the time of his first recording session for Chess in 1952 Spires was
working with a band called the Rocket Four, including Eddie El on guitar and
Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith on
drums or harmonica. The recording session, however, was a three guitar
line-up with Spires, El, and Earl Dranes, supplemented by Smith on maracas
on one of the two tracks, 'Murmer Low'. While sales of the resulting single
were poor, both sides, especially 'Murmer Low' which has a strong Tommy
Johnson influence, are today regarded as classics of the Chicago blues
A second recording session for Chance in 1953 resulted in another single
being released, although a further four sides by Spires and two by guitarist
Johnny Williams remained unissued until
the 1970s. A further recording session in December 1954 produced four sides,
but although the tapes went to United Records these were not released until
1989, possibly because of sound quality issues.
Spires continued to perform with the Rocket Four through the 1950s, and
recorded another largely unissued session for the Testament label in 1965,
but was forced to give up the guitar as a result of arthritis. He died in
Chicago on October 22, 1990.