Sam Lay, an acclaimed blues drummer who performed with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Bob Dylan, has passed away, Reuters reports. He was 86.
According to Alligator Records, an independent blues label, Lay passed from natural causes at a Chicago nursing facility on Saturday.
“An era is over,” Corky Spiegel, a longtime friend and bandmate of Lay’s, said in an interview. “He just made you fly, he sucked you into the music. Sam wasn’t about a groove or time, he went wherever the music went.”
Born in Birmingham Alabama, Lay first came to prominence as a drummer playing behind legendary harmonica player Little Walker when he relocated to Chicago in the 1950s.
Throughout the “Windy City” and beyond, Lay gained a reputation for his “trademark, hard-to-copy ‘double-shuffle'” drumming, based on double-time hand-clapping, a style that he developed in his childhood church, Alligator Records added.
Backing Howlin’ Wolf, Lay drummed on several notable songs including “Killing Floor,” “The Red Rooster” and “300 Pounds of Joy.”
Lay also played with Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival when the singer/songwriter began playing electric guitar, a watershed moment in Rock & Roll history.
In 1969, Lay played on Muddy Waters’ “Fathers & Sons,” which would become the iconic blues singer’s best-selling record on Chess Records.
Lay was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 as a founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
“Words can’t describe it if you like blues like I do,” Lay said in an interview with South Bend Tribune in 2015 about his induction. “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.”
Lay is survived by his daughter Debbie, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
We extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sam Lay.