PHOTOS: (Top) Bob in his store on W. Irving Park Rd.
(Middle left) Sue Koester reads Bob an amusing birthday card at his 87th birthday party at the store on Oct. 26, 2019.
(Bottom right) Chicago Blues Royalty– (l-r) Michael Frank (Earwig Records), Bob Koester (Delmark founder), Elbio Barilari and Julia Miller (current Delmark owners) at Johnny Burgin's CD release party at Martyrs in Chicago.
Robert Gregg Koester, 88 10.30.32–5.12.21
The passing of Bob Koester leaves a huge hole, not just in the Chicago blues community, but in the world's jazz and blues communities. Everyone who has encountered Bob at his record store or at Delmark has a story to tell. He could be alternatively crabby and lovable, sometimes in the space of the same few minutes. I was yelled at on more than one occasion for standing in front of the blues bins during one of the Blues "brunches" he annually hosted at his store on Sunday morning during the Chicago Blues Festival. "Customers might want to buy something," he grumbled. If you ever attended any one of the store performances you know there really wasn't anywhere else to stand other than in right in front of a record bin elbow-to-elbow with fellow fans. When Bob had a party at his store, it was ALWAYS standing room only––mostly because there were so many bins and so little floor space. The people who always showed up were the serious blues fans, many international, who made the pilgrimage to Bob's store to hear his Delmark artists play and to then spend all their extra cash on coveted recordings.
For now, Bob Jr. plans to operate the store at 3419 W Irving Park Rd. Thankfully, he left Delmark, aka "the house that Junior built," in the capable hands of jazz musicians Julia Miller and Elbio Barilari. It's the end of an era, though, because there was really nothing quite like the Jazz Record Mart or Bob's Blues & Jazz Mart––and I doubt there ever will be. Just like there will never again be anyone quite like Mr. Bob Koester.
Bob suffered a stroke in December 2020 and had been in hospice in Evanston when he passed. He is survived by his wife, Sue, his son, Bob Jr., and his daughter, Kate. The family has planned a private memorial service later this summer.
HERE'S THE JUNE 8, 2018 PHOTOS
from the 35th Annual Blues Fest that featured the beautiful Tribute to Delmark and Bob Koester and Those Who Came Before
PHOTOS: 7.22.19 show at SPACE in Evanston.
James Harman was a pure joy to watch. I only got to see him a handful of times, but each show was absolutely wonderful and wonderfully entertaining. It is heartbreaking that this bluesman's life went so tragically downhill in 2021. First, he was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer in January. Then, someone stole his entire record collection, his seven cars, all of his instruments and all of his amps. Then, last month, he died of a heart attack.
Pervis Staples, 85 11.18.35 – 5.6.21
One of the founding members of famous gospel group, The Staples Singers; of unknown causes at his home in Dolton, IL. Mavis Staples, 81, is now the last living member of The Staples Singers, which was formed in 1948 by their father, Roebuck "Pops" Staples. THE BILLBOARD OBIT
A WEEKEND OF MOURNING. We should be getting ready for a weekend of blues at the Chicago Blues Festival, but instead we are just whining and feeling sorry for ourselves. I guess that means in theory I could watch the Blues Music Awards on Sunday, June 6, but I suspect I might forget about it––especially since it is not free to watch. I just cannot get that jazzed about watching a stream, no matter how good. But loads of luck to all the nominees! I will be certainly looking to see who won.
BRAVO! Dave Specter's handwritten lyrics for The Ballad of George Floyd are part of a current exhibit at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, OK. Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom is curated by the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. The exhibit "examines the role music has played in informing and inspiring social consciousness throughout American history." The exhibition runs through Oct. 10, 2021.
BUT WHAT ABOUT CHICAGO? I don't even know what I was googling when I came across this tidbit: Since 2017, Kansas City has been a UNESCO City of Music. Come on, Chicago. Shouldn't we be a designated City of Music? YES, we should. We have a rich music history here that extends far beyond my particular obsession. The next deadline to apply is WED, JUNE 30. HERE'S THE WHOLE LIST OF CITIES OF MUSIC HERE'S THE APPLICATION PAGE, MARK KELLY
PHOENIX RISING. This is not a blues story, but it is a great music story. The was a lot of trauma when the Double Door lost its lease in Wicker Park in 2015 after being at 1572 N. Milwaukee since 1994. For the venue's next chapter, the old Wilson Avenue Theater (1050 W. Wilson) is being renovated to be its new home. What is even more amazing is that when it finally opens, it will be the first time the venue, which originally opened on July 19, 1909, will have musical acts since 1919 when it became a bank. If only the Uptown Theatre can finally get restored.
OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS. The good news: SummerDance will be held at parks around the city in August and September this year. Bands have not yet been announced. The bad news: The Onesti dynasty has apparently concluded that they should concentrate on their venues in St. Charles (Club Arcada and Arcada Live) and Des Plaines (the Des Plaines Theatre). They have permanently closed both Club 210 in Highwood and Evanston Rocks (plus Rock N Ravoli and Bourbon N Brass), which is not great news for the North Shore. In some good news for city dwellers, Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation has a note on its site about a possible concert in September. Finally, the Women of the Blues photo exhibit at Delmark Studios that opened at the worst of all possible times will be closing on Tuesday. Stay tuned for other showings.
WHERE'S OUR BUDDY? I know that Buddy Guy was not interested in opening Legends until they are allowed full capacity. Now, all the news outlets are reporting that bars, restaurants and gym can open at full capacity on Friday, June 11 so let the Roarin' '20s begin! Buddy, of course, already has a pretty full touring schedule planned to get back in the groove. Clearly, retirement is not a word in Buddy's vocabulary.
HOOSIERLAND. The Hard Rock Casino in Gary is now officially open. When I was trying to see if they might have a little blues goin' on, I found this tagline: The Best Nightlife in Northern Indiana. It really begs for a snarky comment, but my lips are sealed. Truthfully, I really do hope they start having some regular blues and, if necessary, some hard rock now and then.
SAY IT AIN'T SO. The Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, MS, is on the recent list of most endangered historic sites released by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The hotel opened in 1944 as one of the only Black hotels and boarding homes in the Jim Crow era in the South. The hotel has hosted everyone from Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf to Sam Cooke and Duke Ellington. It also was the place where Bessie Smith died in 1937 after an automobile accident on Highway 61. At the time, it was the G.T. Thomas Afro American Hospital. The hotel has been closed since April 2020 because of storm damage. DONATE TO THE CAUSE
FESTIVAL NEWS. Honestly, I don't fully understand why we could not have found a way to maybe combine blues and jazz fest and hold it in September this year. But we didn't. The folks up in Milwaukee, however, will have Summerfest this year...with some adjustments. So far, they seem to still be adding bands to the side stages, but I can report that Johnny Burgin will be playing on Sept. 11. He also will be making an appearance at Marie Marten's jam at The Grove on the 12th while he is in the area. As for the big stages, the only things close to blues are JD McPherson (Sept. 4), George Thorogood (Sept. 9) and ZZ Top (Sept. 11).
NO THANKS.The Village of Orland Park has a Centennial Park West Concert Series this summer and you can bring your favorite food and beverages. That seems like a great idea, and it is three shows and nine bands for a single price. Great...but if I only care to see one of those bands (The Fabulous Thunderbirds), it is a terrible idea. Seriously, I cannot sit through the George Michael Reborn Tribute or Purple Veins (yes, it is exactly what you assume it is and wished it wasn't). Tickets are $75 for residents and $90 for the general public. Amazingly, the T-Birds are not playing anywhere else in the area...at least right now. Here's the Lineup
TIME FOR A FEW TWEAKS. I had a little bit of a meltdown when I realized that our calendar was not displaying on Apple mobile devices. It always had before, so WTF? By the way, for no apparent reason, it fixed itself. The only thing I learned in my many long phone calls is this:
Finger-pointing has been elevated to a fine art in the tech world;
There is NO WAY to contact Google except maybe registered snail mail; and
the Chicago Blues News website is kinda old.
So...in part because GoDaddy no longer even supports the site builder I use...I will be attempting an upgrade in the next month. I am mostly thinking that streamlining will be what is called for...let's see what happens.
I also decided to start listing gigs on the calendar that were outside of my previously unscientific circle and even outside of the state now and them. See what the pandemic has done to my brain. I also have started to put Festivals on the calendar instead of having a separate page for them. I've even been venturing farther from the home base to hear a little blues in the outback. Can you believe it?
PLAN TENTATIVELY (BUT ENTHUSIASTICALLY)
SUNDAY, JUNE 27 | 2-4pm BLUES-THEMED MURAL RIBBON CUTTING PERFORMANCES Mary Lane & The No Static Blues Band Local youth performers from Haven Studio LOCATION: 43rd and Lake Park
(Two doors down from the MOJO Museum)
The Great American Music Festival is on hold for another year at FitzGerald's but there is GREAT news. The venue has announced the inaugural Berwyn Blues Festival, which will be held SEPT 24-26. There will be multiple stages throughout the FitzGerald's complex.
Stay tune for further details.
OFF THE COUCH
MAY 15 2021
There is no better way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon than driving to the edge of the earth (aka dangerously near Cheesehead territory) to sit on a beautiful patio and listen to live blues. After more than a year of quarantine, it was EXACTLY what the doctor ordered.
The Grove has a wonderful patio with a roof that opens up. The jams will be held every Sunday from 1-4pm through August and you just never know who might show up.
The guests this week were:
Bob Lindsey | Paul Zinelli | Jamie Tomaino
Troy Prondzinski | Jeff Vernezze | Nancy Kay CHECK OUT THE PHOTOS
MAY 24 2021 Kale My Name Blues Jam
with Casey Lee Chicago & the Blue Line Blues Band
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we could only stay for a short time on this visit. From what I am seeing, there are jams scheduled through mid-July so you still have time to catch a show. NOTE: The restaurant now has a liquor license so I suspect that BYO is no longer an option.
MAY 30 2021 Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames Jay's Bullet Hole Saloon | Spring Valley, IL
On this Sunday, we took another drive to what I used to think was the edge of civilized society––and I liked it. Of course, I actually know people who live in Spring Valley and one of our favorite bands was playing...so why not throw caution to the wind? Not only did we have a great time, I learned a little interesting trivia about the area AND we had great BBQ at Haze Smokehouse in LaSalle on the way back to my comfort zone. Before COVID, the Smokehouse had a nice lineup of music on its patio, so cross your fingers. CHECK OUT THE PHOTOS
FOR YOUR OBSCURE TRIVIA CHALLENGES
Buddy Holly's Winter Dance Party was supposed to be at the Les Buzz Ballroom in Spring Valley on Saturday, Feb. 7, 1959. However, as you already know, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash on Feb. 3––and the rest is tragic rock history. And no, the ballroom is no longer there. It burned down a long time ago. READ A LITTLE ABOUT LES BUZZ
ONE MORE THING Jay Irizarry, the owner of the Bullet Hole Saloon, is looking for blues bands to play at his club. You can reach him at email@example.com.
OK...it might be a bit of a stretch to call all of these featured recordings new releases since a few are remastered reissues, which just might be new to you. Don't judge.
Various Artists | Alligator Records–50 Years of Genuine Houserockin' Music RELEASE DATE: June 18 (Alligator)
This Alligator retrospective is a wonderful look at the house that Hound Dog built. There's 58 songs on this retrospective that includes the gamut from blues royalty who have left us (Hound Dog Taylor, Big Walter Horton with Carey Bell, Son Seals, Fenton Robinson, Albert Collins etc. etc. etc.) to the current crop of blues legends in waiting (Marcia Ball, Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials, Billy Branch & the Sons of Blues, Kingfish Ingram, Shemekia Copeland, Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite, Cash Box Kings, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, Toronzo Cannon, Nick Moss, etc. etc. etc.) If you don't already own some of these recordings, this is a wonderful introduction to that genuine houserockin' music we all love.
Billy F. Gibbons | Hardware RELEASE DATE: June 4 (Concord Records)
This is Billy's third solo release and in it he stretches the boundaries of the playpen ZZ Top usually inhabits. Eleven of the 12 tracks are originals and Larkin Poe makes an appearance on Stackin' Bones.
Melvin Taylor & The Slack Band | Dirty Pool RELEASE DATE: June 16 (Evidence)
This is a re-release of a nine-track recording that first came out in 1997 featuring the Chicago blues we love. Nowadays, Melvin Taylor can often be found playing regularly at Rosa's Lounge. Note that this was Taylor's best-selling album when it was first released.
Rosedale Junction | Stompin' on the Front Porch RELEASE DATE: Out Now (Center Block Records)
I knew absolutely nothing about this band when I decided to give it a listen. The band is the brainchild of Boston-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Toby Soriero. Here's my prediction: I think we are gonna see a lot more of these guys. Great sound.
Eddie C. Campbell | Baddest Cat on the Block RELEASE DATE: June 16 (JSP Records)
This is a remixed version of Campbell's classic 1985 recording–with extra four live tracks from the 1992 Tamines Blues Festival in Belgium.
Joe Bonamassa | Royal Tea RELEASE DATE: June 4 (J&R Adventures)
Those who love him will dance in the streets at the prospect of more Joe. Those who hate him will bitch and moan on cue. I fall somewhere in the middle, but probably wouldn't pay the high ticket price to see him live. In this new studio album, he pays homage to his British heroes–Jeff Beck, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and Cream–with 10 original tracks.
A FEW MORE TO CONSIDER
AND ONE MORE THAT BEGS A COMMENT
Beth Hart | War In My Mind RELEASE DATE: June 16 (Provogue)
Apparently, this CD first came out in September 2019. There must be too many of them lying around the Amazon warehouse because it is labeled an "Amazon Limited Edition" that is also available on eBay for a little more money (what?) So...this special edition offers two additional live tracks, plus two Beth-themed coasters, two postcards and two stickers. It sounds a little like a kid's activity book, but I am a little afraid to know what "Beth-themed" means. If you care, you can find out for only $14.59.
Hit 'Em Back Featuring Shemekia Copeland, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Robert Randolph and Tony C. Coleman.
The elephant in the room was not addressed directly, but if you have been paying attention, you should know exactly what they were talking about. Thank you, Shemekia and Kenny, for your classy response.
I certainly did not know her name before this, but WOW. I would call her BLUES-ISH, but still WOW. FYI: She will be at SPACE on Aug. 10 and opening for Kenny Wayne Shepherd in Wisconsin and Iowa. WATCH THE VIDEO
SUPER RARE, SUPER COOL Little Henry Gray Matchbox Blues (1953) A LITTLE TRIVIA: Morris Pejoe, the guitar player on this track, is Mary Lane's ex-husband and father of Lynn Lane. Pejoe died July 27, 1982, in Detroit. The harp player was Henry "Pot" Strong, who was with the Muddy Waters Band (1953-1954) until he was murdered by a jealous girlfriend on June 3, 1954, when he was just 25.
Muscle Shoals has been described as the "most important small town in American musical history" and it is hard to disagree. WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY
SIT AWHILE–AND READ
I have had more than a passing interest in Dana Gillespie ever since I heard WXRT DJ Terry Hemmert playing her music in the middle of the night when I at work in the 1970s. I have always wanted to see her live, but so far, it has not been in the cards, in part because she never comes to the United States. Now she has a memoir out titled the same as her first record: Weren't Born a Man. From all the reviews I have read, it surely will be a fun read, but is definitely NOT for the self-appointed PC police or those who blush easily. READ ABOUT IT
The next chicagoBLUESnews:
FRIDAY, JULY 9 2021 (Mails on THURS, JULY 8)
OUR ONLINE CALENDAR chicagoBLUESnews Online Calendar
The calendar is starting to look more like it should...with more live shows being listed all the time. I am also listing streaming shows and festivals here.
HERE'S A FEW IDEAS FOR LIVE BLUES THIS MONTH
Check the calendar for other options.
JUNE 7 and 8 | City Winery Tab Benoit
with the Whiskey Bayou Review
featuring Alistair Greene NOTE: June 4-6 are already sold out.
JUNE 8 | FitzGerald's, Berwyn CD RELEASE PARTY
JUNE 10 | Rosa's Lounge Ivan Singh
JUNE 11 | Epiphany Center for the Arts Bear Williams
JUNE 12 | Harlem Ave. Lounge, Berwyn Marty Sammon & Anthony Moser Duo
JUNE 18 | Rosa's Lounge Nick Moss Band with Ghalia Volt
JUNE 19 | Mundy Park, Aurora Smiley Tillmon Band with Kate Moss
JUNE 25-27 | Griffith, IN Broad St. Blues and BBQ Festival
JUNE 26 | FitzGerald's, Berwyn Dave Herrero and Anne Harris (1pm)
JULY 2 | SPACE, Evanston Mud Morganfield
JULY 6 | FitzGerald's, Berwyn BLUESDAY TUESDAY
Tom Marker + Lurrie Bell