LOOKING BACK: THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE TOO MUCH FUN
I can't say that 2019 was as bad as 2018, but no need to repeat much of it. Despite some forgettable and regrettable moments, we still had too much fun most days in 2019. We photographed more than 70 shows again this year, including six festivals. And we went to a couple of emotional tribute shows, a few fundraisers and two birthday bashes.
Let's saunter down memory lane while I still have some memory left.
FIRST, THE PHOTOS I wish I had been carrying a camera with me when I first fell in love with the blues and saw many of Chicago's legends. But I didn't, so now I am making up for it. I think we may have past the trillion mark in images shot by now–and definitely have posted thousands online. For the photos linked below, I am still labeling them, but you know who they are. OUR FAVORITE PHOTOS FROM 2019
10 FAVORITE SHOWS OF 2019 It was hard to pick just 10, but discipline is my new mantra. Shows are listed by date, not by what I thought was the best show. Honestly, I loved them all...even the ones that didn't make the list.
JAN 18 | Buddy Guy in Residence
with Kingfish @ Legends
If you wonder who is the future of the blues, just remember his name: Kingfish. BIZARRE FACT:David Lee Roth covers Kingfish's song, Fresh Out, during his new Vegas Residency. So many oddities in just one sentence. It's gonna be an interesting year....
AUG 16–19 | Ann Arbor Blues Festival
It was the 50th anniversary of the legendary 1969 festival and of course we all had a rollicking good time...until the lightning came Sunday and shut down the fest early. Great bands, fun times, great city.
JUST A FEW OTHER THINGS First, we said goodbye to Amplified: Chicago Blues, the wonderful blues exhibit at the Chicago History Museum that closed in August.
Then we said a big hello to 2020 as the Year of Chicago Music, which should make this year a music fan's dream come true. Thank you, Mark Kelly. We anticipate a great year.
We also welcomed Jeff Pinzino and his Chicago Blues Revival nonprofit into the community. Getting started, he helped a few blues bands get get gigs at a couple block parties this past summer. He has many other plans, much enthusiasm and is always open to a great idea.
And then we said WTF when we realized that it has been TWO YEARS since any new news was posted on the Chicago Blues Experience website...you know, that exciting new blues museum that was supposed to open in 2019? Maybe next year? OK, sure.
I really appreciated Dave Katzman's work that brought a monthly Blues Pro Jam to Reggie's Music Joint on Sunday nights featuring a different special guest each time. Every one has been great–and I hope there will be more in 2020.
And those Second Monday Blues shows at the Logan Center on the University of Chicago campus? Just plain wonderful. We've missed a couple lately, but not because we wanted to. We'll be back. And so will the Logan Center Blues Festival in October.
Finally, my photo of Toronzo Cannon at the opening of The Venue in Aurora on June 1 was selected to be part of the juried blues and jazz photo exhibit at Cafe Logan in the Logan Center on the campus of the University of Chicago. I didn't win, but two of my talented friends–Peter Hurley and Howard Greenblatt–did. Congrats!
HATE TO SEE YOU GO
It was another year of terrible losses for the blues community in Chicago and beyond. Not only did Chicago lose rising star Michael Ledbetter at the age of 33, we also lost Buddy Guy's longtime drummer Tim Austin and Eddie Taylor Jr., who was following in his dad's footsteps as a highly respected guitarist in his own right.
Take a look at the list of those who left us this year–and be grateful that they shared their talents with us, even for a little while.
Marty Grebb, 74
This American musician, who played keyboards, guitar and sax, was born and bred in Chicago. He had a wide-ranging career, from a stint in The Buckinghamsto being a record producer and arranger who worked with musicians such as Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Etta James and Leon Russell. READ THE DAILY HERALD ARTICLE
Tom Hyslop, 56
It doesn't take much searching to feel the love everyone felt for Tom Hyslop, who was a staff writer and contributing editor for Blues Revue and Blues Music Magazine, and who wrote liner notes for many recordings. He also was a 2019 recipient of a Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis. READ THE OBIT
CHICAGO'S IN THE HOUSE. The Blues Foundation has announced the nominees for the 2020 Blues Music Awards and I am grateful to Alligator for the press release pointing out that 14 Alligator artists were nominated for 37 awards! That means I didn't have to count them. WOW. In case you wondered, the wonderful Rick Estrin and the Nightcats topped the list of nominees this year with a total of eight. Other Chicago musicians who received nominations: Fruteland Jackson, Mavis Staples, Mary Lane, John Primer, Lurrie Bell and Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith. Good luck to all!
LISTEN UP. Buddy Guy will soon have his own streaming radio station so that he can play the music we rarely get to hear on mainstream radio. Stay tuned for specifics. And, by the way, the clock is ticking on the 2020 Buddy Shows. You can still go, but they end JAN 26–and three of the eight shows left are SOLD OUT.
GET SOME GRUB. The Water Hole has Soul Food Sundays now through April 26. For just $15, you get one entree and three sides, and dine to the sounds of the Blues/R&B Jam hosted by the Mr. Rhythms Band. If you need dessert (peach cobbler or banana pudding), add $4.
PLAN WAY AHEAD. A lot of the seats are already sold for the Southern Hospitality show at SPACE in Evanston on June 19. Not surprising since the band features three powerhouse players: lap steel guitarist Damon Fowler, guitarist J.P. Soars and keyboardist Victor Wainwright.
THE BLUES IS A WOMAN.Jennifer Noble has been photographing blues in Chicago for more than 30 years so she knows a thing or two about the scene. In 50 Women in the Blues,she highlights–you guessed it–50 women of the blues–from the legendary trailblazers like Memphis Minnie, Big Mama Thorton, Sippie Wallace and Bessie Smith to present day blues queens such as Shemekia Copeland, Joanna Connor, Thornetta Davis, Mary Lane, Sister Cookie and many, many more. Even I, who likes to think I know everything there is to know about the women who sing the blues, met a few women I didn't know in this delightful book.
Noble is a co-founder and the director of photography for the Chicago Blues Guide and has had her photography published internationally. The book will be available FEB 25 and you can, of course, buy it on Amazon ($34.99) or your favorite spot online.
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TUESDAY, MARCH 10 @ City Winery
Bruce Springsteen has said that Ana Popovic is “one helluva a guitar-player,” which may explain why she has been nominated for six Blues Music Awards. If you have seen her show, you know why Springsteen is impressed. DEADLINE TO ENTER
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SUBJECT LINE: Ana Popovic Likes It on Top
THE CLOCK IS TICKING... THIS SWEEPSTAKES ENDS JAN. 24, 2020.
JAN 5 2020 THE BUDDY SHOWS Buddy Guy with Carlos Johnson Plus Austin Walkin' Cane and Matt Hendricks It's January, so of course I had to go to one of the Buddy shows. And you know it was great–from beginning to the very end.
JAN 7 2020 Low-reen and the Lazy Dogs
featuring Charles Hayes You just never know where you might run into Low-reen–or who she will be with at the time. For this quiet Tuesday night at Buddy Guy's joint, she brought the A-team downtown to play for the enthusiastic crowd: Low-reen | Guitar/vocals Charles "Delta Blues Hogg" Hayes | Guitar/vocals JoJo Hayes | Keyboards Steve Bass | Drums
and an unnamed bass player (sorry about that)
Elmore James Jr. and the Broom Dusters We finally made it out to see Elmore James Jr. and the Broom Dusters during their monthly gig at The Water Hole. Because it's Chicago's juke joint, you never know who might jump up on the stage to play.
A BLUES CHRISTMAS
It's this photogenic bunch–Toronzo Cannon, Lil' Ed Williams, Lynne Jordan and Matthew Skoller–that always gets us in a festive mood for the holidays. If only we could combine Zoolights with A Blues Christmas...now that would be an over-the-top holiday party.