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SATURDAY June 10, 2023 - Chicago Blues Festival

Chicago Blues Festival Program Guide

By Aaron Cohen and David Whiteis

Mud Morganfield photo by Roman Sobus

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

2:30-3:45pm - Women in Blues - Honorees: Deitra Farr, Katherine Davis & Sugar Pie DeSanto

Band Line-up: Lynne Jordan, host/vocalist; Sheryl Youngblood, music director & drums; Joanna Connor, guitar; Sherri Weathersby, bass; Roosevelt Purifoy, organ; Dujuan Austin, drums; and Erwin Helfer, piano This tribute will begin with a Mayoral Proclamation, honoring Chicago veterans Detira Farr and Katherine Davis, along with Sugar Pie DeSanto, the Los Angeles-based chanteuse whose hits – “I Want to Know,” “In the Basement,” “Soulful Dress,” and others – rocked the charts in the 1960s and helped pave the way for generations of women to follow. The set itself will include performances by Farr and Davis – both of whom will contribute new songs written especially for this event – as well as Lynne Jordan in a special tribute to DeSanto, and Sheryl Youngblood, who’ll team up with Jordan to pay homage to DeSanto’s legendary 1960s-era duets with Etta James. The band will include guitarists Joanna Connor and Radka Kasparcova, bassist Sherri Weathersby, and Youngblood herself (who also serves as musical director) on drums; DuJuan Austin will hold down the drum chair during the Sugar Pie DeSanto tribute. Rounding out the lineup will be keyboardists Roosevelt “Hatter” Purifoy and Johnny Iguana. [DW]

4-5pm - Joe Pratt & The Source One Band If there’s such a thing as a sidemen’s supergroup, Joe Pratt and the Source One Band come close to epitomizing it. Between bassist/bandleader Pratt, lead guitarist Lee Holloway, keyboardist Stan “The Preacher Man” Banks, and drummer Big Lew Powell, the list of major artists they’ve performed and/or recorded with is virtually endless – start with Artie “Blues Boy” White, Tyrone Davis, Koko Taylor, Latimore, Otis Clay, Denise LaSalle, Johnnie Taylor, McKinley Mitchell, and go on from there. Skin-tight, yet free enough to imbue their music with a deep-grooved, swaggering ebullience, they’re equally effective backing a vocalist or leading a show on their own. For this set, they’ll be joined by guitarist Randell Matthews, formerly of the Albert King band, and their featured vocalist will be New Orleans Beau, a charismatic showman of the old school who’ll refuse to back down until everyone in the room (or, in this case, the park) is on their feet, dancing, and as drenched in sweat as he is. [DW]

5:15-6:15pm - Sugarray Rayford Caron “Sugarray” Rayford’s church background is evident in his deep-chested baritone vocals and the sincerity with which he delivers his lyric messages – even when it’s all about a party, Rayford makes us feel as if our spirits, as well as our worldly selves, are being uplifted. The Texas-born vocalist made the transition into secular music rather late in life, after he had relocated to San Diego following a stint in the U.S. Marines. There, he first worked with a popular R&B/funk aggregation called Urban Gypsies, but over the next few years his focus became increasingly bluesy, and after landing second place in the 2006 International Blues Challenge in Memphis with another band, Aunt Kizzy’z Boyz, he struck out on his own. He released his solo debut, Blind Alley, in 2010; he’s dropped six albums since then, the most recent being last year’s In Too Deep, while furthering his reputation as a housewrecking live performer who specializes in an exhilarating mix of churchy fervor and juke-joint rawness. [DW]

6:30-7:30pm - Demetria Taylor with The Mike Wheeler Band Demetria Taylor, daughter of legendary guitarist Eddie Taylor, grew up idolizing artists as diverse as Anita Baker, Lena Horne, and Dionne Warwick, as well as Koko Taylor; but the blues was her pedigree, and she embraced it early on. Her solo debut was 2011’s Bad Girl (Delmark); since then she’s become one of Chicago’s most popular blues entertainers, and in 2022 she was the recipient of the Jus’ Blues Foundation’s “Koko Taylor Queen of the Blues” Lifetime Achievement Award. Mike Wheeler, another native Chicagoan; also fell in love with the blues early. His first recording under his own name was 2003’s Mike Wheeler Band on his own Chilla imprint; Self Made Man in 2012 found him on Delmark, where he’s been ever since. Wheeler’s leads, rooted in blues, also borrow freely from the best of rock, R&B, and funk; a similar eclecticism colors his band’s accompaniments. Music, to Wheeler, is a celebration of life, and he invites us to celebrate with him. [DW]

7:45-9pm - Mud Morganfield

As the eldest son of Muddy Waters, Mud Morganfield inherited a gigantic legacy. But he has never let his father’s influence overshadow his own mighty baritone voice. While he grew up surrounded by the music’s legends, he did not become a performer himself until around his 30th birthday in 1984. A regular presence in Chicago’s blues clubs his own sets combined traditional blues favorites (including some Muddy Waters’ signatures) along with his own compositions. Those originals were featured on his 2011 album Son Of The Seventh Son. A sly sense of humor and upbeat tempos run throughout his writing and performances. Morganfield’s 2022 Delmark album Portrait remastered most of the preceding record’s tracks and included new ones that show of his musical range. On “Praise Him,” he delivers his deep feel for gospel call-and-response delivery and lyrical messages. But while “Blues In My Shoes” delivers blunt images of life in contemporary cities, Morganfield always emphasizes that his music is also focused on the dancers. [AC]

James "Super Chikan" Johnson

Visit Mississippi Juke Joint Stage (South Promenade)

12-1pm - Chris Gill & The Sole Shakers An expert in myriad styles of Mississippi blues, singer/guitarist Chris Gill can delve into classic fingerpicking on his own or light up a party with The Sole Shakers, who will accompany him at the Chicago Blues Festival. As the group delves into the funk of nearby New Orleans expect a boisterous take on R&B mixed in with its blues and, occasionally, reggae grooves that also features singer Meredith Michelle. The Sole Shakers’ joyful onstage performances were documented on its 2007 album, Harmony St. Gill’s songs rage from the summertime groove of “Crawfish Boogie” to the stirring melancholy of “Sunshine Of Your Smile.” Gill’s own 2021 album, Between Midnight And Louise, proudly wears its acoustic influences up front with “Song For Honeyboy,” a stirring tribute to the legendary David “Honeyboy” Edwards. [AC]

1:15-2:15pm - Sharde Thomas and the Rising Stars Fife & Drum Band The southern African-American fife-and-drum tradition dates back centuries, although it has not always received the critical or popular recognition it deserves. The Rising Stars are the musical descendants of the band originally fronted by Mississippi’s Otha Turner, who died in 2003 at age 94. Led by his granddaughter, the redoubtable Sharde Thomas, (who, like Turner, plays a handmade cane fife), they unselfconsciously deliver the “real deal” – complex percussive textures overlain with Thomas’s surprisingly supple and rich-toned fife patterns, unembellished by any hint of electronic tweaking. Their rhythmic interplay – part call-and-response, part contrapuntal interweaving – is both starkly atavistic and strikingly modern-sounding (hear John Coltrane’s sax-and-drums dialogues with Elvin Jones or Rashied Ali for just one example of how this venerable sonic blend has prevailed and grown through the years). There’s nothing “retro” about this music – as the Chicago Soul Jazz collective, another forward-looking ensemble that nurtures deep roots while blazing new trails, has reminded us, “Nothing good ever goes away.” [DW]

2:30-3:30pm - John Primer with Steve Bell John Primer returns for a one-on-one musical conversation with his longtime compatriot, harpist Steve Bell. Bell is the son of the late Carey Bell, who was internationally feted as a leading contemporary purveyor of the “classic” postwar blues harmonica style. (Steve’s brothers Lurrie, Tyson, and James also carry on their father’s legacy; they can be heard together on Tribute to Carey Bell, their 2018 release on Delmark). His sound incorporates elements of Carey’s technique (most notably the “whooping” effect he uses to embellish his quicksilver skitters and octave leaps), but it’s grounded in chordal and harmonic conceits of his own. He and Primer have been friends for decades; he formally joined Primer’s Real Deal Blues Band in 1996, and since then they’ve forged a synergy that rivals that of Little Walter and Muddy Waters, or perhaps Big Walter Horton and Jimmy Rogers – their ideas flow so tightly together that it’s almost telepathic. This is a rare opportunity to hear them in an intimate, “up-close-and-personal” setting. [DW]

3:45-5pm - Super Chikan

James “Super Chikan” Johnson (so named, he says, because of his affinity for chickens, which includes being able to talk with them) got his musical start in Clarksdale, Miss., home of his uncle, the late bluesman Jack “Oil Man” Johnson. In 1997 he released his debut album,Blues Come Home to Roost, which garnered international attention and launched him on his career. His music includes plenty of gritty down-home blues, but he can also rock like a modern-day Chuck Berry, swing with the elan of a show-lounge sophisticate, and throw down funk as raw and steamy as a pot of fatback. His lyrics, witty and pointed in turn, carry on the venerable storytelling tradition he grew up with; his trademark humor – rooster crows, “chicken-scratch” fretboard effects – makes it clear that here is a bluesman as intent on having good time as he is on baring his soul. Playing his homemade “chikan-tars,” he continues to bring the living Delta blues tradition to audiences throughout the U.S. and around the world. [DW]

Milwaukee Slim photo by Sweet Music Chica

Rosa’s Lounge (North Promenade) | Chicago Blues Festival 12:30-1:20pm - Dave Herrero and Friends Dave Herrero holds down a Tuesday night residency at Chicago’s Rosa’s Lounge and for the singer/guitarist, playing weekly blues sessions in this city fulfilled a lifelong dream. Growing up in Clearwater, Fla., he became absorbed in the music as a teenager and fronted his first band, and began playing festivals, at 19. After a stint in Texas’ capital, Herrero moved to Chicago in 2004, titling his 2008 album Austin To Chicago. Along with working for the “Oprah Winfrey Show” he also shared stages with Buddy Guy. Herrero’s 2012 album Corazón is a singular blend of rock, traditional blues and folk as it features his collaborations with songwriter Felix Reyes and veteran singer Jimmy Burns. Herrero’s deep musical knowledge and versatility has won over such admirers as Cesar Rojas (from Los Lobos) who recruited Herrero for his side project, Cesar Rojas and The Chi-Town Playboys. He has also served as bassist for the dynamic Nikki Hill. So expect some outstanding musical friends to join him for this set. [AC]

1:35-2:25pm - Matthew Skoller and Chicago Wind featuring: Precious Taylor Harmonica virtuoso Matthew Skoller is seeped in the blues tradition and is the force behind many of the music’s great Chicago-based performers. He also looks for ways to show blend this musical language with ideas from around the world as his virtuosity, passion and originality all create this singular sound. His wide-ranging 2016 Blues Immigrant album tackles themes of social and economic injustice while he also brings in such collaborators as Brian Ritchie on shakuhachi (Japanese flute). Along with Skoller’s own music, he has also produced two albums for the legendary Lurrie Bell and has collaborated with such artists as Toranzo Cannon, Koko Taylor and H-Bomb Ferguson. His longstanding Chicago Wind band includes bassist Felton Crews, drummer Mar Wilson and guitarist Wilbert A. Crosby. With a five-octave vocal range, singer Precious Taylor also embraces versatility and has worked extensively in blues and jazz alongside major theatrical productions. [AC]

2:40-3:30pm - Milwaukee Slim with the Billy Flynn Band Singer Silas McClatcher moved up to Chicago from Holly Spring, Miss., in 1965 but he was singing a couple hours further north when he became known as Milwaukee Slim. Mentored by the Wisconsin music legend known as Stokes, Slim’s dynamic voice and quiet cool on the bandstand brought him to bigger stages throughout the Midwest, including regular gigs in Chicago at Buddy Guy’s Legends. He has also collaborated with such musicians here as Rockin’ Johnny Burgin. Guitarist Billy Flynn, whose band will back Slim, also has strong ties to Wisconsin, hailing originally from Green Bay. But Flynn has made Chicago his home base since the 1980s and his group has provided crucial support to such giants as Sunnyland Slim, Mighty Joe Young and Luther Allison. Flynn’s own compositions are featured throughout his 2016 Delmark album, Lonesome Highway. [AC]

3:45-4:45pm - Lynne Jordan and the Shivers With a huge range, deep love of the blues, mastery of jazz swing and background in theater, Lynne Jordan’s voice can go everywhere. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, she studied acting at Northwestern University and began her own career singing at Blue Chicago and other area clubs. Her own projects have included tributes to such heroes as Janis Joplin and Nina Simone while she also performed in French composer Isabelle Olivier’s jazz opera, Don’t Worry, Be HaRpy. In 2022, Jordan began working on an album of contemporary songs written by such friends as Corky Siegel and Deitra Farr for another recording of blues double entendres from such classic artists as Ida Cox and Bessie Smith. Over the years she has also contributed to myriad artists’ albums including Toronzo Cannon and Tom Waits. Jordan’s sharp backing group, The Shivers, has accompanied her since the 1990s. [AC]

5-6:15pm - Rosa’s Lounge Jam Session with Mary Lane, Lil Ed, Willie Buck, and Billy Branch Since 1984, Tony Mangiullo’s Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood has been one of this city’s premier blues venues and also among its friendliest. A family operation, Mangiullo named it after his mother who helped him set it up. This jam session will bring the feeling of this cozy club to the outdoors as it features many of the artists who made Rosa’s what it has always been. One of the club’s stalwarts is singer Mary Lane, who has been singing for more than 70 years. Originally from Arkansas, she came up to Chicago in the 1950s and sang with such legends as Howlin’ Wolf. She is also the subject of the documentary, “I Can Only Be Mary Lane.” Another classic blues singer, Willie Buck, also came up to Chicago from the South (Mississippi) and developed his voice on Maxwell Street and a Rosa’s residency. Guitarist Lil’ Ed may be best known for leading the powerhouse Blues Imperials but he also fronts the Rosa’s All-Star Band. Harmonica player Billy Branch is a virtuoso on his instrument and is one of the world’s leading advocates for his musical language. [AC] 6:30-7:45 pm - Last Call with WDCB Radio and Dave Weld & Imperial Flames Dave Weld was studying in New Mexico with jazz guitarist Kurt Black when he first heard Hound Dog Taylor’s landmark 1971 Alligator Records debut. Inspired, he rushed back home to Chicago and began investigating the West and South Side blues scenes. To his delight, he landed a gig with Hound Dog himself, and he also worked alongside such fabled figures as Eddie Shaw. In 1976, his erstwhile mentor, the late slidemaster J.B. Hutto, introduced Weld to his nephews, guitarist Lil’ Ed Williams and bassist Pookie Young. They became the nucleus of Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, appearing on Ed’s now-legendary 1986 Alligator debut, Roughhousin. Two years later, Weld broke out as a leader with Rough Rockin’ in Chicago on the Blue Sting label, and he’s been fronting his own unit ever since. Still purveying the raucous, hard-driving juke joint sound he absorbed from masters like Taylor and Lil’ Ed himself, Dave Weld now records for Delmark, building his own legacy as a top-flight modern purveyor of no-nonsense Chicago blues. [DW]

1 Comment

May 12, 2023

Where is the Pistol Pete Band ? They were really good.

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