Talk about a road warrior: guitarist and singer Calvin “Vino” Louden is a man whose stories will make your hair curl. He has seen it all and paid those dues they’re always talking about—several times over—both in terms of stresses of living on the road and the accident that nearly killed him. In 2008, while bandleader for Koko Taylor, the van in which he was riding went off a Wisconsin highway and put him and two others in critical condition with multiple broken bones. Just as he has always been the guy who held the show together, he then had to put himself back together. He succeeded, and returned to the stage by way of playing in church.


Louden came to Chicago as a boy from Hayti, Missouri (also Bob Stroger’s hometown) and grew up in a time when the blues was still everywhere in his south side neighborhood. An uncle took him around to blues clubs as a child and he first played on a Teisco guitar that he scrimped to pay for.

He learned discipline as well as business basics from working with a succession of great artists and strong leaders. Cicero Blake opened up the world to him by taking him up to the north side; Bobby Rush rst took him on the road; Otis Clay was first to take him to Europe; and Mighty Joe Young encouraged him to step out front when called to solo. But it was the tough, and ultimately sweet, Koko Taylor who taught him that every show is the only show that counts and requires your full, all-out effort. She made him a bandleader.

Vino Louden, who also cites jazz guitarists George Benson, Wes Montgomery, and David Walker as influences, says he has a lot of new material and is working on putting together his first solo recording.

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