Those who know the Blues, particularly Chicago Blues, know the name J.B. Hutto.
Hutto was born in North Carolina in 1926, and the family relocated to Chicago when his father passed away in the late 40’s. After returning from a tour in Korea (the army kind of tour, not the musical kind), Hutto became of disciple of the legendary Elmore James, jumping into the Chicago music scene, where he was on-then-off-then-on...then really on...for the next 30 years. He fronted bands of his own, was featured on the seminal 1966 3-record set Chicago/The Blues/Today!, took over as leader of the Houserockers when Hound Dog Taylor passed away in 1975, and continued to record with bands in Boston and back in Chicago until he passed away at the young age of 57. Two years later, in 1985, the Blues Foundation inducted him into the Hall of Fame.
Why am I giving you all this information about J.B. Hutto? Because the great slide man and vocalist, heir to the Elmore James legacy, taught everything he knew about music and performing to his nephews, Ed Williams, and his half brother James “Pookie” Young. The two formed a band, and the rest, as they say is history. Ed Williams is better known as Lil’ Ed. Pookie Still plays right along side him. The Blues Imperials are rounded out by Kelly Littleton on drums and Michael Garrett on rhythm guitar.
Last year, when I spoke with Bruce Iglaur for the 40th anniversary of his Alligator Records, he told me the story of how he first met the band. He was looking for new acts to sign to the label, so he thought he’d bring some folks into a studio and have them lay down a couple of tracks. If they were good, they’d have a spot on a compilation record. Well, Ed and the boys just blew the roof off the place, and ended up cutting 30 tunes that night. 12 of those songs became their debut album Roughhousin’ in 1986. Their new album, Jump Start, is their 8th.
Most Blues bands come and go. The ones that last usually do so by rotating new members in and out on a regular basis. But Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials have stayed true to each other as they have to their music, and have stayed together as a single unit since that first night in the studio with Iglaur. And their success is built on that relationship and the rough-hewn, house rockin’ sound that they learned at the feet of the masters. And now the students have become masters themselves.
We're happy to welcome the band to our studios for Thursday's Afternoon Shift.