WBEZ | Chess Records http://www.wbez.org/tags/chess-records Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The legacy of Willie Dixon on his 100th birthday http://www.wbez.org/news/legacy-willie-dixon-his-100th-birthday-112292 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Blues1-Dixon.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This summer outdoor blues concerts are taking place on a site considered hallowed ground by blues fans.</p><p>Next to the legendary Chess Records building on South Michigan Ave. sits Willie Dixon&#39;s Blues Heaven Foundation. Dixon was a prolific songwriter and this is where his songs, like Little Red Rooster, Wang Dang Doodle and Hoochie Coochie Man were recorded by blues stars Howlin&rsquo; Wolf, Koko Taylor and Muddy Waters.</p><p>Dixon would have turned 100 this year, and to celebrate the foundation is making this <a href="http://wdbhf.org/the-week-of-willie">The Week of Willie</a>, with concerts around Chicago.</p><p>Fellow musicians and fans remember Dixon as a man who was generous with his time and talents.</p><p>&ldquo;He had a good reputation. People loved him,&rdquo; said his grandson Alex Dixon. &ldquo;The way he treated his musicians. He was happy the English guys were recording his music.&rdquo;</p><p>Dixon is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and this year was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He became one of the first blues artists to successfully sue to get music royalties owed to him. Early in their careers, he and other blues artists had agreements with record companies that paid them a fraction of what they were owed.​</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s got an ugly intersection with race that African American musicians often found themselves taken advantage of,&rdquo; said Peter DiCola, a professor specializing in copyright law at Northwestern University.</p><p>Chicago bluesman Billy Boy Arnold knows this story. He wrote the song &ldquo;I Wish You Would,&rdquo; later recorded by Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds.</p><p>&ldquo;The publishing company got 50 percent and we got 50 percent. But they didn&rsquo;t tell us the significance of the publishing. That&rsquo;s where the real money was,&rdquo; said Arnold. &ldquo; I never did get the money I was due.&rdquo;</p><p>Stories like Arnold&rsquo;s inspired Dixon to start the Blues Heaven Foundation. The nonprofit is dedicated to taking care of blues artists and their heirs &mdash; the goal is to make sure they&rsquo;re getting music royalties they&rsquo;re owed.</p><p>Alex Dixon says in many ways, his grandfather was a preservationist. A person who saw the future and worked tirelessly to protect the past of a musical genre.</p><p>&ldquo;He always knew that blues was going to be around,&rdquo; said Dixon. &ldquo;He knew we&rsquo;d have to work extra hard to keep it up.&rdquo;</p><p>And that may be the most important part of Dixon&rsquo;s legacy, helping keep the blues alive for future generations.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews"><em>@yolandanews</em></a></p></p> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 08:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/legacy-willie-dixon-his-100th-birthday-112292 For Chicago blues, sweet home is hard to find http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-blues-sweet-home-hard-find-111519 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blues-1-Muddy-Waters-creative-commons-photo-by-Kevin-Dooley.jpg" style="height: 219px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Muddy Waters, circa 1971. The late music legend will be honored at this year’s Chicago Blues Festival (Kevin Dooley/flickr)" /><em>Updated 11:13 a.m.</em></p><p><em><em>(Editor&#39;s Note: After our story was published the Chicago Blues Experience&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagobluesexperience.com/" target="_blank">launched this official website</a>.)</em></em></p><p>Back in the 1950s Buddy Guy was a young guitarist living in Louisiana. Like others he eventually traveled north to Chicago, where the blues scene was thriving.</p><p>&ldquo;Muddy Waters, Howlin&rsquo; Wolf, all those great guys,&rdquo; said Guy. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why I came here. To get a day job and go watch them play at night.&rdquo;</p><p>Those musicians not only inspired him to play, but to open the famed Checkerboard Lounge in the 1970s followed by Legends in the late 80&rsquo;s to keep the music alive. Guy says he&rsquo;ll never forget those early days watching <em>his</em> legends.</p><p>&ldquo;The beer was 25 cents a bottle when I came here. And when Muddy played there wasn&rsquo;t no cover charge. The beer was 35 cents,&rdquo; remembered Guy. &ldquo;So the 10 cents was going for the band members. Muddy Waters was in the band. And those were the greatest days of my life.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Guy just received a Lifetime Achievement award at this year&#39;s Grammys. But he and other artists in town say their music should be just as celebrated locally. And they wonder: If Chicago is the home of the blues, then why doesn&rsquo;t it have a permanent home honoring it?</p><div>The blues made important stops in Memphis and St. Louis, but Chicago is where the blues really came alive in the middle of the last century. That&rsquo;s when musicians like Muddy Waters came here from Mississippi, electrified their down home Delta Blues and recorded it for labels like Chess Records.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>You can still see remnants of this history around town. Like at the old Chess Records on S. Michigan Avenue and Muddy Water&rsquo;s former house at 4339 S. Lake Park Avenue.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&ldquo;This is the house of the blues before there was a house of the blues,&rdquo; said Barry Dollins, former director of the Chicago Blues Festival, standing in front of the boarded up building. &ldquo;This was the rehearsal house.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blues-4-Barry-Dollins.jpg" style="float: left; height: 373px; width: 280px;" title="Former Chicago Blues Festival Director Barry Dollins stands in front of Muddy Waters’ former home (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />Muddy Waters bought the home in the 1950s at the peak of his career and lived there for 20 years. It wasn&rsquo;t just a home for Waters and his family. It was a gathering place for other musicians, where countless jam sessions were held.</p><p>Today the red brick two flat is in bad shape.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just depressing just to see that X up there,&rdquo; Dollins sighed, pointing to a big red X affixed to the front.</p><p>That X means the house is abandoned and unsafe. It&rsquo;s been on and off the market for years. Dollins says the home could&rsquo;ve served as a historic space, much like the Louis Armstrong home in New York. A place where people can see where and how the musician lived and what inspired them.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s sad that there was no forethought in what the significance of this building is,&rdquo; said Dollins. &ldquo;And how it could&rsquo;ve been preserved and utilized.&rdquo;</p><p>In some ways, the neglected house is symbolic of the overall failure to erect a permanent space to preserve Chicago&rsquo;s music heritage.</p><p>&ldquo;Why don&rsquo;t we have a blues museum? It comes down to money,&rdquo; Dollins said. &ldquo;It takes millions of dollars to create a museum.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Steve Cushing is the host of the national radio show &ldquo;Blues Before Sunrise.&rdquo; He said Chicago deserves to have a blues museum, but he&rsquo;s not sure how viable it would be.</p><p>&ldquo;How would you pay for it and where would you put it?&rdquo; asked Cushing. &ldquo;It would seem that you would want it in a place that was related to the actual location of the blues. But if you put it on the south side, would tourists, would white folks go down there?&rdquo;</p><p>If something does ever get off the ground, it won&rsquo;t be called the Chicago Blues Museum. That&rsquo;s because local guitarist Gregg Parker copyrighted that title.</p><p>&ldquo;They call me the black Indiana Jones. If I can&rsquo;t find it, it doesn&rsquo;t exist,&rdquo; said Parker.</p><p>Parker once played with Mick Jagger and Buddy Miles among others, but now mostly collects artifacts for traveling exhibitions.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t need a building to do what I&rsquo;m doing. I own it,&rdquo; said Parker. &ldquo;The blues museum is a state of mind. It&rsquo;s not a building.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, the address for Parker&rsquo;s museum&rsquo;s is a P.O. box number. He once had a storefront space but won&rsquo;t say why it closed. He gets a little defensive&nbsp;when asked when the public could see his whole collection.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not going to tell you my itinerary,&rdquo; scoffed Parker. &ldquo;You might be a thief!&rdquo;</p><p>Parker shows how fragmented and disorganized efforts are to showcase the blues in Chicago. Many say the only way to get everyone on the same page &mdash; and all the artifacts under one roof &mdash; is for the city of Chicago to get involved. They point out that City Hall moved mountains for the proposed George Lucas Museum and the Obama Presidential Library.</p><p>So why hasn&rsquo;t it done more for the blues?</p><p>The Department of Cultural Affairs sent this statement: &quot;The City of Chicago celebrates its rich blues music heritage each year with the world renowned Chicago Blues Festival on the shores of Lake Michigan. More than 500,000 blues fans attend the festival each year, proving that Chicago is the &ldquo;Blues Capital of the World.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>But some tourists at last year&rsquo;s free festival&nbsp;said they wished there was more to see while they were in town.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been to Buddy Guy&rsquo;s place, but that&rsquo;s about it,&rdquo; said&nbsp;Karl Roque, who came all the way from the Philippines. When asked if he&rsquo;d like to see a museum dedicated to his favorite art form, Roque didn&rsquo;t hesitate. &ldquo;Yes. Why not? Maybe it&rsquo;s about time.&rdquo;</p><p>Buddy Guy agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been begging for it for almost 30 years.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blues-3-Buddy-Guy.jpg" style="height: 373px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="Buddy Guy’s 78th birthday party celebration at his South Loop club Legends (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />According to Guy he may not have to wait too much longer. Guy has been working with a group that&#39;s been trying to build a blues museum for a few years now. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;They already got the building on Navy Pier,&quot; said Guy. &ldquo;A blues experience museum on Navy Pier.&rdquo;</p><p>No one at Navy Pier would comment. A statement from Tim Wright, co-founder of the so-called Chicago Blues Experience, said they&rsquo;re close to finalizing the details, but can&rsquo;t confirm when.&nbsp;</p><p>In the meantime, another blues museum is moving full steam ahead. Built with a mix of public and private funds, the $13 million, 23,000 square foot space will feature interactive exhibits and a theater for live music.</p><p>But you won&rsquo;t find it in Chicago.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.nationalbluesmuseum.org/" target="_blank">National Blues Museum</a> is set to open this summer in St. Louis.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews"><em>@yolandanews</em></a> <em>&amp;&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 07:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-blues-sweet-home-hard-find-111519 'Morning Shift' #57: Remembering Chess Records http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2012-11-28/morning-shift-57-remembering-chess-records-104095 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Chuck_Berry_1972 (1).JPG" alt="" /><p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-57-remembering-chess-records.js"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-57-remembering-chess-records" target="_blank">View the story "'Morning Shift' #57: Remembering Chess Records" on Storify</a>]</noscript><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 07:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2012-11-28/morning-shift-57-remembering-chess-records-104095 Buddy Guy: From the farm to fame http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-05/buddy-guy-farm-fame-99599 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4398790979_52312e7131_z.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 415px; " title="Buddy Guy performing at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago. (Flickr/Aaron Warren)" /></div><p>Buddy Guy: His name is as synonymous with blues music as that of his idol, mentor and father-figure, Muddy Waters. But Guy would be the first person to say he could never equal or surpass the musical prowess of &ldquo;Mud.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s the kind of man Buddy Guy is: humble and honest. His middle name should be &ldquo;Nice.&rdquo;</p><p>But he is also a determined man. From the day he heard his father&rsquo;s friend, Coot, play a beat-up, two-string guitar when he was a youngster living in a shack with his family in the small town farm town of Lettsworth, Louisiana, Buddy seemed to know that music was meant to be his life.</p><p>But the blues wasn&rsquo;t the first music that touched his heart &ndash; it was the singing of the birds. Guy grew up in the fields of a plantation, picking cotton alongside his dad. He loved and still loves the outdoors and nature.</p><p>How do I know this? I just finished reading Guy&rsquo;s biography, <a href="http://www.buddyguy.net/news/buddy%E2%80%99s-autobiography-%E2%80%9Cwhen-i-left-home%E2%80%9D-available-may-8"><em>When I Left Home: My Story</em></a>.</p><p>Guy takes the reader on a wonderful ride filled with humor, sadness, some regret, lucky breaks and, of course, music. I learn that Guy made his first two-string guitar by stripping some of the wire from the new screen window his mom, Isabell, bought. When he was 12 years old, his dad plunked down $4.32 to buy his son Coot&rsquo;s guitar.</p><p>Like many African-Americans in the first half of the 20<sup>th</sup> century, Guy left the south to come north to Chicago. He arrived on September 25, 1957, a small town young man with no prospects and enough cash to last maybe a month. But boy, what a ride. Guy came to Chicago when blues music was the music of choice for African-Americans, especially the working class who toiled away in the factories and needed release of all kinds after slaughtering cattle at the stockyards or making steel.</p><p>I believe Guy&rsquo;s breaks, in what he calls &quot;the crazy blues life&quot; of Chicago, were equal parts luck, humility and kindness. No, he wasn&rsquo;t a saint. But he also certainly wasn&rsquo;t rough and tumble like some of his early heroes and peers in the blues life.</p><p>Another of those talented characters was the father of Chicago blues: McKinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters. There&rsquo;s good reason Guy&rsquo;s book is dedicated to Muddy Waters, &ldquo;father to us all.&rdquo;</p><p>From the first night Guy met Muddy Waters, who was driving his red Chevy wagon outside the 708 Club, until Water&rsquo;s death in 1983 at the age of 70, Guy was always in awe of Waters and his creativity.</p><p>Guy hit Chicago at the height of blues in Chicago, then rode the waves of its decline in the African-American community and its ascendance among white fans around the world. Now at age 75, Guy is a legend. He may have slowed down some, but he continues to show no lack of energy and creativity when he picks up his guitar. I think after 55 years in Chicago, we can rightly call him one of our own and beam with pride.</p><p>He&#39;s my guest on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> Tuesday. Join us!</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="338" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/43046857?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ff0000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="600"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 29 May 2012 08:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-05/buddy-guy-farm-fame-99599 Linksomania: Whither Music Row and Uptown Theater? http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-12-02/linksomania-whither-music-row-and-uptown-94515 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-02/Uptown theater_flickr_BWChicago.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We’re long overdue to catch up on some links of interest, so let’s dive right in, starting with a flurry of stories in recent weeks that, while essentially just wishful thinking to date, hint at the possibilities of what could be if the city worked to create two landmark music districts, one in the South Loop and one in Uptown.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-02/Chess Records_Flickr_Joseph A.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 375px;" title="The former home of Chess Records. (Flickr/Joseph A)"></p><p>My ol’ pal and former <em>Sun-Times</em> colleague Dave Hoekstra first reported on the ambitions of <a href="http://chicago2ndward.com/">Ald. Robert Fioretti</a> (2nd) to at long last involve the city in the restoration of the Chess Studio at 2120 S. Michigan, site some of the most important and influential blues and rock recordings of the 20<sup>th</sup> Century, and to create a museum at the Vee-Jay/Brunswick building nearby at 1449 S. Michigan. (The Chess building is owned by <a href="http://www.bluesheaven.com/">Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation</a>, which never has had the cash to properly restore it or even regularly open the doors, while nothing at all is happening at the Vee-Jay/Brunswick locale. The neglect for both landmarks is a sorry contrast to, say, the way Memphis treats Sun Studio, or Detroit lauds Motown.)</p><p>As is typical for the<em> Sun-Times’</em> dicey web site, Hoekstra’s original piece is nowhere to be found online, though <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/6974832-474/time-for-a-music-row-to-showcase-the-blues.html">this link</a> to an impassioned editorial that followed notes that, “ideally, Chess would become a fully equipped recording studio again, just as Sun is, and the strip as a whole might be reminiscent of Beale Street in Memphis, where tourists hop from club to club.”</p><p>It seemed as if the actualization of this worthy goal hadn’t gotten far beyond Fioretti forming an advisory panel <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/music/8037695-421/cheap-trick-wants-to-open-museum-concert-venue-in-record-row.html">until Hoekstra reported last month</a> that those power-pop giants and favorite sons of Rockford, Cheap Trick, have agreed to “‘curate’ a museum and music venue in a former Buick dealership at 2245 S. Michigan,” stocking it with the legendary guitar and drum collections of Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos and also offering, according to the band’s ever-hustling manager Dave Frey, “a one-of-a-kind eatery… radio station, and performance space.”</p><p>Granted, this sounds dangerously close to a Hard Rock Café, and the last thing Chicago needs is another joint like that in this historic neighborhood or anywhere else. On the other hand, Nielsen helped create a pretty cool and mighty tasty eatery with Piece Pizza in Wicker Park, and if the Cheap Trick slice of the South Loop is closer in spirit to that than some tourist trap, we all could heartily applaud.</p><p>Meanwhile, quite a ways to the north, optimism continues to build regarding restoration of the Uptown Theater and, with it, the creation of an Uptown Music District, even if bona fide concrete plans for either remain scarce or sketchy at best.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-02/Uptown theater_flickr_BWChicago.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 375px;" title="The Uptown Theater (Flickr/BW Chicago)"></p><p>In the most in-depth piece of reporting on the Uptown since <a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/music/2008/04/the_theater_wars_the_fight_for.html">this blogger’s 2008 piece</a> about the epic fight for control of the historic theater between Jam Productions and Live Nation, <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/ct-ent-1012-focus-uptown-rehab-20111011,0,3028369,full.story">the <em>Tribune’s</em> Mark Caro toured the majestic venue</a> in early October with its current owner, Jam’s Jerry Mickelson, recounting the history, and reporting that a serious renovation could cost as much as $70 million.</p><p>Where would this substantial pile of cash come from? No one really says, but Caro quoted the new mayor’s enthusiasm for the building—“It’s stunning,” Emanuel told him—as well as repeating his talk of an Uptown Music District centered on the Uptown and Riviera theaters, the Aragon Ballroom, and the Green Mill. “It can happen now because people are finally seeing the intertwined connection between culture and economic development,” the mayor said, and his Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Michelle Boone readily seconded: “It’s like the stars are all in alignment.”</p><p>“Of course, the stars are one thing,” Caro concluded. “Money is another.”</p><p>Indeed, and with the new administration and the council just beginning to hear from residents about living with the ramifications of approving one of the most onerous budgets in Chicago history, the story to watch in coming months is whether Emanuel offers more than just encouragement for both Uptown and Music Row… and what schemes are hatched to make any of these noble dreams a reality absent an infusion of public funds.</p></p> Fri, 02 Dec 2011 09:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-12-02/linksomania-whither-music-row-and-uptown-94515