WBEZ | blues http://www.wbez.org/tags/blues Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy chosen for Kennedy Center Honors http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-bluesman-buddy-guy-chosen-kennedy-center-honors-104058 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP905221780317.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy will receive Kennedy Center Honors this Sunday in Washington, D.C.</p><p>The Chicago blues community came together Tuesday to give him a musical send-off. Blues artist Eddy Clearwater, the Blues Kids of America and several other musicians took the stage at Jay Pritzker Pavilion to congratulate Guy.</p><p>Michelle Boone, commissioner of the city&rsquo;s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, said Chicago wanted to send Guy off in style.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody was so willing to participate and wanted to show their love and be a part of something really special for a very special man,&rdquo; Boone said.</p><p>Buddy Guy&rsquo;s been playing the blues in Chicago since leaving his home state of Louisiana in 1957. He came to the city hoping to see Muddy Waters and Howlin&#39; Wolf play the blues in person.</p><p>After several months in the city, Guy found a steady gig playing guitar at the famed 708 Club in Bronzeville. He later became a session man at South Side record label Chess Records.</p><p>&ldquo;I came to Chicago 55 years ago, and [when] I got here, it was pretty cold,&quot; remembered Guy. &quot;I started listening to the music here, and I forgot how cold it got. 55 years later, I&rsquo;m still here, and I&rsquo;ll be here.&quot;</p><p>Guy owns Buddy Guy&rsquo;s Legends club in the South Loop, where he can be found performing when he&rsquo;s in Chicago.</p><p>He was chosen as a Kennedy Center honoree for his musical contributions. Numerous guitarists including Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn cite him as a major influence.</p><p>On the Kennedy Center website, chairman David M. Rubenstein called Guy a &quot;titan of the blues.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;[He] has been a tremendous influence on virtually everyone who has picked up an electric guitar in the last half century,&rdquo; said Rubenstein.</p><p>During his career, Guy has received six Grammy awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2003, he received the National Medal of Arts for his contributions to blues music.</p><p>The bluesman will be joined in Washington this weekend by his fellow honorees including TV host David Letterman and rock band Led Zeppelin.</p><p><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-bluesman-buddy-guy-chosen-kennedy-center-honors-104058 Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials bring the genuine houserockin' music http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/lil-ed-blues-imperials-bring-genuine-houserockin-music-99892 <p><p>Those who know the Blues, particularly Chicago Blues, know the name J.B. Hutto.</p><p>Hutto was born in North Carolina in 1926, and the family relocated to Chicago when his father passed away in the late 40&rsquo;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. &nbsp;He fronted bands of his own, was featured on the seminal 1966 3-record set <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Chicago-Blues-Today-Various-Artists/dp/B00000JKF2">Chicago/The Blues/Today!,</a> 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. &nbsp;Two years later, in 1985, the Blues Foundation inducted him into the Hall of Fame. &nbsp;<br /><br />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 &ldquo;Pookie&rdquo; Young. &nbsp;The two formed a band, and the rest, as they say is history. &nbsp;Ed Williams is better known as Lil&rsquo; Ed. &nbsp;Pookie Still plays right along side him. The Blues Imperials are rounded out by Kelly Littleton on drums and Michael Garrett on rhythm guitar.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS5852_4949LilEdImperials02_byPaulNatkin-scr.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 413px;" title="Lil' Ed &amp; The Blue Imperials Throw Down (Alligator/Paul Natkin)" /></div><p>Last year, when <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-26/40-years-blues-alligator-records-85684">I spoke with Bruce Iglaur for the 40th anniversary of his Alligator Records</a>, he told me the story of how he first met the band. &nbsp;He was looking for new acts to sign to the label, so he thought he&rsquo;d bring some folks into a studio and have them lay down a couple of tracks. &nbsp;If they were good, they&rsquo;d have a spot on a compilation record. &nbsp;Well, Ed and the boys just blew the roof off the place, and ended up cutting 30 tunes that night. &nbsp;12 of those songs became their debut album Roughhousin&rsquo; in 1986. &nbsp;Their new album, Jump Start, is their 8th.<br /><br />Most Blues bands come and go. &nbsp;The ones that last usually do so by rotating new members in and out on a regular basis. &nbsp;But <a href="http://www.alligator.com/artists/Lil-Ed-and-The-Blues-Imperials/">Lil&rsquo; Ed &amp; the Blues Imperials</a> 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. &nbsp;And their success is built on that relationship and the rough-hewn, house rockin&rsquo; sound that they learned at the feet of the masters. &nbsp;And now the students have become masters themselves.</p><p>We&#39;re happy to welcome the band to our studios for Thursday&#39;s <em>Afternoon Shift.</em></p></p> Thu, 07 Jun 2012 09:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/lil-ed-blues-imperials-bring-genuine-houserockin-music-99892 Remembering the life and music of Michael Bloomfield http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-21/remembering-life-and-music-michael-bloomfield-95021 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-December/2011-12-19/MB c of Dave Glass.gif" alt="" /><p><p>Over the past 13 months, the Chicago Blues community lost a number of its legendary members. Little Smokey Smothers, Jeanne Carol, Pinetop Perkins, Honeyboy Edwards, Lacy Gibson, Big Eyes Smith and Hubert Sumlin.</p><p>The art form they created and perfected brought the name “Chicago” to every corner of the globe. Places that even Al Capone couldn’t reach.</p><p>It inspired guys like Bruce Iglauer, whose Alligator Records just celebrated four decades in the business, and guys like Michael Bloomfield.</p><p>On the 30th anniversary of Bloomfield’s passing, Jason Marck explored the life and music of the man some call “The Original Guitar God”.</p></p> Wed, 21 Dec 2011 15:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-21/remembering-life-and-music-michael-bloomfield-95021 Remembering Chicago blues legend Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-20/remembering-chicago-blues-legend-willie-big-eyes-smith-92211 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-20/Big Eyes.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On Friday, Sept. 16 the Chicago blues scene lost another elder statesman. <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>'s Jason Marck offered this remembrance of Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.</p><p>In the last 12 months, Chicago blues fans said goodbye to Little Smokey Smothers, Pinetop Perkins, Lacy Gibson and Honeyboy Edwards. Recently and sadly, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith was added to that list.</p><p>Smith was born in Helena, Arkansas in 1936.&nbsp; At 17, after hearing Muddy Waters in a Chicago club, he was inspired to become a blues musican and moved north. He played harmonica in several bands around town. He formed a trio with the great drummer Clifton James and played in a quartet with the well-known Arthur “Big Boy” Spires. He also played with slide-guitar legend Johnny Shines, and with a then-up-and-comer recording for Chess Records by the name of Bo Diddley.</p><p>In the late '50s, there was more demand for drummers than for harp players--so Smith switched to drums. He occasionally filled in for Muddy’s drummer and officially joined the band in 1961. But by the mid '60s, he needed steadier money, so he put the kit away and drove a cab to pay the bills.&nbsp;</p><p>One night in 1968, Smith sat in again with Muddy’s band. The next day, Waters asked him to join as a permanent member; and he stayed in the drum chair for the next 12 years.&nbsp;</p><p>Alligator Records founder Bruce Iglaur had fond memories of Smith’s distinctive style<span style="font-style: italic;">: "</span>Willie was very proudly an old school drummer….he commented with his drums on everything that was going on in the song…that would just make you grin from ear to ear," Ingalur said.</p><p>Big Eyes, Pintop Perkins and the other members of the Muddy Waters outfit quit en masse in 1980 and formed The Legendary Blues Band. Smith recorded a series of albums with the LBB, and the group toured with the Stones, Clapton and Dylan.</p><p>Beginning in the mid '90s, Smith recorded as a leader--showing off his prowess as a singer--and went back to his original instrument, the harmonica. He won a string of Blues Foundation Awards and a Grammy in 2010 for his recording “Joined at the Hip” with Pinetop Perkins.</p><p>The drummer on that recording was destined to be the keeper of his flame, as Bruce Iglaur explained.</p><p>"Willie Smith’s legacy is being carried on beautifully by his son; it’ll be different every time and it’ll be great every time," he remarked.</p><p>Smith gained fame for his shuffle beat that became synonymous with Chicago Blues; but at the age of 75, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith shuffled off this mortal coil.</p><p>A <a href="http://wxrt.radio.com/2011/09/19/funeral-services-for-willie-big-eyes-smith-announced/" target="_blank">celebration </a>of the life and music of Willie "Big Eyes" Smith will be held at <a href="http://www.rosaslounge.com/" target="_blank">Rosa’s Lounge</a> in Chicago Thursday, Sept. 22. Funeral services take place Sunday, Sept. 25 and Monday Sept. 26.</p></p> Tue, 20 Sep 2011 14:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-20/remembering-chicago-blues-legend-willie-big-eyes-smith-92211 Remembering David 'Honeyboy' Edwards, the last of the Delta bluesman http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-01/remembering-david-honeyboy-edwards-last-delta-bluesman-91388 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-01/2260981717_950e230c24_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Earlier this week, Chicago said goodbye to a musician some hailed as the last of the Delta bluesmen. <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>’s Jason Marck shared a remembrance of <a href="http://www.davidhoneyboyedwards.com/" target="_blank">David “Honeyboy” Edwards</a>.</p><p>“This record of roamin’ and rambling blues will be sung and played on the guitar by David Edwards, who lives near Cohomo Mississippi,” folklorist Alan Lomax began as he introduced David “Honeyboy” Edwards for a Library of Congress recording in 1942. Edwards died this week in his Chicago home.</p><p>Edwards was born in the Mississippi Delta and he learned to play the blues the old fashioned way.</p><p>“The veteran musicians would find young kids who had ambitions to play and would actually take them on the road with them,” Steve Cushing host of the syndicated program Blues Before Sunrise explained. In Honeyboy’s case, Cushing said, that was Big Joe Williams.&nbsp;</p><p>Early in his career, Edwards played with the likes of Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Sadly, those days weren’t well documented because he spent most of that time hopping from town to town just trying to make a living.</p><p>Edwards spoke to former WBEZ host and producer Dan Bindert in 2008; he was in a great mood that day—he was nominated for a Grammy, which he won days after the interview aired. In addition to talking about the blues life, he played a couple of songs, including “Catfish Blues.”</p><p>Honeyboy Edwards moved to Chicago in 1956 and played in local bars through the late ‘60s. In 1972, he met Michael Frank, a young blues fan and musician. The friends formed the Honeyboy Edwards Blues Band. A few years later, Frank would start Earwig Records and record Edwards many times over the next 30 or so years.&nbsp;</p><p>Edwards played in a variety of styles and his technique involved both intricate fingerpicking and attacking bottleneck slide. But he always stuck to his notion of what makes for good blues.</p><p>Edwards will be remembered for his music, awards and longevity; but Honeyboy Edwards he is also remembered as a genuinely good person.&nbsp; Again, Steve Cushing.</p><p>“I think Honeyboy was one of the nicest guys that I’ve met. And he was the first blues interview that I ever attempted, this was back around 1972 and I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. And he was just so nice and so patient and I have liked him ever since then,” Cushing said.</p><p>David “Honeyboy” Edwards was 96.&nbsp;</p><p>Visitation for Honeyboy Edwards is Thursday September 1, 2:00 -7:00 p.m., There will be an open mic at the funeral home from 7:00-8:00 p.m., followed by a gathering of fans and friends at Lee's Unleaded 7401 S. Chicago Ave.from 8:00 p.m. until midnight.<br> The funeral is Friday at noon sharp, open to family and friends.</p><p>McCullough Funeral &amp; Cremation Services<br> 851 E. 75th St, Chicago 60619.<br> Tel 773-488-8900<br> &nbsp;</p><p><br> &nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 01 Sep 2011 07:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-01/remembering-david-honeyboy-edwards-last-delta-bluesman-91388 Chicago bluesman David 'Honeyboy' Edwards dies at 96 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-blues-musician-david-honey-boy-edwards-dies-91229 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-30/AP070508064568.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>David "Honeyboy" Edwards, considered to be the last of a generation of musicians who brought music from the rural Mississippi Delta to the rest of America, died at his home in Chicago early Monday morning. He was 96 years old.</p><p>Honeyboy Edwards was born in 1915. He grew up in segregated Mississippi during Jim Crow. Though his dad was a share-cropper, the young Edwards did not work in the fields.</p><p>He figured out he could make more money by playing music on the weekends. But back then a black man would be thrown in jail if he was caught not working during the day. In 2008, Honeyboy Edwards told NPR's Andrea Seabrook that he just didn't go out until evening.</p><p>"I didn't come out until 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening," he said. "Sleep all day, sleep and cook and eat, stay in the house. That sun is hot, anyway. It ain't right out there."</p><p>Edwards left the hot son and tried to make a living on the road. He was a teenager when he learned from, and played with, older musicians like Son House and Robert Johnson who've since become legends.&nbsp;</p><p>In 2008, Edwards <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/david-honeyboy-edwards-still-going-strong" target="_blank">appeared on WBEZ's 848</a> to talk about how the blues should sound.</p><p>"Blues not supposed to be played fast. Blues supposed to be played slow," Edwards said. "And that's how a lot of people play the blues now. You don't be sit - your chords don't sit long enough to sound. You get down and get up too fast."</p><p><strong>"Honeyboy" Edwards performing at WBEZ</strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/TRgg_9TmI-w" width="420" frameborder="0" height="345"></iframe></p><p>Video from Chicago Tribune's YouTube channel</p><p>Music critic and journalist Tom Piazza (his recent book <em>Devil Sent the Rain</em> is about the music and writing made in hard times) says Johnson and Son House were the pioneers of the Delta blues, a style that influenced everyone from The Rolling Stones to Bob Dylan.</p><p>"The Delta blues is some of the strongest and most concentrated blues that you can find, and life in the Mississippi delta during the time that musical form was coming up was about as tough as you could get," Piazza says. "And Honeyboy Edwards was probably the last living link we had to that era."</p><p>Edwards made his first recording in 1942 when musicologist Alan Lomax went to Clarksdale, Miss., and recorded him for the Library of Congress. He made a few commercial recordings in the '50s but mostly he made a living playing in small clubs in Chicago, where he eventually settled.</p><p>In his memoir <em>The World Don't Owe Me Nothing</em>, Edwards wrote that he'd been "hustling all his life," and by the '60s he was tired. So he got jobs working construction to support his family. He got back into music in the '70s when he met musician Michael Frank, who recorded Edwards.</p><p>Edwards always liked the raw simplicity of country blues. When he was 92 years old he told Dan Bindert of WBEZ in Chicago less is more.</p><p>"You don't have to play a whole lot of guitar to be a good blues player. Some people plays too much guitar," Edwards said. "Stack it on top of each other the way it don't — you're working too fast. Blues not supposed to be played fast. Blues supposed to be played slow."</p><p>"You could kill a man," said Honeyboy Edwards, with just one chord.</p><div class="fullattribution"><p>Edwards won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2010.</p><p>He died of congestive heart failure Monday in his Chicago apartment. A funeral is planned for Thursday.</p></div></p> Tue, 30 Aug 2011 12:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-blues-musician-david-honey-boy-edwards-dies-91229 The 'Complete Mythology' of Syl Johnson http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-25/complete-mythology-syl-johnson-91092 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-26/sly.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Earlier this week, veteran soul singer Syl Johnson discovered that one of America's best-selling albums, </em>Watch the Throne<em> by <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/16318474/jay-z">Jay-Z</a> and <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/14889532/kanye-west">Kanye West</a>, uses an unauthorized sample of one of his songs, "Different Strokes," credited to the Numero Group, which has put out a career-spanning collection of Johnson's work called </em>The Complete Mythology<em>. As the case proceeds, Ed Ward looks at Johnson's career, which dates back to the blues clubs of 1950s Chicago.</em></p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/103572959/syl-johnson">Syl Johnson</a> was born Sylvester Thompson near Lamar, Miss., in 1936, the sixth child of a harmonica-playing farmer and his wife. When Sylvester was almost 10, his father migrated to Chicago, where he found work, at which point he sent for his wife and kids one by one. Sylvester and his brother Mack arrived in 1950, and almost before they were in the house, they discovered their 13-year-old next-door neighbor sitting on his porch playing a guitar.</p><p>The kid was Sam Maghett, later known as Magic Sam, and Syl was amazed at how well this new kid played guitar, something he'd picked up from his childhood friend Matt "Guitar" Murphy. Soon, Mack, Sam and Syl had a little band. Sam's uncle, "Shakey Jake" Harris, an established player on the Chicago blues scene, grabbed Syl for his band in 1955, and soon Syl was in demand as a studio guitarist. One day, at a session for Vee-Jay Records, Calvin Carter, whose sister co-owned the label, heard Syl singing and said he'd like to make a record with him. Syl went home and wrote a couple of songs, then stopped by a "record your voice" machine to make a little demo. Then he got on the bus, and was walking from the bus stop to Vee-Jay to remind them of the label's promise. Halfway there, he saw the King Records office, and decided to go in there instead.</p><p>Ralph Bass, who oversaw King's Chicago operations, took the homemade record into his office, played it a couple of times while Syl waited in the lobby, made a phone call to the home office in Cincinnati, and came back to tell Syl he had a deal. The label boss, Syd Nathan, didn't like the name Sylvester Thompson, so he changed it to Syl Johnson. Syl signed to King's subsidiary Federal, where he cut 14 sides between 1959 and 1962 that were very much in the style of Federal's big star, <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/128496243/freddie-king">Freddie King</a>. The later ones sounded more like the music that was big in Chicago's West Side clubs, where Syl played music halfway between blues and soul. Chicago in those days was a jungle of tiny record labels, and Syl recorded for a number of them. If these records had sounded better, he might have had hits.</p><p>"Falling in Love Again" paired him with Barry Goldberg, who ran with the University of Chicago blues crowd — which also included Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites — but the tiny TMP-Ting label it was on didn't have a chance. It wasn't until 1967 that Syl Johnson ever saw the charts.</p><p>"Different Strokes" made the Top 20 on the soul charts and grazed the bottom of the pop charts in 1967, but it would turn out to be the most important record he'd ever made. It was on Twilight, a label he partially owned, although it soon changed its name to Twi-night, for some reason. Syl spent 1967 and '68 looking for another hit, and got one after some recording in Memphis.</p><p>"Dresses Too Short" was the product of a growing friendship with Memphis producer Willie Mitchell, and was recorded with the same band that would make <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/14947959/al-green">Al Green</a> famous, but Johnson still wasn't making enough to justify moving, and in 1969, in Chicago, he created his first masterpiece.</p><p>"Is It Because I'm Black" is reminiscent of <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15669282/marvin-gaye">Marvin Gaye</a>'s "What's Going On," although it's more conventionally played, and the album version, more than seven minutes long, is a landmark. The song sold, too, but the album didn't, despite its amazing version of <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15229570/the-beatles">The Beatles</a>' "Come Together" and several more socially conscious tracks.</p><p>It was about this time that Willie Mitchell snapped Johnson up, and he spent the '70s making hits for him on the Hi label. When that was over, Syl Johnson returned to the Chicago clubs. He'd done okay, but he was about to become rich: With the coming of hip-hop, someone discovered the first six seconds of "Different Strokes."</p><p>It's been sampled legally more than 50 times and Syl Johnson's gotten paid each time.</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Thu, 25 Aug 2011 11:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-25/complete-mythology-syl-johnson-91092 Big Bill Broonzy: History's musical chameleon http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-24/big-bill-broonzy-historys-musical-chameleon-88385 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-27/gettyimages_88428499.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Big Bill Broonzy was one of America's most popular blues musicians — a father figure to many blues legends and an acknowledged influence on rockers such as <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15381813" target="_blank">Eric Clapton</a> and Pete Townshend. Yet Broonzy's life has remained something of a mystery until now. A new biography called <em>I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy</em> traces the musician's path from the rural South to the South Side of Chicago. Author Bob Riesman's decade of research has yielded some surprising results.</p><p>Broonzy landed in Chicago sometime in the early 1920s, playing acoustic country blues. He was an accomplished guitarist, and his sense of showmanship at dances and on his early recordings made him a popular entertainer with black audiences.</p><p>Fellow musician Billy Boy Arnold saw Broonzy at a Chicago club two decades later, when Arnold was a teenager.</p><p>"This big giant of a guy came in the doorway with a guitar in his hand," Arnold says. "And he was muscular, not fat. Black as midnight. Smiled all the time, and seemed to be a very jolly guy."</p><p>By then, the older musician had switched from acoustic to electric guitar and adapted to the slower urban blues style. Broonzy became the king of the Chicago blues scene. But it wasn't long before the king lost his crown.</p><p><strong> </strong></p><p>A younger generation of blues performers was starting to pack audiences into South Side clubs. Arnold says everything changed in 1950 with the release of Muddy Waters' "Rollin' Stone<em>.</em>"</p><p>"It was real powerful and lowdown as you could get," Arnold says. "And, you see, the people really <em>liked</em> that, 'cause that's what they feel in they heart."</p><p>So Big Bill Broonzy changed his musical direction. Chicago was home to a growing folk scene, fueled by young, white intellectuals. It was a time when performers were using music as a tool for social change. And Broonzy was inspired to write what would become one of his most memorable songs, "Black, Brown and White Blues":</p><p><em>This little song that I'm singing about<br />People you all know it's true<br />If you're black and gotta work for a living<br />This is what they will say to you<br />They says, "If you're white, you're all right<br />If you're brown, stick around</em><br /><em>But if you're black, oh brother,<br />Get back, get back get back"</em></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p>"Black, Brown and White Blues" was probably heard more by white audiences than black. And in spite of the song's pointed critique of discrimination, there were some in the black community who didn't appreciate Broonzy's shift into folk music.</p><p>"I didn't like the folk stuff that he was doing," Arnold says. "And he didn't play that 'Jimmy Crack Corn' in no black clubs, because that wouldn't have went over no kind of way."</p><p>But Broonzy<strong> </strong>biographer Bob Riesman says the singer's new focus was just a demonstration of his versatility — and his instinct for survival.</p><p>"I don't think he would have seen that as compromising his integrity in any way," Riesman says. "He was a working musician."</p><p><strong>Changing The Story</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p>Broonzy changed more than his musical style. Throughout his life, the singer also altered parts of his personal history. During a lengthy recording session in 1957, he told some compelling stories about his childhood in rural Mississippi and about the songs he learned from his parents, who he said were slaves.<strong> </strong> But Riesman says the singer didn't really come from Mississippi, his parents were not slaves and his name wasn't Broonzy.</p><p><strong> </strong>"It turned out that he was Lee Bradley of Jefferson County, Ark., about 60 miles southeast of Little Rock," Riesman says.</p><p>After 10 years of research, Riesman says he's come to reconcile the facts of Broonzy's life with the stories the musician told.</p><p>"He treated his life story as a set of fluid possibilities, as opposed to fixed events," Riesman says. "And his imaginative powers were formidable. As Studs Terkel said, 'Bill is telling the truth — <em>his </em>truth.' "</p><p><strong> </strong></p><p>By the mid-1950s, Broonzy was captivating audiences across the U.S. and Europe with his songs and stories. But his newfound success wouldn't last much longer. The singer's health started to deteriorate due to a cancer that was spreading through his lungs.</p><p>A Chicago radio personality, Studs Terkel oversaw Broonzy's final recording session, which had been set up by a Cleveland disc jockey. Bill Randle was nationally famous as a pop-music hit-maker, having boosted the careers of The Crew Cuts and Pat Boone. In a 1999 interview, the late Randle said financing the Broonzy sessions was partially an act of penitence.</p><p>"In the course of it, I guess I developed what you would call a cultural guilt complex," Randle said. "And also, I had the money. So I decided that I would just do some things that I thought should be done. And one of them was to record Big Bill Broonzy. I didn't know he was sick."</p><p><strong>Lessons In The Afterlife</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p>The morning after the final session, Broonzy went into the hospital; he died about a year later in 1958. His funeral was an event. Gospel great Mahalia Jackson sang a hymn. His pall bearers included Muddy Waters, Tampa Red, Studs Terkel and Chicago folk legend Win Stracke. Stracke's daughter, Jane, recalls that this image of racial harmony was deliberately designed.</p><p>"My father made sure that there would be three white pall bearers and three black pallbearers," she says. "And he did it very consciously. He wanted it to be kind of a lesson."</p><p>As the crowd at the Metropolitan Funeral Parlor sat in quiet reflection, the room filled with the sound of Broonzy himself, singing a spiritual taken from the Randle recording session.</p><p>Standing at Broonzy's grave in Chicago's Lincoln Cemetery, Riesman says the singer's final encore did not go unnoticed.</p><p>"The reporters for both of the Chicago newspapers used exactly the same phrase," he says, "which was, 'Big Bill Broonzy sang at his own funeral.' "</p><p>At the end of a life that spanned thousands of miles, a range of musical styles and a chameleon-like ability to adapt when others told him not to, Big Bill Broonzy got the last word. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. <img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1309187090?&gn=Big+Bill+Broonzy%3A+History%27s+Musical+Chameleon&ev=event2&ch=1106&h1=Jazz+Notes+Newsletter,NPR+Music+Mobile,Music+Notes,Jazz+%26+Blues,Rock%2FPop%2FFolk,Music+News,Home+Page+Top+Stories&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=137398692&c7=1106&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1106&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110624&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=7&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=126134671,124289519,114113159,10002,10001&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Fri, 24 Jun 2011 17:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-24/big-bill-broonzy-historys-musical-chameleon-88385 40 years of the blues with Alligator Records http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-26/40-years-blues-alligator-records-85684 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-April/2011-04-26/Alligator Records.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It’s tough enough for a small business to survive four decades. When that business is a record label – it is almost unheard of. But Bruce Iglauer has defied the odds. His <a href="http://www.alligator.com/" target="_blank">Alligator Records</a> is celebrating 40 years of crankin’ out the blues.&nbsp;</p><p>Iglauer sat down with <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> and shared stories spanning the label’s history. The first is about where it all began back in 1970 - at a bar called <a href="http://www.chibarproject.com/Memoriam/Florence%27s/Florence%27s.htm" target="_blank">Florence’s</a> on Chicago’s West Side.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 26 Apr 2011 13:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-26/40-years-blues-alligator-records-85684 Severe weather damages blues label Malaco Records http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-25/severe-weather-damages-blues-label-malaco-records-85635 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-April/2011-04-25/Malaco AP Vickie D. King.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>April has brought more than just showers. In fact some local spring weather has been downright violent. A string of tornadoes in Midwest and Southern states left at least 45 dead and property destroyed.<br> <br> One of the buildings that took a big hit was <a href="http://www.malaco.com/Catalog/list.php" target="_blank">Malaco Records</a>. The label is located in Jackson, Mississippi, but it has deep connections to Chicago. Many local blues artists found a home there.<br> <br> To find out more, <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> heard from local record store owner <a href="http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=1677&amp;category=Businessmakers&amp;occupation=Record%20Store%20Owner&amp;name=George%20Daniels" target="_blank">George Daniels</a>, who distributed some of Malaco’s titles in Chicago. Daniels told WBEZ’s Richard Steele about limited opportunities for black artists to sell their music.</p><p>Steele also talked to someone personally affected by the destruction of Malaco. Musician <a href="http://www.malaco.com/Catalog/Blues-R-B/Stan-Mosley/list.php" target="_blank">Stan Mosley</a> released several albums on the label, and he told Richard what happened to his recordings.</p></p> Mon, 25 Apr 2011 13:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-25/severe-weather-damages-blues-label-malaco-records-85635