It’s the 29th annual Chicago Blues Fest this weekend in Grant Park and it’s absolutely free. Don’t forget to give up some stage love for W.C. Handy award winner Tom Marker of WXRT, he will be the MC for the weekend at the Petrillo Music Shell. Here’s some of the people who invented the blues (in no particular order):
- Robert Johnson. A very short reign as the King of the Delta blues singers cut short by a mysterious demise. (Keith Richards claims to have the death certificate.) Still was able to write and record many standards that are played to this very day. Rumoured to have made a deal with the devil for his craft, but Satan doesn’t like music. (Except Nickelback.)
- Muddy Waters aka McKinley Morganfield. He didn’t invent the genre, but he was one of the perfectors of the modern blues electric combo. A soulful, powerful singer and a underated guitar player. Inspired a host of musicians in all styles. (Except easy listening.)
- Howling Wolf aka Chester Burnett. An imposing physical presence matched by one of the blues most awesome and terrifying voices. The real Wolfman.
- Willie Dixon. A solid musician and singer, Dixon turned the Chess studios in Chicago into one of the greatest songwriting factories in modern music from the fifties through the mid sixties. “Little Red Rooster”, “Back Door Man”, “Wang Dang Doodle”, “I Just Want To Make Love To You” were all his. And there were lots more.
- Buddy Guy. One of the world’s best and most influential electric guitarists, he has blazing speed, but it’s the notes he doesn’t play that count. And he sings with a feeling. One of Chicago’s musical ambassadors to the world.
- Koko Taylor. The late Queen of the Blues and a match for any man.
- W.C. Handy. The Father of the Blues who blended folk, ragtime and jazz into something brand new. And he always gave credit where credit was due.
- Bessie Smith. The Empress of the Blues and one of American music’s greatest singers. An important voice from the 20s and 30s.
- Junior Wells. Excellent singer and harpist. Longtime partner of Buddy Guy. His “Hoodoo Man Blues” was a landmark of the genre and one of the greatest and first of the fully realized modern blues albums.
- Charley Patton. One of the first Mississippi Delta bluesmen and a flamboyant guitar player. His death went unreported in the newspapers in 1934.