Chicago Blues Festival > Performer Bios
Billy Branch was discovered by Willie Dixon, the "father of modern Chicago Blues," while Billy was still in college. Willie encouraged Billy to finish his college education, which he did, but instead of going to law school after receiving his political science degree, Billy began touring with the Willie Dixon Chicago All-Stars. This gave Billy the unique opportunity to travel and work as an under study for the legendary Carey Bell who was planning to leave the All-Stars and form his own band. When Carey took his leave, the young Billy Branch took his place, touring with Willie Dixon for 6 years.
Since those early days, Billy has played on over 150 different recordings, including 12 under his own name. He's recorded with Willie Dixon, Johnny Winter, Lou Rawls, Koko Taylor, Eddy Clearwater, Honeyboy Edwards, Syl Johnson, Lurrie Bell, Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks, John Primer, and Taj Mahal, just to name a few. In addition, he has received three Grammy nominations (losing one nomination to BB King and Eric Clapton). He served two consecutive terms on the Grammy Board of Governors, and founded the Grammy Blues Committee. In addition, he has won multiple W.C. Handy Awards from the Blues Foundation, an Emmy Award, an Addy Award (this is like an Oscar for TV ads), two Chicago Music Awards, and numerous humanitarian achievement awards. Billy Branch has become the ambassador of the Chicago Blues. During his 6 week tour of Turkey, he represented the USA in Turkey’s Parliament, teaching political party leaders to play harmonica! Thousands of fans showed up every night of the week to experience the authentic Chicago Blues! He and his band, the Sons of Blues have delivered this cultural legacy around the world, having made over 70 international tours. The 2007 Chicago Blues Festival honored the thirtieth anniversary of Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues with a 3 hour performance. In fact, they also headlined the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival.
Billy is a Blues education pioneer. In addition to his recording and performing, he's taught literally thousands of children around the world. His internationally recognized “Blues in Schools Program,” is committed to teaching both young and old about the Blues as the roots of America's music. He has brought his interdisciplinary program to Europe, South America, Asia, and most recently to Mexico where he taught his two week program in Spanish. In addition he teaches in the Grammy Museum Music Revolution Project.
Shaw was born March 20, 1937, in Benoit, Mississippi, and grew up in nearby Greenville, where his adolescent friends included a number of musicians who would one day become fellow Chicago bluesmen, such as Little Milton Campbell, Left Hand Frank Craig, Johnny “Big Moose” Walker and L.V. Banks. He and his close companion Oliver Sain were just two of the many blues and jazz horn players to come from Coleman High School. They joined other formally trained musicians in Greenville’s sophisticated, urban jump-blues bands, which featured four- and five-man horn sections. Shaw and Sain made the rounds of the local nightclubs, schools, and dances, and often traveled through the Delta to play with bands such as Ike Turner’s and Guitar Slim’s. Shaw, who played trombone and clarinet before switching to saxophone, also put in some time with more traditional local bluesmen like Sain’s stepfather, Willie Love, and guitarist Charles Booker.
In 1957, Shaw sat in with the Muddy Waters band in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Waters hired him on the spot and Eddie arrived in Chicago as a member of the top band in town. The Chicago bands of Waters and Howlin' Wolf were built around amplified country blues, and Shaw found that he had to play differently in Chicago from the way he had in Mississippi. He was usually the only horn player in the band and no longer had section arrangements or short, set parts to play, but he adapted to the new demands as a soloist. He spent a few months with Waters, a few months with Wolf, went back to Greenville for a short stay, and then settled in Chicago for good. He rejoined Wolf for about two years, moved on to the Otis Rush band, and during the ‘60s worked most often with Magic Sam on the West Side. In between, there were plenty of weekend gigs with any band that needed a sax man for a night or two - “in and out of bands, up and down the highway,” said Shaw.
Shaw sang and fronted his own band from time to time, using guitar players such as Luther “Guitar Jr.” Johnson, Magic Sam, and Jesse Robinson. He played on recording sessions with Jimmy Dawkins. Freddie King, Magic Sam, Howlin' Wolf, and others, and occasionally took his band into the studio to record dubs for promotional use on jukeboxes and on Big Bill Hill’s local radio and TV programs. One such recording, an instrumental called “Blues For The West Side,” became a minor Chicago hit when it was issued as a single by Colt Records. In addition, he wrote songs for Willie Dixon, Andrew “Blueblood” McMahon, Magic Sam, and Howlin' Wolf, and contributed arrangements to sessions by Waters, Wolf, and others. Shaw's many contributions to the blues include arranging tracks for The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, which featured Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, Ringo Starr and others.
In the midst of all this, Shaw was usually involved in some sort of independent business venture, such as an air conditioning and refrigeration service, a laundromat, a barbecue joint, and a tavern, which was famed for its all-star Monday jam sessions. For a number of years, he operated the biggest blues club on the West Side, Eddie’s Place (The New 1815 Club), which featured such top-notch blues acts as Luther Allison, James Cotton, Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush, Little Johnny Taylor, Howlin' Wolf, and Mighty Joe Young.
Besides constantly touring for over two decades, Shaw has continued to record prolifically. His debut album, Have Blues, Will Travel, was released in 1977 on the Simmons label and later reissued by Rooster Blues. He cut four sides in 1978 for Alligator’s Living Chicago Blues series with the famed Hubert Sumlin on guitar. Since then, he’s cut a couple of albums for Rooster Blues, one for the French Isabel label (issued in the USA by Evidence), five for the Austrian Wolf label, and one for Chicago’s own Delmark Records.
During the 1950s, Chicago's West Side was a breeding ground for some of the world's greatest bluesmen. Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Freddie King and others ruled the clubs. With his fierce guitar playing, soulful and emotive vocals and wild stage shows, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater easily belongs on this list. A Chicago legend, Clearwater is an intense, flamboyant blues-rocking showman. He's equally comfortable playing the deepest, most heartfelt blues or rocking, good-time party music. DownBeat said, "Left-hander Eddy Clearwater is a forceful six-stringer...He lays down some gritty West Side shuffles and belly-grinding slow blues that highlight his raw chops, soulful vocals, and earthy, humorous lyrics."
Between his slashing left-handed guitar work, his room-filling vocals, his self-defined "rock-a-blues" style (a forceful mix of blues, rock, rockabilly, country and gospel), his boundless energy and even his signature Indian headdress, Clearwater is among the very finest practitioners of the West Side blues working today. The blues world recognized his talent by giving him the Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues – Male Artist of the Year in 2001. His last release, 2003's Rock 'N' Roll City, was nominated for a Grammy Award. Now he's back with his very first Alligator CD, the aptly titled WEST SIDE STRUT.
WEST SIDE STRUT, produced by young hotshot guitarist Ronnie Baker Brooks (son of the legendary bluesman Lonnie Brooks), is an energized mix of West Side blues and old school rock injected with a tough, up-to-the-minute contemporary edge. Featuring some of Eddy's hottest playing ever recorded, the CD burns with his stinging guitar and rough-and-ready vocals. Guests include Eddy's old friends Lonnie Brooks, Jimmy Johnson, Billy Branch and Otis Clay as well as Ronnie Baker Brooks himself, playing some scintillating guitar parts. The 12 songs (including seven songs either written or co-written by Eddy) lean from straight-ahead blues and humorous rockers to plaintive, emotion-packed ballads. All are brought to vivid life by Eddy's ferocious and unflinching guitar playing, his power-packed vocals and unlimited energy, hard-earned by his years of experience. GuitarOne said Clearwater takes his listeners on "an inspired trip to that rollicking crossroads where the blues and rock collide."
Born Edward Harrington (a cousin of late harpist Carey Bell Harrington) on January 10, 1935 in Macon, Mississippi, Eddy and his family moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1948. With music from blues to gospel to country & western surrounding him from an early age, Eddy taught himself to play guitar (left-handed and upside down), and began performing with various gospel groups, including the legendary Five Blind Boys of Alabama. After moving to Chicago in 1950, Eddy stayed with an uncle and took a job as a dishwasher, saving as much as he could from his $37 a week salary. His first music jobs were with gospel groups playing in local churches. Quickly though, through his uncle's contacts, he met many of Chicago's blues stars. Eddy fell deeper under the spell of the blues, and under the wing of blues star Magic Sam, who would become one of Eddy's closest friends and teachers.
By 1953, as Guitar Eddy, he was making a strong name for himself, working the South and West Side bars regularly. He met and befriended everyone from Sunnyland Slim to Earl Hooker, picking up licks and lessons along the way. After hearing Chuck Berry in 1957, Eddy added that rock and roll element to his already searing blues style, creating a unique sound that defines him to this day. He recorded his first single, Hill Billy Blues, in 1958 for his uncle's Atomic H label under the name Clear Waters. His manager at the time, drummer Jump Jackson, came up with the name as a play on Muddy Waters.
After a successful appearance on a Chicago television show called Bandstand Matinee in 1959, Clearwater recorded another 45 for Atomic H, I Don't Know Why, and he started receiving more and more local radio airplay with singles for LaSalle, Federal, Versa and his own Cleartone label. The name Clear Waters morphed into Eddy Clearwater, and Eddy rarely was in need of a place to play. He worked the local circuit steadily throughout the 1950s, 1960s and into the 1970s, finding success among the North Side college crowd who responded to his individual brand of blues, his rock and roll spirit and his high energy stage show.
Twice during the 1970s he toured Europe (the first time with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells) and even appeared on BBC television in England. His first full-length LP, 1980's The Chief, was the initial release on Chicago's Rooster Blues label. Wearing a full Indian headdress on the cover (an homage to his Cherokee blood), The Chief, as he was now known, reached the largest audience of his career. Recording numerous albums for various labels during the 1980s and 1990s, Eddy's star continued to rise. He received piles of positive press and was nominated for seven Blues Music Awards. His 2003 CD Rock 'N' Roll City paired him up with the surf-rocking Mexican wrestling-masked group, Los Straitjackets. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award and earned Eddy a multitude of new fans.
Now, with WEST SIDE STRUT, Eddy has made the very best album of his life. Between the untamed guitar work, the tough and gruff vocals and the strength of the songs, the old-school yet contemporary WEST SIDE STRUT will lead Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater to the very top of the blues world and beyond. Clearwater loves to perform and can usually be found tearing it up somewhere around the world on any given night. He's played everywhere from Russia, Turkey, and Romania to Brazil and Alaska. He'll hit the road hard in support of the CD, strutting his slicing guitar licks, his rock-fueled blues, rockabilly, country and gospel gumbo and his uninhibited live show to fans ready for a taste of the real West Side Chicago blues, played by a master at the very peak of his abilities.
Deeply rooted in the music of 20’s & 30’s blues pioneers Eric Noden’s percussive guitar work, timeless songwriting and well-traveled blues vocals have earned the respect of audiences, critics, and musicians worldwide. Eric is a one man band, a musician, songwriter, actor, and educator who continues to re-invent traditional blues and roots music for today’s audiences.
Noden started playing electric guitar at age 8 but quickly gravitated toward the finger picking approach of acoustic blues masters Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt and Tommy Johnson. Originally from Ohio, Noden relocated to Chicago in 1994 where he quickly became a staple on the blues scene with his hard-driving solo performances. In Chicago Eric has performed with and interviewed many blues legends including Billy Boy Arnold, Honeyboy Edwards, and Erwin Helfer. Noden has performed at many major music venues including The Chicago Blues Festival, Eslov Blues Festival (Sweden), Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, Harmonicales Festival (France) and Buddy Guy’s Legends.
Eric is also known as a blues educator and researcher. From lecture demonstrations at the University of Wisconsin to blues in the schools programs for the Chicago Blues Festival, his educational programs have entertained and informed thousands of students. In addition, Eric also teaches blues guitar workshops at the Old Town School of Folk Music.
Fernando Jones is a world-class American Bluesman born to loving Mississippi parents on the Southside of Chicago in Bronzeville. He performs all original compositions across the world in festivals, classrooms (elementary to college), night clubs and at private events.
Inspired by his older brothers, Foree, Marvin and Greg, Jones taught himself how to play guitar when he was just four years old, and has been playing since.
Fernando Jones & My Band! is a sharp dressed, raw guitar driven power trio. Their sound [is] full, sexy, original.
As the title of his critically acclaimed Atlantic Records CD suggests, Grammy Award and Blues Music Award Nominee, John Primer is truly “The Real Deal.” At 8 years old, John borrowed his first guitar and started to strum. Before that he played a homemade guitar built on the wall of the house with a broom wire, 2 nails, and 2 rocks to make it tight. With the sounds of Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Little Milton, Elmore James, BB & Albert King reverberating through his
Grandmother Laura Nell’s tube radio, John was instantly hooked. Early inspiration came from his family steeped in spiritual, gospel, blues and R&B tradition. As a young boy John’s mother knew he would be a singer, “he came out singing” she would say. John first appeared on stage at the local Baptist church, in his hometown of Camden Mississippi.
At the age of eighteen, feeling restless and in search of further audiences, John followed the path of his mentors and migrated to Chicago in the fall of 1963. He quickly found work in an era when Chicago’s modern electric Blues sounds were first taking shape. Forming his first band, The Maintainers in 1964, John and his old Harmony guitar rocked such West Side clubs as, The Place, The Bow Tie, and Lover’s Lounge. By 1968 John had left The Maintainers when the opportunity arose to front the Soul and R&B group The Brotherhood. Jamming late into the night and practicing by day, John was forming his own unique style and expanding his repertoire. John’s success would lead him in 1974 to replace John Watkins in the house band at the world famous Theresa’s Lounge on the South Side of Chicago. Over the course of the next 7 years, John would play with such originators as Sammy Lawhorn, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and Lonnie Brooks, all innovators sculpting the sound of Chicago Blues.
It was during this point in John’s career that quite a few people were taking note of this outstanding performer. In 1979, master songwriter and bassist Willie Dixon persuaded him to join his band The Chicago All Stars. Traveling through the US, Mexico and Europe, John developed his skills as a rhythm guitarist, a lead slide player, and a powerful singer. Another blues master who believed in John Primer was none other than the “Hoochie Coochie Man” himself, Muddy Waters. Muddy recruited John not only as a guitarist, but also as an opening act and bandleader. As he did with so many other great musicians, Muddy served as a father to John, instilling in him an unrelenting passion for the music that gave birth to Rock and Roll. John stayed loyal to Muddy until his untimely death in 1983.
Fresh off the heels of his success with the Muddy Waters Band, John signed on with the legendary Magic Slim. For the next 14 years, he toured with Magic Slim & The Teardrops, bringing tight, house rocking sounds to every corner of the planet. While John was the bandleader of Magic Slim & The Teardrops, they were voted the best blues band in the world year after year and are still today thought of as the inventors of “the lump”, Chicago Blues sound.
In 1981 John began playing at the Legendary Checkerboard Lounge on the South-Side of Chicago. He was the house bandleader, holding open jam nights and teaching the next generation how to play the Blues until the original nightclub closed its doors in 2001.
But John’s days as a sideman were numbered, and in 1995 the veteran blues man released his major label debut “The Real Deal”, on Atlantic Records. Deciding to make it out on his own, he began touring extensively in support of his twelve solo albums to date. John formed his independent record label, Blues House Productions in 2008 and released “All Original” his debut CD and then his second CD “Blues on Solid Ground”. John’s first 2 CD’s “All Original” and
“Blues on Solid Ground” have been nominated many, many times by the National Blues Foundation, Chicago’s Blues Balst Awards, and have won Living Blues Critics Polls as well. His new record label is off to an amazing start. The people love John’s music and he intends to keep manking it for a long, long time.
John is a Living Legend and has been giving the Lifetime Achievement Award many times. He is a Grammy Nominated Blues Artist and is one of the last Traditional Blues Artists with original Mississippi roots. He was taught by our founding father’s of the Blues, the old way (some say, “the right way”). We need to cherish his history and celebrate his amazing music!
Kenny Smith was unquestionably born into blues royalty. He grew up in the same house where Muddy Waters once lived in Chicago, the home of the blues. Throughout his childhood, Kenny was surrounded by Muddy and his friends, which included his own father, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith (1936-2011). These same blues icons helped mold him into the person and drummer he is today and later in life asked him to provide his famous backbeat on some of the largest and most respected stages and recordings in the world. Kenny has played over 7,500 live performances to date and has earned the right to wear that royal blues crown. His father, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, played drums for the Muddy Waters’ Band in the early 1960′s and then again from 1968 through 1980 and was featured on all of Muddy’s Grammy winning albums. Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, one of the best known living blues drummers today, learned 99% of what he knows about drumming from his father and was also inspired by acclaimed drummers: Odie Payne, Fred Below, Earl Phillips, S. P. Leary, Francis Clay and Art Blakey and many others who paved the way.
Grammy Award Winner – Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith is a world famous, multi-award winning, blues drummer extraordinaire who in 2011 won a Grammy award for his remarkable work on Joined at The Hip with Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Kenny had the honor and privilege of contributing to that project both through song writing and drumming and is delighted that his accomplishments and talents were recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Born in 1958, the son of famed blues harmonica player Carey Bell, Lurrie Bell picked up his father’s guitar at age of five and taught himself to play. He was clearly gifted. In addition, he grew up with many of the Chicago blues legends around him. Eddie Taylor, Big Walter Horton, Eddie C. Campbell, Eddie Clearwater, Lovie Lee, Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Dawkins and many more were frequent visitors to his house. They all helped to shape and school him in the blues, but none as much as his father’s long-time employer Muddy Waters.
At seven years old, Bell left Chicago to live in Mississippi and Alabama with his grandparents. During this time he played mostly in the church, immersing himself in the passionate expressiveness of the gospel tradition. At fourteen he moved back to Chicago and continued to play in church as well as forming his first blues band while attending high school.
By seventeen Lurrie Bell was playing on stage with Willie Dixon. In 1977 he was a founding member of The Sons of Blues with Freddie Dixon (son of Willie) and Billy Branch. The band recorded three standout tracks for Alligator Records’ Grammy nominated Living Chicago Blues series. In 1978 Bell joined Koko Taylor’s band and stayed for several years, honing his chops and learning the ropes of being a traveling musician. He continued to work with his dad as well, recording the 1984 Rooster Blues album Son Of a Gun and several other titles for UK’s JSP Records. Not only was Bell recognized as an exceptionally talented guitarist and musician, his knowledge of different blues styles, his soulfulness and his musical maturity delivered write-ups in publications such as Rolling Stone and The New York Times.
Battling and defeating a series of personal demons kept him out of the studio and off the road for a long spell in the late 1980’s, but Bell persevered and re-surfaced in the mid-1990’s with a succession of four highly acclaimed records for Chicago’s Delmark label.
Since the onset of the new millennium, Bell’s profile has been steadily rising. 2002 saw the release of the CD Cutting Heads and in 2004 Alligator Records released Second Nature an acoustic duet record with his father Carey Bell that was nominated for a WC Handy Award Acoustic Record of the Year by the Blues Foundation in Memphis.
In 2007 Bell started his own label Aria B.G. Records and released Let’s Talk About Love, which has been called his most accomplished, deeply heartfelt album yet. On the strength of this record, he was voted Most Outstanding Guitar Player in the 2007 Living Blues Magazine’s Critic’s Poll, and in 2008 and 2012 he was named the magazine’s Male Blues Artist of the Year. Since 2007 he has received multiple Blues Music Award nominations as Best Guitarist and Best Traditional Male Blues Artist by the Blues Foundation.
2009 found him pairing up with Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch on the recording Chicago Blues: A Living History which garnered him his first official Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Recording. In 2011 a follow-up was released; Chicago Blues: A Living History (The Revolution Continues) featuring Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, and Ronnie Baker Brooks.
And in 2012 came the arrival of his second CD on Aria BG Records The Devil Ain’t Got No Music, a collection of acoustic blues and gospel songs that recollect the music he often played with his dad and at church in Mississippi and Alabama as a child. In January 2013 The Devil Ain’t Got No Music was honored with the Prix du Blues award from the prestigious French L’Academie du Jazz for the Best Blues Recording of 2012 and the title song (written by producer Matthew Skoller) received a nomination from the Blues Foundation for song of the year.
In 2013 Bell re-signed with Delmark and enlisted famed Chicago producer Dick Shurman to make the record Blues in My Soul. For this project he wanted to get back to the solid foundation of Chicago-styled traditional guitar blues. Blues in my Soul features three new Lurrie Bell originals plus songs by Little Walter, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Rogers, and Big Bill Broonzy and others.
At last count Lurrie Bell has now appeared on over 50+ recordings either as leader or featured sideman. Lurrie Bell’s elegant and intense guitar playing and passionate vocals have made him a favorite at clubs and festivals around the world and have earned him a reputation as one of the “leading lights” in the future of the blues.
I started playing in local bands in detroit in the 1970's. The first major act I worked, toured and recorded with was Bob Seger. Bob snatched up all of the musicians from the band I was in called "Julia" which included great guitarist/producer/writer, Bill Mueller to back him up. After a while Bob fired the rhythm section and hired Dick Sims [keyboards] and Jamie Oldaker [drums] from Tulsa, OK. I sang background vocals [along with my friend, vocalist and fellow Detroiter, Luke Smith] on his "Back in '72" album which was recorded at Leon Russells' Grand Lake studio and toured with him for a while after that.
After I left Bob's band, I was invited by Dick Sims and Jamie Oldaker to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to start a band. The music scene was really happening there at the time; lots of great R and B. Many notables used to come in and jam with us, i.e., Carl Radle of Derek and the Dominoes, people from the Gap Band, Leon Russell, JJ Cale, etc.
It so happened Eric Clapton was looking for a new band. Carl Radle told him about our band, he came to check us out and he hired everyone. I couldn't go because I had made a prior commitment to tour with Leon Russell for nine months.
After my tour finished, I was invited down to Jamaica where they were all recording "There's One in Every Crowd" and sang on several tracks. After being there for four days, Eric asked me to join the band. I spent the next four years touring and recording with Eric , and also writing several songs with and for him; "Innocent Times" on the "There's No Reason To Cry" album, as well as "Hungry" written with fellow bandmember, Dick Sims. At one point, I was signed to RSO records [Robert Stigwood] to do my own album which was produced by David Foster but was never finished.
I co-wrote "Lay down Sally" with Eric and bandmember George Terry, as well as "Rollit" with Eric and also "The Core" written with Eric and other bandmembers, which were all on the "Slowhand" album. And I was also involved in writing some other Clapton songs like, "Walk Away" and part of "Promises".
After that I stopped working with Eric, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue my own career. I ended up doing lots of session work for some of the greatest singers and producers of all time.
I did recording sessions for: Aretha Franklin, (my vocal idol), George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Al Jarreau, Bette Midler, Leo Sayer, Melissa Manchester,and worked for some of the best producers of all time: Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, Glyn Johns, Tom Dowd, Roger Hawkins.
I sang sessions for Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, Leiber and Stoller and many more. I also wrote loads of songs including co-writes for: Chaka Khan, Belinda Carlisle, Al Jarreau ["One Way" written with Billie Hughes], including Philip Bailey's hit "Walking on the Chinese Wall".
Amidst doing all the session work, I also did my own record on Epic Records called, "Marcella". I co-wrote all of the songs on the record which was released in 1982, with production by John Boylan, Frank Rand and Executive production by Richard Feldman. The record was met with lukewarm response unfortunately and we were refused tour support by Epic Records when we were asked by John Cougar Mellenkamp to tour with him.
I worked with Clapton again in 1985 after writing a song with Richard Feldman called "Tangled In Love" which was on the "behind the sun" album.
I was invited to come down to Montserrat , Air Studios, where Eric was recording what would become his "Behind the Sun" album with Phil Collins produciing. I got a call from Eric who had heard our song, "Tangled in Love" and asked me to come down to sing on it. He said, "bring a friend", so I brought this great singer from Detroit named Shaun Murphy. She and I worked with Bob Seger together a while before. Shaun and I went down and a few days later Eric asked us to join the band. I toured with him for about a year and then quit so I could pursue my solo career.
Nellie “Tiger” Travis couldn’t be more destined to sing the blues. She was born deep in the delta of Mississippi in the early 60′s. As in most small towns, the church was a main focal point and Nellie grew up singing gospel music.
Since then, Nellie has come a long way and in November 2009 was crowned the New Queen Of The Blues for Chicago by Bluesman and WVON radio personality, Purvis Spann who previously had bestowed that honor on Ms. KoKo Taylor the original Queen. KoKo was a mentor and friend to Nellie, and when she passed in early 2009, Nellie used her songwriting skills to write and record a tribute song to her friend Ms. KoKo Taylor titled “KoKo” (Queen Of The Blues). This soulful tune was also performed and used to eulogize Koko as part of her last rites and is on one of Nellie’s latest albums, I’m Goin’ Out Tonight.
Today, Nellie has one of the tightest Chicago Blues bands found anywhere in the world comprised of the best musicians from Chicago’s Blues scene.
Nellie Travis has headlined at the Chicago Blues Festival and at numerous festivals/clubs around the world in countries such as Japan, Greece, Italy, Germany, Brazil, as well as her hometown of Mississippi. In November 2013 Nellie’s just finished another very successful twenty-one date concert tour of Europe to packed houses everywhere she performed.
She’s a permanent headlining personality at Chicago’s most successful blues clubs, The Kingston Mines, Buddy Guy’s Legends and Blue Chicago where she continues to pack them in.
She has shared the stage with such legendary greats as Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Koko Taylor, Glady’s Knight, Ronnie Baker Brooks just to name a few. Her influences are such powerful performers as Big Mama Thornton, KoKo Taylor (of course) and Etta James.
The nickname “Tiger” was born after Nellie came to Chicago. She and a cousin were hanging out at B.L.U.E.S on Halsted brainstorming about what to call her. Nellie wanted the nickname “Angel”, but her cousin quickly rejected that and came up with “Tiger” which aptly describes her feline-like, intense vocal style as well as her feisty, independent personality.
In addition to being an outstanding singer and songwriter, Nellie is an accomplished actress. She has performed in plays “The Lust Of A Man” and “I was There When The Blues Was Red Hot”.
Nellie has won several awards and many nominations.
Nellie “Tiger” Travis is one the best of Chicago’s Blues and R&B/Soul music exports. She is a worldwide touring headliner.
Peaches Staten Band offers a thrilling mixture of gritty vocals and explosive guitar playing, harmoniously delivered in her music deeply rooted in blues and soul with a splash of funk. Real R&B well supported by a very tight band.
She is a product of the Mississippi Delta, though she was born in Doddsville, she grew up in the mix of the thriving Chicago Blues scene and was raised on gospel, blues and soul. Her stepfather was a disc jockey for several of Chicago’s swank Westside clubs and her mother was member of a social club that through parties where all the well known blues musicians hung out.
This petite dynamo started her musical career unexpectedly while working in a blues bar as a waitress: “I was working part-time as a waitress at Rosa’s in Chicago and a girl, who has since become a friend, asked me; Do you ever sing? I said; Yeah in the shower! She said; No really, it seems like you have a good voice! We kept talking and we had a few shots of tequila and suddenly I found myself up on stage”
A natural born showgirl with a fatback soul grit voice that makes you want more and more every time you listen to her. She’s a little bit of Tina, Etta and Koko all in one. Her gutsy, growling and energetic show has made her one of the foremost headliners on the highly competitive Chicago blues scene.
Peaches Staten has shared the stage and recorded with some of the best in the business such as Katie Webster, C.J. Chernier, Johnny B. Moore, the late Buddy Scott, Billy Branch, Carl Weathersby and lots of others. Early in her career she was featured on many all Ladies Blues Revues with Chicago veterans Bonnie Lee and Karen Carroll.
Now she regularly lights up the Chicago blues stages with her versatile singing style and her powerful wash board technique.
Influences: Bessie Smith, Lavern Baker, Cassandra Wilson, Turner Vat, Billie Holiday, Howling Wolf, KoKo Taylor, Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, etc.
While only in her early 30s, two-time GRAMMY® nominee Shemekia Copeland is already a force to be reckoned with in the blues. She’s opened for the Rolling Stones, headlined at the Chicago Blues Festival and numerous festivals around the world, scored critics choice awards on both sides of the Atlantic (The New York Times and The Times of London), shared the stage with such luminaries as Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Mick Jagger, and Eric Clapton, and has even performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama. Heir to the rich tradition of soul-drenched divas like Ruth Brown, Etta James and Koko Taylor, the singer was presented with Taylor’s crown by her daughter, Cookie, on June 12, 2011 at the Chicago Blues Festival and given the honor of the new “Queen of the Blues” by official proclamation of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.
Copeland’s passion for singing, matched with her huge, blast-furnace voice, gives her music a timeless power and a heart-pounding urgency. Her music comes from deep within her soul and from the streets where she grew up, surrounded by the everyday sounds of the city – street performers, gospel singers, blasting radios, bands in local parks and so much more.
Born in Harlem, New York, in 1979, Copeland actually came to her singing career slowly. Her father, the late Texas blues guitar legend Johnny Clyde Copeland, recognized his daughter’s talent early on. He always encouraged her to sing at home, and even brought her on stage to sing at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club when she was just eight. At the time, Shemekia’s embarrassment outweighed her desire to sing. But when she was fifteen and her father’s health began to fail, her outlook changed. “It was like a switch went off in my head, and I wanted to sing,” she says. “It became a want and a need. I had to do it.”
Theo Huff, born in Chicago, Illinois and raised by a Mississippi mother and grandmother, who were both ready and able to give him all the principles, values, and down home loving he would ever need. They instilled in him a tremendous love and respect for “Soul Masters,” like Same Cooke, Johnny Taylor, Otis Redding and the great Tyrone Davis. Theo has framed his musical journey around paying tribute to these great artists.
Theo began his career in musical theater productions, working with Ms. Jackie Taylor at the Black Ensemble Theatre, he received nominations for most promising actor and best featured actor in a play or musical for his role in “That Sensuous Seductive Seventies.” He continues to work with Black Ensemble Theatre even though he has a flourishing solo career. Theo recently graced the Black Ensemble stage in a production of a musical play about the life of blues great, Howling Wolf.
Theo is a young artist with remarkable talent. His audience is always impressed with his stage presence and stellar performances. Wise beyond his years, he has learned well from the artists he admired. Receiving on-the-job training by performing on stage with many of the greats such as; KoKo Taylor, Bobby Rush, Harold Melvin and the Blue Note’s, Gene Chandler, Willie Clayton, Denise LaSalle, Albertina Walker, Garland Green, Darius Brooks and Millie Jackson.
Learning from all the musical giants in the industry and combining many of their best attributes, Theo has developed a unique style of his own. His vocal abilities are phenomenal and his performances are sure to please even the most discriminating music critics. Theo Huff has bound his place in music and now understands that his new CD “Now Is The Time” is a mirrored reflection of his life in this present time. This new CD will take him to new horizons and give his fans hours of listening pleasure. Now is definitely the time for Theo Huff.
Growing up in the shadows Chicago's blues mecca, Theresa's Lounge, had a lasting effect on Toronzo Cannon. As a kid, Toronzo would listen to the raw, soulful sounds of legends like Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. "It wasn't just the music that got me, but the effect on the people. I knew right then, that was what I was gonna do." These experiences led him to pick up his first guitar as a teenager and begin to learn to sing and play the sounds he heard. Inspired by the three Kings (Freddie, B.B. and Albert), a little Hendrix and some 70's R&B/Soul, Toronzo soon developed his own sound. "If I wasn’t gigging I was hitting every jam session I could find. I couldn’t get enough." It was during this time that he developed his own powerful, gospel-flavored vocal style and electrifying stage presence.
After playing rhythm guitar with local artists like Wayne Baker Brooks and Joanna Connor, Toronzo decided to form his own band, The Cannonball Express. He immediately was in demand, playing some of Chicago’s greatest blues venues like Buddy Guy’s Legends, House of Blues, Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S, Blue Chicago, Lee's Unleaded as well as shows from the Midwest to the West coast. He has also played with some of the GREATS in BLUES, OTIS RUSH, BUDDY GUY, LONNIE BROOKS, SHEMEKIA COPELAND, SUGAR BLUE, LURRIE BELL, MICHAEL BURKS, HONEYBOY EDWARDS just to name a few. He also became a popular festival attraction, playing The Chicago Blues Festival for 8 consecutive years and the 2008 and 2012 San Jose Jazz/Blues Festival, Garvin Gate fest in Louisville KY Pickles fest in Lima, Ohio. INTERNATIONALLY, Toronzo has played Riga,Latvia as a featured artist three times. Over the past few years he has completed successful tours in Mexico, Ottawa Canada, Durban South Africa, France, Highlands Festival in Amersfoort, in the Netherlands, 2 visits to Yeravan in Armenia.
His second and most recent cd release JOHN THE CONQUER ROOT on Delmark records has been Top 10 BLUES cd on multiple radio charts (#38 of the top 50 Blues cds for 2013- LIVING BLUES) and critically acclaimed in ALL of the Blues magazines nationally and internationally. He has been nominated for a BLUES MUSIC AWARD in Memphis for "BEST ROCK/BLUES CD", and inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 2013.