List of Chicago blues musicians
Chicago blues is a form of blues music that developed in Chicago, Illinois in the 1950s by taking the basic acoustic guitar and harmonica-based Delta blues and adding electrically amplified guitar, amplified bass guitar, drums, piano, and sometimes saxophone, and making the harmonica louder with a microphone and an instrument amplifier. The best-known Chicago blues musicians include singer/songwriters and bandleaders such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Willie Dixon; guitar players such as Freddie King, Luther Allison, and Buddy Guy; and "harp" (blues slang for harmonica) players such as Paul Butterfield, Little Walter and Charlie Musselwhite. In the 1960s and subsequent decades, the Chicago blues style and sound spread around the US and the UK (e.g. the Climax Blues Band) and beyond.
Notable Chicago blues musicians include:
- Alberta Adams
- Luther Allison - (August 17, 1939 – August 12, 1997) Born in Widener, Arkansas and then moving to Chicago as a teen, Allison was a major force on the Chicago blues scene. Predominantly an electric guitarist and also a singer, Allison released many albums for the Alligator Records label based in Chicago.
- Linsey Alexander - born July 23, 1942 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Alexander went to Chicago in 1959 where he was pulled into Chicago South Side music scene. He is one of the hardest-working bluesmen in Chicago. He is known for his strong voice and guitar with his own style of electric blues. His album, "Been There, Done That", recorded by Delmark Records in 2012, is critically acclaimed as pure blues of the finest quality.
- Kokomo Arnold - (February 15, 1901 – November 8, 1968) Slide guitarist and vocalist Arnold was born in Lovejoy's Station, Georgia and began his career performing in New York. During the latter half of the 1920s he moved to Chicago and began performing Chicago blues, though he stopped recording for good in 1938 because he was not making a livable wage performing. His first recording was for Decca Records. Many compilation albums have been released in the years since, such as those from Document Records.
- Bonny B. – (July 20, 1974 Cambodia) Born in Posat, Bonny B.'s blues harmonica player and singer hes also a world guinness record of the marathon of harmonica in 2009.
- Chico Banks – (March 7, 1962 – December 4, 2008) Born in Chicago, Banks released one album in 1997 on Evidence Records, and played with plenty of other blues musicians, before his death at the age of 46.
- L.V. Banks – (October 28, 1932 – May 2, 2011) Born in Stringtown, Mississippi, Banks relocated to Chicago in 1965, and released two albums on Wolf Records before his death aged 78.
- George Barnes (musician) - (July 17, 1921 - September 5, 1977). Born in South Chicago Heights, Illinois, Barnes was an electric guitar pioneer who recorded at the age of 16 with Big Bill Broonzy, Blind John Davis, Jazz Gillum and other notable Chicago blues artists.
- Barrelhouse Chuck - (born July 10, 1958, Columbus, Ohio)
- Lefty Bates – (March 9, 1920 – April 7, 2007) Born in Leighton, Alabama, Bates played guitar on countless recordings in the fields of Chicago blues, jazz and R&B.
- Carey Bell - (November 14, 1936 – May 6, 2007) Born in Macon, Mississippi as Carey Bell Harrington, Carey is an acoustic and electric harmonica blues and Chicago blues multi-instrumentalist, performing on bass guitar, guitar, drums and harmonica and vocals. He has released several albums for labels like Alligator Records and Delmark Records.
- Joe Becker - (born June 23, 1976, Chicago, Illinois)
- Lurrie Bell - Born December 13, 1958 in Chicago, Illinois, guitarist and vocalist Bell is the son of blues harp player Carey Bell. Like his father, he is a Chicago blues musician who performs on electric guitar. He has recorded numerous albums, most of which have been for Delmark Records.
- Buster Benton - (July 19, 1932 – January 20, 1996) Born in Texarkana, Arkansas, Benton played guitar in Willie Dixon's Blues All-Stars, and is best known for his solo rendition of the Dixon penned song, "Spider in my Stew."
- Scrapper Blackwell - (February 21, 1903 – October 27, 1962) Born in Syracuse, North Carolina as Francis Hillman Blackwell, Scrapper Blackwell performed acoustic Piedmont blues and was an early exponent of Chicago blues who worked closely with pianist Leroy Carr. He also backed singer Black Bottom McPhail. Document Records has issued most of his work in three volumes.
- Blind Blake - (c. 1895–1937) Born in Jacksonville, Florida, guitarist and singer Blind Blake played almost every form of music imaginable. He performed early ragtime on guitar, Piedmont blues, country blues, Delta blues and Chicago blues. A musician of great importance, he recorded frequently for Paramount Records.
- Mike Bloomfield
- Eddie Boyd - (November 25, 1914 – July 13, 1994) Born in Stovall, Mississippi, Boyd was a piano blues pianist, singer/songwriter and a fixture of the Chicago blues scene, touring Europe with Buddy Guy in 1965. Though he performed electric and acoustic Chicago blues, Boyd left the United States and lived abroad due to racial discrimination. He recorded for labels like Love Records and Decca Records.
- Billy Branch - Born October 3, 1951, Great Lakes, Illinois, blues harp player and vocalist Branch is a harmonica blues performer who plays electric Chicago blues. He leads his own band, "The Sons of Blues" and has released several albums for labels such as Evidence Records and Alligator Records.
- John Brim - (April 10, 1922 – October 1, 2003) Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Brim was an acoustic and electric Chicago blues guitarist, harmonica player and singer who performed regularly with his wife Grace on drums. He recorded for Fortune Records and Chess Records among others.
- Lonnie Brooks
- Ronnie Baker Brooks – Born Rodney Dion Baker in Chicago, Illinois on January 23, 1967, is a blues singer and guitarist. His father, blues guitarist Lonnie Brooks, was a strong musical influence on Ronnie, as were Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and other Chicago blues luminaries who jammed at the Brookses' home while Ronnie was growing up. Wayne Baker Brooks is Ronnie's brother; the three Brookses often appear as guests in each other's shows.
- Big Bill Broonzy - Born in Altheimer, Arkansas on June 26, 1893 or 1898 (the exact year is unclear). Broonzy was an acoustic country blues musician who performed Chicago blues, playing guitar and mandolin accompanied by his own singing. Broonzy recorded over 350 compositions over his career.
- J. T. Brown - (April 2, 1918 – November 24, 1969) Born in Mississippi, Brown was an electric and acoustic Chicago blues tenor saxophonist and singer. He performed with musicians like Washboard Sam and Eddie Boyd, and backed other artists like Elmore James.
- George "Mojo" Buford - (born November 10, 1929, Hernando, Mississippi). Played periodically in Muddy Waters' band
- Aron Burton - Born June 15, 1938 in Senatobia, Mississippi, Burton has played with Albert Collins, Freddie King and Champion Jack Dupree, and has released a number of solo albums, including Good Blues to You (1999, Delmark).
- George "Wild Child" Butler - Born October 1, 1936, Hernando, Mississippi, he is an electric guitarist, blues harp player and vocalist performing Chicago blues. He recorded in the 60s and 70s for Mercury Records. In the 1980s he moved to Canada and continued recording and performing, his last album being for APO Records in 2001.
- Paul Butterfield - (December 17, 1942 – May 4, 1987) Born in Chicago, Illinois, Butterfield was an amplified harmonica blues blues harp player, guitarist, vocalist and flautist who performed blues-rock and Chicago blues. He recorded for a variety of labels during his career, including Bearsville Records and Elektra Records.
- Eddie C. Campbell - Born May 6, 1939 in Duncan, Mississippi and moving to Chicago at age ten, electric blues guitarist and singer Campbell plays Chicago blues. The lists of blues musicians he has performed with includes Howlin' Wolf and Luther Allison. His debut album was for the old Mr. Blues Records label, and in years since he has recorded for others such as Blind Pig Records and JSP Records.
- Karen Carroll - Born January 30, 1958 on the south side of Chicago. She is a blues vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. Her parents are Mack Carroll and Alberta Simmons (stage name Jeanne Carroll). Karen Carroll first recorded with Blues Masters, Carey Bell and son Lurrie Bell on the album Son of a Gun, released in 1984 on Rooster. She recorded two albums with Delmark Records, and appears on at least eight pieces of work with the label. During her career she wrote and recorded many singles and holds copyrights to them. Her latest release was in 2011.
- Leonard Caston - Born in Sumrall, Mississippi, Caston was a rhythm and blues pianist and a member of the Chicago blues band Big Three Trio, along with Willie Dixon and Ollie Crawford. He recorded for labels like Okeh Records and Columbia Records with the group. After the Big Three Trio broke up, he began to perform soul music and urban contemporary gospel as an organist.
- Good Rockin' Charles - (March 4, 1933 – May 17, 1989) Born Henry Lee Bester in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Charles released one album in his lifetime, and is best known for his work with Johnny "Man" Young, Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers, Arthur "Big Boy" Spires and Jimmy Rogers.
- William Clarke - (March 29, 1951 – November 2, 1996) Born in Inglewood, California, harmonica blues player and singer William Clarke was an electric Chicago blues musician. He performed for a variety of labels, such as Alligator Records, Watch Dog Records and Rivera Records
- Willie Clayton - Born March 29, 1955 in Indianola, Mississippi, Clayton started performing in the late 1960s. He has had 10 albums in the Billboard Top Blues Albums Chart.
- Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater - Born January 10, 1935 in Macon, Mississippi, Clearwater moved to Chicago at the age of fifteen. He is a modern electric rhythm and blues and Chicago blues guitarist and singer, and has recorded numerous solo albums for Rounder Records, Delmark Records, and many other labels.
- Climax Blues Band - Formed in 1968 and based in Stafford, England, this band performs blues-rock in the Chicago blues vein. In their later years, they have also ventured into the arena of soft rock, roots rock and pop rock. The band has released numerous albums for labels like Sire Records and Warner Bros. Records, among others.
- Michael Coleman - (June 24, 1956 – November 2, 2014) Coleman played with James Cotton, Eddy Clearwater, Syl Johnson, and John Primer. Since 1995, he released five albums, including on Delmark Records.
- Albert Collins
- James Cotton - Born July 1, 1935 in Tunica, Mississippi, James Cotton is a harmonica blues player and singer who got his start performing the Delta blues, later moving to Chicago and performing Chicago blues. Performing both in acoustic and electric settings, Cotton has recorded dozens of albums for labels like Alligator Records and Verve. He also leads his own James Cotton Blues Band.
- Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup - (August 24, 1905 – March 28, 1974) Born in Forest, Mississippi, Crudup was a guitarist and singer that began his career performing Delta blues. He later moved to Chicago, where he continued performing Delta blues and also Chicago blues, both in acoustic and electric environments. It was not until the blues revival of the 1960s that Crudup received widespread appreciation from audiences, performing until his death.
- Lester Davenport - Born January 16, 1932 in Tchula, Mississippi and moving to Chicago, Illinois in 1945, Davenport is an electric Chicago blues harmonica player and vocalist. He is also sometimes called "Mad Dog" Davenport. He recorded his first album in 1991 for Earwig Music, and then in 2002 released "I Smell a Rat" for Delmark Records.
- Blind John Davis - (December 7, 1913 – October 12, 1985) Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Davis was an accomplished blues, jazz, and boogie-woogie pianist, who recorded with Sonny Boy Williamson, Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy and Merline Johnson amongst others.
- Jimmy Dawkins - Born October 24, 1936 in Tchula, Mississippi and moving to Chicago, Illinois in 1955, Dawkins is a guitarist and vocalist and a fixture of the modern electric Chicago blues scene. His first album was "Fast Fingers" recorded in 1969 for Delmark Records, for whom he recorded several others. He has also worked for the Earwig Music label, among others.
- Bo Diddley - (December 30, 1928 – June 2, 2008) Born in McComb, Mississippi, Bo Diddley was a guitarist and vocalist who performed electric Chicago blues, rock and roll and rhythm and blues. He had a very long career that began in the 1950s. He recorded well over twenty albums for labels like Checker Records, Chess Records and Atlantic Records, among others.
- Willie Dixon - (July 1, 1915 – January 29, 1992) Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, double-bassist, singer/songwriter, record producer and guitarist Dixon was a key figure on the acoutsic and electric Chicago blues scene. He was heavily involved in helping start the careers of artists like Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters, to name only a few. He recorded for numerous labels. He also performed jump blues and would sometimes sing jive.
- Lefty Dizz (aka Walter Williams) Born April 29, 1937 in Osceola, Arkansas. Before his four-year tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force ended in 1956, Lefty began to play the guitar. When he returned to Chicago later that year, he came under the tutelage of Lacey Gibson and Earl Hooker. In 1958, Lefty joined Sonny Thompson's road band, playing rhythm 'n' blues throughout the country. During a gig in Seattle, a teenage guitarist named Jimi Hendrix, hung out with, and was influenced by, Lefty Dizz. In 1960, Lefty moved to Detroit, where he remained for four years, working with Junior Cannady and John Lee Hooker. From 1964 to 1971, Lefty worked with Junior Wells, during which time they toured the U.S., Canada, Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia, the Fiji Islands and Indonesia. Lefty then joined Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers, performing extensively until Hound Dog's passing in late 1975. He then formed his own band, Lefty Dizz and Shock Treatment, which became the vehicle for his unique brand of flamboyant and humorous showmanship featuring raucous performances of "low-down and dirty" Chicago Blues throughout Chicago and on numerous international tours. Lefty performed regularly at the Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S on Chicago's North Side, and at the Checkerboard Lounge on the City's South Side, where he hosted the legendary Blue Monday Blues Jam for a decade, beginning in the late 1970s. International rock stars, including members of the Rolling Stones, Foghat and many others would come to sit in on Lefty's gigs, and the City's best blues musicians also were regulars at the Blue Monday Blues Jam. His most well-known compositions include "Bad Avenue", "I Found Out", If I Could Just Get My Hands on What I Got My Eyes On", Funny Acting Woman", "Somebody Stole My Christmas" and "Ain't It Nice to be Loved". Lefty Dizz succumbed to esophageal cancer on September 7, 1993 at age 56.
- Johnny Drummer
- Little Arthur Duncan – (1934 – 2008) Born in Indianola, Mississippi, Duncan relocated to Chicago and accompanied Earl Hooker in the 1950s, before releasing three solo albums before his death.
- Champion Jack Dupree
- Lacy Gibson – (May 1, 1936 – April 11, 2011)
- Jazz Gillum
- Nick Gravenites
- Buddy Guy - Born July 30, 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana, Buddy Guy is one of the most recognizable artists from the Chicago blues scene. Both an acoustic and electric guitarist, Guy is also an accomplished singer. He has recorded countless albums for labels like Chess Records, Vanguard Records and Silvertone Records.
- Phil Guy
- The Harlem Hamfats - Formed in 1936 by musicians that were not even from Harlem, New York led by trumpeter Herb Morand, the group performed mostly Chicago blues and East Coast blues while backing jazz musicians. The members were Kansas Joe McCoy, Charlie McCoy, Odell Rand, John Lindsay, Horace Malcolm, Pearlis Williams and Freddie Flynn. The group's inclusion in the dirty blues genre is due to such songs as Gimme Some of that Yum Yum and Lets Get Drunk and Truck.
- Harmonica Hinds - Born in Trinidad in 1945, Hinds has played with many blues artists for more than five decades. He is considered one of the most talented Chicago blues musicians and he remains active on the Chicago blues scene.
- Shakey Jake Harris (April 12, 1921 – March 2, 1990) Born in Earle, Arkansas, Harris was long associated with his nephew, Magic Sam.
- Homesick James
- Earl Hooker (January 15, 1930 - April 21, 1970) Born in Clarksdale MS, Earl moved to Chicago with his family in the early 1940s. A cousin of John Lee Hooker, Earl was a slide guitarist who left an indelible mark on the Chicago blues scene. After learning the rudiments of slide guitar from elder blues statesman Robert Nighthawk, Earl joined Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm band in 1949 and toured the south. After returning to Chicago in the mid-1950s, Earl was a much in-demand slide session player, recording with artists like Pinetop Perkins, Muddy Waters and his cousin, John Lee. He died of TB in 1970.
- Big Walter Horton - (April 6, 1917 – December 8, 1981) Born in Horn Lake, Mississippi and also known as Shakey Walter Horton, Horton was one of the better-known harmonica players of his day. He played the gamut, including Memphis blues, Chicago blues, juke joint blues and harmonica blues. He performed both acoustic as well as amplified harmonica, and was also a singer.
- Howlin' Wolf
- J. B. Hutto
- Daniel Ivankovich aka "Chicago Slim" - Born November 23, 1963. Ivankovich is a founding member of the Chicago Blues All-Stars. He has played and recorded alongside myriad Chicago blues legends, including Otis Rush, Magic Slim and Junior Wells. Ivankovich is also an orthopedic surgeon, who is co-founder and medical director of OnePatient-Global Health Initiative, an organization that provides medical care to the poor in Chicago and abroad.
- James Cotton
- Elmore James - (January 27, 1918 – May 24, 1963) Born in Richland, Mississippi, James was a slide guitarist on acoustic and electric guitars and also a singer. He performed both Delta blues and Chicago blues, though he is most well known for the latter. His technique influenced a generation of guitarists that followed.
- Jimmy Johnson (born 1928)
- Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson - Born April 11, 1939 is a Chicago blues electric guitarist who is better known for his long stints working with Muddy Waters in the 1970s. In 1980 he began doing solo work, though his debut album was released in 1976 for Evidence Records. He has also recorded for Telarc and Bullseye Blues.
- Luther "Snake Boy" Johnson - (August 30, 1934 – March 18, 1976) Born in Davisboro, Georgia, he was also known as "Snake" or "Georgia Boy", and was otherwise billed as both Luther King and Little Luther (under the latter he recorded for Chess Records in the 1960s). His birth name was Lucius Brinson Johnson.
- L.V. Johnson
- Syl Johnson
- Floyd Jones
- Johnny "Yard Dog" Jones
- Little Johnny Jones
- Moody Jones - (April 8, 1908 – March 23, 1988) Born in Earle, Arkansas, he played on Maxwell Street in the 1940s. Jones was a significant figure in the development of the post-war Chicago blues sound, backing his cousin Floyd Jones, Snooky Pryor and others on singles released in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
- Sam Lay
- Sammy Lawhorn
- Bonnie Lee
- J. B. Lenoir
- Hip Linkchain
- Little Charlie & the Nightcats
- John Littlejohn
- Tony Llorens, born August 2, 1952 in Cane River Louisiana, is a producer, pianist, songwriter and former bandleader, producer for Albert King. Llorens has also played with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, and many other west side blues musicians.
- Robert Lockwood, Jr.
- Willie Mabon
- Magic Sam
- Holle Thee Maxwell, born October 17, 1945 in Chicago, is a singer and songwriter with a six decade career. She is known for her command of a wide range of genres. She replaced Tina Turner as vocalist with Ike Turner's band. Bobby Bland used one of the songs she wrote in his critically acclaimed album, "Come Fly with Me".
- L. C. McKinley
- Liz Mandeville, singer, songwriter, guitarist, rubboard player, music producer, owner of the record label, "Blue Kitty Music".
- Big Maceo Merriweather
- Mississippi Heat
- Little Brother Montgomery
- Johnny B. Moore
- Nick Moss
- Matt "Guitar" Murphy
- Charlie Musselwhite
- Odie Payne
- Dion Payton
- Pinetop Perkins
- Brewer Phillips - Born November 16, 1924 in Coila, Mississippi, Phillips was a Chicago blues and juke joint blues guitarist and singer active from the 1970s to the 1990s. He performed on both acoustic and electric guitar, and recorded for Delmark Records and JSP Records.
- Snooky Pryor
- A.C. Reed
- Jimmy Reed
- Tampa Red
- Louisiana Red
- Fenton Robinson - (September 23, 1935 – November 25, 1997) Born in Minter City, Mississippi, Robinson performed everything from soul blues and Texas blues to what he is most remembered for, the Chicago blues. He was discovered by Bobby Bland, who soon got him recording for Duke Records. A guitarist and singer, Robinson played both acoustic and electric guitar. He appeared on "Texas Flood" by Larry Davis in 1958. In the 1960s he moved to Chicago, where he later recorded extensively for Alligator Records.
- Jimmy Rogers
- Freddie Roulette
- Otis Rush
- Marty Sammon
- Ken Saydak
- Son Seals
- Eddie Shaw
- Johnny Shines
- Little Mack Simmons
- Sunnyland Slim
- Barkin' Bill Smith - Born in Mississippi, Smith has lived in Detroit and St. Louis before he moved to his current home in Chicago. Smith is a Chicago blues singer who does solo work and has also sung for electric blues bands such as Dave Specter & the Bluebirds. He received his name from Homesick James in the 1950s, but did not record his own album until 1991 for Delmark Records with Dave Specter, and then a follow-up release in 1994 titled Gotcha!.
- Byther Smith
- Little Smokey Smothers
- Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers
- Otis Spann
- Dave Specter
- Arthur "Big Boy" Spires
- Arbee Stidham
- Bob Stroger - born in 1939, Stroger has worked since the 1960s. He has backed Eddie King, Otis Rush and Sunnyland Slim and released two solo albums. In 2011, he was granted a Blues Music Award.
- Studebaker John
- Sugar Blue
- Hubert Sumlin
- Johnny "Big Moose" Walker
- Little Walter
- Washboard Sam
- Muddy Waters (April 4, 1913 – April 30, 1983). Born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi as McKinley Morganfield, slide guitarist Waters began his career playing the Delta blues. However, he is most known as a Chicago blues musician.
- Valerie Wellington (November 14, 1959 – January 2, 1993). Born in Chicago, Wellington was a trained classical opera singer, who successfully turned to recording Chicago blues material.
- Junior Wells
- Golden "Big" Wheeler
- Big Joe Williams - Although best known as a Delta blues player and itinerant musician, Williams is an important figure in the development of the Chicago blues sound by virtue of his recordings with Sonny Boy Williamson I.
- Lil' Ed Williams
- Johnny Williams
- Sonny Boy Williamson I
- Sonny Boy Williamson II
- Big John Wrencher
- Jimmy Yancey
- Johnny "Man" Young
- Mighty Joe Young
- Zora Young - Born January 21, 1948 in West Point, Mississippi, Zora Young is a forebearer of the Chicago blues scene, a soul-blues and Gospel blues singer who has toured Europe several times and has released many albums for labels like Delmark Records, Deluge Records and Black Lightning Records.
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