Blues Blast Magazine 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award
Harvey Charles Goering – better known in the blues world as Barrelhouse Chuck – is being honored for his lifetime service to all things blues related for the past four decades.
There are others that currently play – and have played – Chicago piano blues, but few have lived it, breathed it, tasted it, experienced it and just flat-out loved it like Chuck has. He rubbed elbows with Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Lafayette Leake, Willie Dixon, Big Walter Horton and Jay McShann, to name just a few. He’s shared the stage with luminaries and Rock-N-Roll Hall of Famers like Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Billy Gibbons, to name just a few. He calls James Cotton, Kim Wilson, Little Joe Berson, Billy Flynn and Erwin Helfer friends, to name just a few. He regularly finds his name on the roll call of nominees for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year Award at the annual Blues Music Awards.
Chuck learned his craft first-hand by spending countless nights hanging out in the smallest of clubs in Chicago to watch and learn from his heroes up close and personal. Many of his contemporaries may have remained locked up in their basements or bedrooms in an attempt to play the blues on the 88s, but Chuck’s integration came from watching the hands and the fingers of the masters – cats like Pinetop, Detroit Junior, Sunnyland Slim and Little Brother Montgomery – up on the bandstand, stealing every little lick that he possibly could.
But one of the things that set Chuck apart from many of his peers – his incredibly-active left hand aside – was the way that he treated and interacted with the legends that he learned from. Big Moose, Blind John Davis, Detroit Junior and Little Brother were more than just mentors to Chuck; they became his close friends. So in close, in fact, that they morphed into devoted members of Chuck’s extended family. Neither age nor race mattered to Chuck. These men were important to him and he demonstrated just how much they meant to him by sharing bottles, food, clothing and even shelter with many of them.
They talked, laughed, swapped stories and reminisced, sometimes all night long, purely because they enjoyed each other’s company so much. His abilities to tickle the ivories with the best of them is just one small part of the reason that Chuck has been a vital and integral part of the Chicago blues scene since the 1970s. Almost as important to him as playing the blues is making sure that the forefathers of the genre are never forgotten. He brings this up at every opportunity that he’s afforded and as he told Blues Blast back in 2014:
“I’ve been a musician for about 50 years and have been playing blues piano for 40 and right from the get-go I’ve been trying to carry on the rich legacy of all these wonderful guys that I was fortunate enough to play with and to know . Every night on the bandstand I do “Call my Job” and say this is a Detroit Junior song and I talk about Leroy Carr and Sunnyland Slim and about all these people that were huge icons in my life. And my mission in my life has been to play the music of the people that I used to play with. So a lot of the songs that I play now, I used to play with the guys that wrote the songs and recorded them back in the day.”
In addition to being something akin to a walking Encyclopedia Britannica, with an amazing recall of dates, people and events all floating around his brain in a very impressive fashion, Chuck also has quite a physical collection of the history of the blues – a veritable blues museum full of exquisite memorabilia. He’s got the electric Wurlitzer that Sunnyland Slim played on Maxwell Street; he’s got the microphone that Big Walter Horton blew through on Maxwell Street; he’s got Little Brother Montgomery’s PA, along with autographs, pictures, posters, articles of clothing, 78s, 45s … well, you get the picture.
For his tireless work at helping to promote the Chicago blues and his lifetime of music, Blues Blast Magazine is honored to present its Lifetime Achievement Award to one of the Windy City’s preeminent piano players, Barrelhouse Chuck.