Blues Blast Magazine – 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award
In a city that with a Blues music tradition unlike any other, it has been tough for any musician to stand out if unless you play guitar or harmonica. When it comes to saxophone players, one name has been at the top of the list for decades. Eddie Shaw’s brawny tone and hard-blowing style have epitomized the raw blues sounds of the clubs on the west side of Chicago since he first arrived in in 1957.
Born in Benoit, Mississippi in 1936, Eddie learned to play several other instruments before settling on the saxophone. He and his close friend Oliver Sain were soon playing in clubs, sitting in with the likes of Ike Turner or Guitar Slim’s bands. Those experiences prepared Eddie for one fateful evening in 1957 when the Muddy Waters Band was passing through on a southern tour. Eddie was invited to join the band on stage and his efforts so impressed Muddy that he immediately asked the horn player to join his band. Shortly after that, Eddie made the move to Chicago and set his career in motion.
Being a member of Muddy’s band would be the highlight of most careers. For Eddie, it was only the start. When he grew disenchanted with the personal dynamics of that group, he made the decision one night to quit. Leaving the club the band was scheduled to play, he drove around the city, ending up at a club where Howlin’ Wolf was holding court. Once again Shaw was invited to sit in, leading to an offer to join Wolf’s band, undoubtedly making him the only musician who was an official member of the band for both legendary figures on the same day!
Eventually Eddie became the bandleader and when Wolf passed away, Shaw kept the Wolf Gang together, with his name featured. Eddie also did stints with Elmore James, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Ike Turner, Houndog Taylor, Little Milton and Freddie King as well as a host of other notable Chicago blues stalwarts. He cut his first record in 1966, an instrumental called “Blues for the West Side” featuring Magic Sam on guitar. He returned the favor when he appeared on Sam’s classic Black Magic album on Delmark Records.
Shaw’s many contributions to the blues encompassed him putting on his arranging hat for The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions (which featured Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, Ringo Starr and others) in 1971, writing songs on Wolf’s 1973 album The Back Door Wolf and for the Grammy nominated album Unk & Funk by Muddy Waters in 1974. His discography includes albums on the Simmons, Isabel, Blue Rooster, Wolf and Delmark labels in addition to tracks that appear on compilations by Alligator Records and other labels.
Eddie has also written an impressive catalog of songs that have been featured on his own projects as well as recordings by Wolf, Willie Dixon and Magic Sam. He also ran Eddie’s Place – the 1815 Club on W. Roosevelt – for a number of years during the 70’s decade, providing a spot where Chicago’s blues community could gather and let their hair down. It became Howlin’ Wolf’s local hang-out during the last years of his life.
And Eddie continues to make music that speaks to our souls, as witnessed by his 2013 Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist – Horn and his nomination for the 2013 Blues Blast Music Award in the Best Traditional Blues Album category for his Still Ridin’ High album on Stringtown Records with the 757 Allstars.
In honor of all of his contributions to the Blues tradition over a career that spans six decades, publisher Bob Kieser is proud to present Mr. Eddie Shaw with Blues Blast Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award!
Written by Mark Thompson