Issue 10-35 September 1, 2016

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2016

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Willie Buck. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including a book by Ray Richard plus new music from The Paul Nelson Band, Cara Being Blue, Urban Hill, Oslo Bluesklubb and Big Smokey Smothers with The Crowns.

Our video of the week is Willie Buck.

We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 From The Editor’s Desk 

BBMAs logo imageHey Blues Fans,

There are just 3 weeks left until the biggest music event of the 2016 season, the Blues Blast Music Awards in Champaign, IL. Tickets are available on the Blues Blast Music Award website,

It is shaping up to be an amazing show with performances by Too Slim & The Taildraggers, Peter Karp, Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames, Bob Margolin, Shaun Murphy, Fiona Boyes, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Shoji Naito, Big Harp George, Markey Blue, Dave Muskett Acoustic Blues Band, Danielle Nicole, Andy T-Nick Nixon Band, Anthony Geraci & Monster Mike Welch, Andy Poxon & Little Ronnie, Henry Gray, Bob Corritore, Guy King, Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges, Jon Spear Band and the Corey Dennison Band. This gonna be one BIG Blues party!

Get your tickets now at at!

And while you are there be sure to check out our General Admission VIP Tickets. No waiting. no line, you can use the VIP entrance and it includes an official 2016 Blues Blast Music Awards t-shirt, poster, and official 2016 Blues Blast Music Awards pin for only $50. (Every year, we run out of official t-shirts, so this is your best bet to get one!)

Our friends at the Paramount Music Festival are having a great 3 day music event for you this weekend at Coal Dock Park in Port Washington, WI! Their Friday lineup features Shonn Hinton & Shotgun The Jimmys and headliner Tommy Castro. On Saturday they feature JB Jefferson, Steve Cohen, Lil Davy Max, The Blues Disciples, Davina & The Vagabonds, Reverend Raven & the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys featuring Westside Andy and headliner Mud Morganfield. Their FREE Sunday lineup features Glenn Kaiser & Joe Filisko, Studebaker John & the Hawks, Tim Castles Legends of Country, Billy Bon Scott and Whiskey of the Damned.

Information and tickets are available at

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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 Blues Wanderings 

Blues Blast had a good Blues weekend last week. We made it to the Old Capitol Blues and BBQ cook-off and music festival in Springfield, IL on Friday to hear Mary Jo Curry, Marquise Knox and Ronnie Baker Brooks. What a great show!

Then on Saturday we made went to the Crossroads Blue Festival in Rockford, IL to hear performances by The Flaming Mudcats, Joanna Conner Band, Ghost Town Blues Band, Tad Robinson and Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.

Now that is what I call a GREAT blues weekend! We will have a complete set of photos from both of these show in an upcoming issue.

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

paul nelson cd imageThe Paul Nelson Band – Badass Generation

Friday Music

CD: 12 songs, 48:50 minutes

This album rocks. Both literally and figuratively. Some might assert that The Paul Nelson Band’s music is rock and roll, but this album proves again that blues is rock and roll’s mama.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell for you, the guitar playing will. Paul Nelson’s list of credits is too extensive for this review, but includes touring, performing or recording with a loooong list of top artists from every corner of the blues world, such as Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Joe Perry, Dr. John, Susan Tedeschi, Hubert Sumlin and James Cotton (just to name a few!). You certainly hear the influences of these masters in the songs.

The album consists of twelve originals written by Nelson. Vocalist Morten Friedheim wrote the lyrics on two of the songs. The lyrics don’t break new ground, but then we are not listening to this album to learn that “she’s the root of all evil”, ”a cold hearted mama”, or “she’s trouble”. We’re listening to this album because it makes you want to get up out of your chair and shake it.

Rarely slowing down, the music is power packed. Friedheim’s vocals are a great match for the gritty guitar work from Nelson. Although this is Nelson’s band, and he wrote the songs, he doesn’t overwhelm the songs with his guitar playing. Don’t misunderstand, these are guitar driven songs. But when the guitar comes in for its solo, it’s the right time and place.

Nelson’s playing is superb and muscular. Guitar fans will get plenty to enjoy. No surprise given his pedigree. Nelson even adds some nice slide work on “Please Come Home”. And who can resist a happy break up song (“Goodbye Forever”).

The rhythm section of Chris Reddan on drums and Christopher Alexander on bass provide a solid foundation for Nelson to do his thing.

This record may not be breaking new ground musically, but it executes these blues rockers very well.

Reviewer Pork Chop Willie is a founder of the band by the same name. They play primarily in New York City and Mississippi. Their music has been described as, “the sounds of the North Mississippi hill country from the streets of Manhattan.”

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

cara being blue cd imageCara Being Blue – Full Throttle

Self-Release – 2015

5 tracks; 19 minutes

Cara Lippman is based in Nashville and this all-original EP is her first release. Cara takes lead vocals with support from Val Lupescu on guitar, Kenny Zander on keys, Tim Gonzalez on harp on three tracks, Patrick Mosser on sax on two, Jodi Anna or Brian Allen on bass and Matt Doctor on drums. Fellow Nashville area musicians the Allen-Lamun Band (recently reviewed in this magazine) gets a special mention for their support.

“Full Throttle” makes a great opener with Patrick’s honking sax and Val’s rock and roll guitar to the fore, a classic ‘road song’ in which Cara is eating up the miles in her new ride. Tim’s harp accents add considerably to the shuffle “The One Who Can”, Val peeling off a fine solo over warm organ.

“I’ll Be Your Bonnie” (the only song here with a co-writer – Rachel Caldwell) opens with some eerie organ work behind Tim’s harp, the rhythm section setting a good pace with the bass thumping along high in the mix. Cara drops the pace for the next tune, the lyrics clearly showing that the “Dangerous Boy” has had quite an effect on her: “I’m under water, I’m in the drink; nothing gonna pull me back from this brink. I’m drowning when you’re near and I’m gonna sink”, Val’s solo clearly inspired by the dramatic lyrics. The EP closes with another tune featuring Patrick’s sax, this time a funky number called “Can’t Catch You”.

Cara has a good, clear voice that adapts well to each of these songs in different styles, all of which work fine for Cara. It will be interesting to see what her first full album produces but meanwhile this EP shows considerable promise and is worth checking out.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

urban hill cd imageUrban Hill – The Real Deal


12 Tracks/65:02

Based in southeastern Virginia, Urban Hill is a quartet of veteran performers with a guitar-centric sound that is readily apparent on the lead-off track, “Sandbridge Sunny Day,” an instrumental featuring a southern rock-style, twin guitar attack. The proceedings settle into a more laid back approach on “Goin’ Home” as lead singer Lathan Hill’s gritty tone is backed by a scorching guitar solo. Hill and Paul Urban trade guitar licks on “Something Rare” while the rhythm section of Kevin Yoder on bass and Dennis Livreri on drums kick up some dust on “Saturday Night”. On “12th And Vine,” Hill uses his thick-toned voice in hypnotic fashion, singing about being self-medicated, the spell broken by several soaring six-string interludes.

“Fishnet Stockings” is a fierce rocker with Urban adding backing vocals. But the band prefers to take its time, to stretch things out, which is exactly what they do on “It Ain’t Easy Being Me”. With too many women to contend with, Hill lays out his troubles with Bobby Walters using his harp to answer the singer. Then Tyler Bevington has his say on the electric piano. Urban’s lead vocal on “This World” gets buried in the mix but his guitar is front and center with furry of effects-laden notes.

Hill expounds on making it big as he contemplates “Goin’ To Chicago,” where he plans to play in Muddy Waters band and hang out with his good friend Howlin’ Wolf drinking liquor from an old fruit jar. “Recession Blues” is a slower number driven by an insistent guitar riff. Once again the vocals exist far back in the mix. The band breaks out a catchy shuffle for “She Got Me Drinkin’” and the two guitarists deliver solos with some staying power. At more than ten minutes, “Blackbird” has plenty of room for everyone. Walters unleashes some anguished cries on the harp. Hill’s feverish cries are tempered by Bevington’s more deliberate approach on the organ. The singer takes solo honors with beautifully crafted guitar interlude.

Recorded on a portable recorder live with no overdubs, this disc gives us an in-depth glimpse at yet another working band trying to grab a piece of the spotlight. The sound quality favors the instruments,with the guitars up front in the mix while the vocals are often buried. Hill & Urban work well together with the former being more blues-oriented while the latter shows an affinity for plenty of notes run through effects pedals. With over an hour of solid music, this one offers plenty of value.

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!.

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

richard ray book imageRay Richard – Fallen Fret

Dineray Press

191 pages

Legendary figures swirl throughout the plot of of this work of fiction that revolves around two sisters, each trying to make it through music. The older sibling, Sarah O’Malley, writes about music for several music publications while trying to stay ahead of housing issues and a publisher growing increasingly agitated as she waits for Sarah to finish her book on Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis.

The sticking point is the final chapter, in which Sarah wants to prove that a long-whispered-about session between the two giants actually did take place.

Her research takes her to Chaz Russell, known as the King of the String Benders, who played along side Otis Rush in the Muddy Waters Band. Long rumored to have been part of the late-night Hendrix – Davis session, Russell may hold the key to unraveling the mystery.

The writer also mentions her sister, Liz, is looking to join a band after developing guitar skills while serving prison time for being an unwitting partner in her then-boyfriend’s bank robbery. Russell heads for some gigs in New Orleans, where he suffers damage to his hand while fending off an attempt to steal his custom guitar. “Thelma” was built by the renown luthier Johnny Durrell, whose character parallels that of Wayne Henderson, a real-life master guitar builder.

Temporarily unable to play his instrument, the String Bender hires Liz to fill in until he recovers. From there the story spins several plot lines as Sarah continues to track down any lead on the Hendrix-Davis connection while Russell and Liz head to Durrell’s workshop to get Liz a new guitar. Once she has “Jasper” in her hands, the band heads to Maine for a major appearance at a festival that strongly resembles promoter Paul Benjamin’s North Atlantic Blues Festival. While Liz is unwinding after late-night revelries, her guitar is stolen, setting off a chain of events as the sisters join forces to try to track down the instrument thief and nail down hard evidence of the legendary jam.

Assistance comes from a prostitute and former thief who has seen the light, a record producer eager to make big bucks on music from the Hendrix– Davis collaboration, a stoned out hippie guitar collector and her bodyguard boyfriend. Liz also tries to form a band with a disparate trio of female players, an effort that crashes & burns in short order.

The band briefly adopts the name Strictly Blue, which suddenly changes on the following page to Simply Blue without any explanation, then back to the first name in the next paragraph.

The author certainly has enough plot elements to fashion a solid mystery. But the character development, particularly for the O’Malley sisters, fails to move them beyond some basic traits and emotions to the point where readers would become invested in their characters.

The book’s denouement over the last three pages comes across as a weak attempt to bring closure to the various plot elements. The story-line deserved a stronger finish.

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!.

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

oslo bluesklubb cd imageOslo Bluesklubb 20AR 1995-2015

Big H Records

15 songs – 58 minutes

Here’s an interesting CD for you: A collection of songs celebrating the 20th anniversary of Norway’s Oslo Bluesklubb, a non-profit organization with about 700 members that promotes the music across the city.

A nominee for a 2016 Blues Blast Award in the Historical Or Vintage Album category, it features performances by visiting American bluesmen — including Chicago piano stalwart Barrelhouse Chuck and two departed legends, Mighty Sam McClain and Rock Bottom, the hard-living Florida-based harmonica– as well as Kid Andersen and J.T. Lauritzen, Norwegians who’ve made major inroads in the U.S., as well as Vidar Busk, a Norwegian blues pioneer, and a host of local talent.

Despite the CD title, all of the material here presents the artists at their best and was recorded in studios rather than live in the venues the club supports. Despite all of the liner notes written in the musicians’ native tongue, all of them deliver their lyrics in totally unaccented English.

Singer/guitarist Knut Nordhagan was working regularly at the Windy City bar when the Oslo Bluesklubb was formed. His original, “Craving For Your Love,” kicks off the disc. It’s a loping song of desire. Erik Harstad & So What deliver the blues rocker “What Is Life To You” before McClain steps to the microphone to sing “Please Mr. Foreman,” backed by a band fronted by keyboard player Knut Reiersrud. Recorded when visiting for a festival appearance, it’s a powerful plea to slow down an assembly line while working 12-hour days seven days a week.

Reiersrud switches to guitar as Barrelhouse Chuck launches a sprightly version of the Leroy Carr classic “Barrelhouse Woman” before Joakim Tinderholt polishes off B.B. King’s “Bad Luck” on vocals as he delivers smooth guitar runs that would make the master proud. Next up, Lauritzen accompanies himself on accordion as he and his Buckshot Hunters deliver a little swamp-flavored blues in the original, “The Joker.” The Billy T Band, who are called upon regularly to back musicians from the States, are up next with “Too Good To Be True,” a funky soul blues, before Reiersrud, who’s shared the stage with Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, covers the traditional “Barrelhouse Blues” with a new arrangement atop a medium-fast shuffle.

Now a superstar both as a guitarist/multi-instrumentalist and producer in addition to his work with Rick Estrin And The Nightcats, Kid Andersen is up next with “Hands Of Time,” a funky stop-time blues, before guitarist Little Andrew provides his original “Leave Me Alone.” It’s a rocking blues with a ‘50s New Orleans feel. Rock Bottom’s talents far outstripped his name recognition in the U.S., but they’re on display her as he blows the back off it on the slow blues grinder “I Don’t Wanna Die (With My Bills Being Paid),” aided by Little Andrew and Knut Eide on guitars.

Harmonica player Sven Zetterberg covers Mojo Buford’s “Watchdog” before the Tiger City Jukes offer up the acoustic original, “Demon,” and guitarist Busk sears with “You Hurt Me” accompanied by Eirik Bergene’s powerful vocals. Kirstin Berglund’s “Another Empty Kitchen” brings the album to a close. It’s a sprightly, fingerpicked original acoustic blues.

Available through or as a Spotify download as well as through other vendors, including in Europe, Oslo Bluesklubb 20AR 1995-2015 is a highly entertaining album throughout, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the quality of blues emanating from other lands, this isn’t a bad place to start.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

smokey smothers cd imageBig Smokey Smothers with The Crowns – That’s Alright

Barry – 2016

9 Tracks; 49 minutes

It is not often you get to review a moment in time. Recently, I’ve had two opportunities. First I had the privilege of reviewing John Mayall Live in 1967 and now I am reviewing a genuine article of the golden age of electric blues, Big Smokey Smothers. The notes from The Crown’s band leader Paul Barry said that they backed Smokey on this recording in 1992. Otis “Big Smokey” Smothers died a year later from heart disease. So this CD truly has captured a snapshot of a blue great.

The fact that he was not in the best of health is reflected in his vocals on this album. His voice is still expressive, still capable of nuance and emotional connection. But it is not quite fully robust. That, however, should not diminish your enjoyment of an album done in the classic Chicago Blues style. This is proudly old school, led by a musician who knows what that means.

This CD is as much about Paul Barry and The Crowns as Big Smokey. To do this kind of blues well takes a group of musicians who have an instinctual feel for it. The Crowns are certainly up to it. They support Big Smokey without overwhelming him while still providing a full blues band sound around him.

It starts with the title track, “That’s Alright” which shuffles along just like a Chicago Blues tune should. Paul Barry’s harp darts in and out with sweet fills, nicely buoyed by special guest pianist Thomas Mahon. This tune swings along and sets up the tone for the entire album.

Track 3, “Take A Little Walk With Me” follows in the tradition of Robert Johnson and other early blues men who took verses or snippets of verses that were already in existence and crafted a new song around them. You can hear a lot of influences in this tune with a healthy dose of “Sweet Home Chicago”. And like Johnson’s version, you can hear both Chicago and the Mississippi delta – acoustic country blues licks, interpreted through an electric slide guitar.

“41st Street Boogie” closes out the six tunes on this CD with Big Smokey Smothers, and it is a nice barrel-house piano piece with The Crowns filling in where they to with harp and guitar.

The last three tracks on the album feature The Crown’s own front man, Bobby Johnson. Johnson’s voice is a little stronger than Big Smokey’s, but not quite as expressive. Still, the three tracks reveal a traditional blues band serving the songs and the genre well. This is the kind of album you put on when you have a few friends over for a mellow evening. So smooth … mm, mm, mm.

Reviewer Lex Dunn is a writer and musician living on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He has fronted blues bands in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax and looks forward to his next venture on the Island. He is passionate about music in general and the blues in particular.

 Video Of The Week – Willie Buck 

willie buck video image

Here is a video of Willie Buck with Big Jon Atkinson and Marty Dodson at Aptos St. BBQ in 2015. Click on the image above to see this video.

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 Featured Blues Interview – Willie Buck 

willie buck image 1In the mid-1970s, the vast majority of rock and roots-related artists spent a great deal of time publicly railing against the phenomenon that was taking poplar music – along with clubs all over the world – by storm.

As acts like KC & The Sunshine Band, The Hues Corporation and Van McCoy began their weekly assaults on the Billboard charts, rock and roots-related musicians – including a number of bluesmen and women – were left pondering just how to keep their songs relevant and within earshot of the music-buying public.

However, it didn’t take Chicago bluesman supreme Willie Buck very long to fashion a suitable game-plan.

He figured, if you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em.

And that’s just what Buck did, cutting the song “Disco Blues” for Chicago’s International Recording Company (IRC) in 1975. The funky and highly-danceable song (credited to P. Willie Buck) became a big hit around the Chicagoland area – and even beyond – more than validating Buck’s decision to step over to the ‘dark side.’

“Yeah, that kind of song had never been done in the blues before. That was the reason that I did that song … because there had not been anything like that done in the blues,” Buck recently said. “It was such a catchy song and for it to have the blues mixed with a little disco was really awesome. I wanted to use disco in my favor instead of run from it and that’s just what I did.”

Buck’s “Disco Blues” might have even helped to open a couple of doors and pave the way for other roots-related artists – such as Johnnie Taylor and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson – to mix in liberal doses of funk and disco-beats into their songs and albums in the latter half of the decade.

“I think it did help some of those other blues artists (in their quest to mix things up),” he said. “Yes, I really do.”

Fully-aware of all the things happening around him in the 21st century – just as he was back in the ’70s when disco was the big thing – Buck decided to craft a tune that reflected our obsession with the latest technology of today. The result was 2012’s Cell Phone Man ( Delmark Records). The cover of the album even gives a clever wink and a nod to society’s passion for taking ‘selfies,’ as Buck holds a microphone in one hand and a cell phone with a picture of himself in the other.

Brilliant and spot-on.

“That Cell Phone Man went over very well. That was a great CD and sold very well,” said Buck. “I knew that cell phones were the hot thing and that’s why I came up with that song. I just looked around and saw people talking on cell phones and taking pictures with their phones all the time and that led me to take a closer look and write that song.”

Never one to rest on recent success, Buck has been busily penning new tunes in hopes of hitting the studio in the near future to record a follow-up to Cell Phone Man.

“I’m been working on some material and already I wrote some new songs like, “I Give So Much To You and Get Nothing in Return” and “I’m Gonna’ Leave Here Walking” and “I Got You and You Got Me,”” he said. “Oh, man … I’ve got a lot of them ready to go. I’ve got so many, I can’t name all of them. I’m getting all the songs together and then we’re going to go in and do them. I’m going to try and make this a really hot CD with all new stuff that’s never been out before … really hot.”

His ability to keep up with the latest trends aside, at the heart of his music, Buck is a deep bluesman through-and-through. Of course, there are a few elements of soul and touches of gospel, but the authentic Chicago blues in Buck’s music refuses to take a backseat to anything else.

willie buck image 2“When I get on the bandstand, it’s like no other,” he chuckled.

Buck’s ‘cell phone’ has been blowing up lately with offers to lend a helping hand on other artist’s long-players. Those are offers that he readily accepted and you can find Buck singing on the latest album by Big Jon Atkinson & Bob Corritore (House Party at Big Jon’s (Delta Groove)), as well as New Cool Old School (Ogden Records) from Shoji Naito.

“I recorded with them (Atkinson and Corritore) in Arizona last year and they put it out this year. I sang “You Want Me To Trust You” and “I’m A King Bee” on that album,” Buck said. “And on Shoji’s album, I did “I Got To Go’ and “Honey Bee” and “I’m Ready.””

While his workload is still as impressive now as it was over four decades ago when he started to play the blues in earnest, no doubt the most exciting thing to recently happen to Buck will take place later this fall (Oct. 16) at Buddy Guy’s Legends club in the Windy City.

That’s when Buck will be enshrined into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame.

“It means a lot … it’s good to have. Another thing is that people all over the world will know about this and it will let them know I’m still out there doing it,” he said. “People just seem to love what I do, and no matter where I travel – and I travel all over – I always have big crowds.”

One of Buck’s regular gigs around Chicago takes place at Rosa’s Lounge on Thursday nights.

“Those people there just love it to death, what I do,” he said. “They sure do love it. And I don’t just do it in Chicago. I do it all over the world. I spent 39 days in Spain and Brazil. We played in a lot of theatres and clubs over there.”

He was born into a family with eight children in 1937 in the smallish town of Houston, Mississippi – not too far from Tupelo. But as he explains it, he was born as Willie Crawford, not Willie Buck.

The ‘Buck’ handle came later on down the road.

“Yeah, that’s (Crawford) my name and Willie Buck is my stage name. I’ve been using that name for years,” he said. “My mom and them gave me that nickname – Buck – and so I just put that in place of Crawford for my stage name. It just seemed like it rhymed pretty well, so that’s why I stuck with it for all these years; it just went over well.”

As a teenager, Buck fell head-over-heels in love with bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Rogers. But instead of trying to emulate those cats when he began to sing outside of his own bedroom, Buck used them merely for inspiration and tried to find his very own voice from the very beginning.

“Those guys were kind of my favorites, but I didn’t really try to sing like any of them. My voice was original and that’s what I wanted other people to hear,” he said. “And that’s the way that it’s always been for me. I have seen other guys out there that try to straight-up imitate other singers, but I try not to do that. I just sing with my natural voice and when I get up on the bandstand, I know I can hold my own … I don’t worry about that. I do it from the heart and that’s what it’s all about.”

willie buck image 3Like a lot of folks in Buck’s age group, when he was a young man, he seldom ever missed listening to Ernie’s Record Mart, an hour-long rhythm-and-blues radio program hosted by the legendary John R. and broadcast on Nashville’s WLAC back in the day.

“That was a very popular show when I was coming up. I listened to it and have never forgot it – ‘179 3rd Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee (the tag line to one of the spots on the program, and address of Ernie’s Record Mart)’ – I still remember all of that. It was great,” he said. “That’s how I started to like the blues as a young man … from that program. I just kept following that music and kept following it and then I started doing it myself. When I first started singing, I was singing without a band. That’s how I started and I just went from there.”

With a couple of sisters (two of his sisters played guitar and helped inspire young Willie Buck to become a musician) already living up in Chicago at the time, Buck himself moved there from his Mississippi home-base in 1953.

“I had two sisters living in Chicago and one living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My sisters wanted me to come up and see if I liked it, so I went up to Chicago and stayed for a couple of months,” he said. “Then I went back (to Mississippi) and stayed until 1954 and then I went back to Chicago. Since coming back, I’ve been here ever since.”

Even though he was too young to enter such locales, Buck’s brother-in-law managed to sneak him into hot-spots like Pepper’s Lounge and Smitty’s Corner – joints that Buck would later play in himself – to see the late, great Muddy Waters. More than just another fan, however, it turns out that Buck’s brother-in-law was a close acquaintance of McKinley Morganfield.

“My brother-in-law and Muddy was very good friends. Muddy used to come by and pick up my brother-in-law when I first got to Chicago and they hung out together,” he said. “Believe it or not, the last show that he (Muddy) was going to do in Chicago, he was going to send for me to play with him. This guy that used to play keyboards for me – Lovie Lee – was playing with him then and he was going to send for me to come out and help him do his last show in Chicago. But then he (Muddy) took sick and never did play that show. I was really looking forward to that, because I had not seen him for a while. But he took bad sick and never did get up from that.”

Even though he had secured a job as a mechanic shortly after re-arriving back in Chicago, Buck still found the time to hit many of the clubs on the city’s south and west sides and within a year, he was gigging regularly around town. He later went on to share the bandstand with a former member of the Muddy Waters’ Band – the iconic Little Walter Jacobs.

“That was great. My bass player at the time – and for many, many years – was Dave Myers and he had played with Little Walter a lot. I went to a show they were doing and got up and played and had such a great time,” he said. “And you wouldn’t believe this, but two weeks later, he (Little Walter) passed away. He sure did. He was a great guy to be around and I loved his blowing (on the harp); he was just a fantastic guy. I really enjoyed playing and hanging out with him.”

The Myers brothers were also a ton of fun to be around, says Buck.

“Yes, sir. Dave Myers was a great guy and he taught me a lot. He was good at arranging songs on records and I enjoyed hanging around with him, too,” he said. “We just worked great together. I worked with the Myers brothers (Dave and his brother Louis) for a long time. They was called The Aces. Other people had said they couldn’t get along with them, but I never had any trouble with them guys. We were always respectful of each other when we got together. I could never talk bad about them. Matter of fact, they played with me until they wasn’t able to play anymore. We had some great times together. Me and them and Junior Wells used to play at a place called the Auxiliary Club, a great big place on 37th and Indiana. We played there every Friday and Saturday night for, I don’t know how long. Junior was a nice guy, too.”

In 1982, Buck cut a full-length album, I Wanna Be Loved. But instead of propelling Buck into the upper stratosphere of blues stardom, the album hardly received a notice. However, Buck was neither depressed nor disappointed by I Wanna Be Loved’s lack of instant success.

williw buck 4“You know, I’ve always been the type of guy to never get discouraged. I always say, ‘If that one don’t do it, we’ll just move on to the next one.’ That’s the way that I was then and the way that I still am,” he said. “It didn’t do what I would have loved for it to do, but I didn’t just get down and out about it. My base has always been if one don’t work, we’ll keep doing it until we get one that does work.”

That disposition is certainly admirable, but as it turns out, I Wanna Be Loved did end up being the album that Buck hoped that it would. It just took it nearly 30 years to find it’s legs. Delmark Records reissued (and repacked, with five bonus live cuts) the album in 2010 as The Life I Love. So why did the album finally manage to connect with an audience some three decades after it initially failed to land?

“I really don’t know (what the difference was). Maybe it was the time (when it was first released) that was the problem. Maybe when they (Delmark) got ahold of it, it was just the right time for people to find out about it. I’m really not sure about all of that,” said Buck.

No matter where Buck turns up to play, whether in Chicago or whether in Belgium or even in the ‘City by the Bay,’ you can bet that he’s going to have an eager crowd ready and waiting for him to hit the stage.

“I was in San Francisco playing in this place that held about 5,000 people. They had a few bands playing before I came on and the place really wasn’t very full. But when it was time for me to come on, that place was jam-packed. I was really knocked off my feet by that,” he said. “The way I came out was, I had a wireless mic and started singing before the people in the crowd ever saw me. The crowd really liked that … it was just so awesome.”

As he nears five decades of playing the real-deal Chicago blues, Buck’s keys to success in 2016 are the same as they were back in the ’60s and ’70s. And according to the man himself, the power to a long and prosperous career has less to do with some lucky charm or mojo hand than it does with something that folks in all walks of life should do.

Worry about yourself and not about the next guy.

“I never thought that I was better than the other singers or other bands out there. I just always knew that when I hit the bandstand, I could hold my own,” he said. “I’ve never worried about what the next person can do on the bandstand … never. I’ve never let that bother me. That’s it; I worry about myself and not the next person.

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Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins is a journalist, author and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.

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The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. September 5 – JW-Jones, September 12 – The Rusty Wright Band, September 19 – Harper and Midwest Kind, September 26 – Brent Johnson And The Call Up.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2016 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm and are open to the public – and – Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. Thur, Sept 8, Laura Rain & The Caesars f/ George Friend, Hoppy Pig, 135 N. Kinzie, Bradley IL, Thur, Sept 15, Danielle Nicole Band, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL, Thur, Sept 29, Reverend Raven and CSAB, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Wed, Nov 9, Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, Manteno IL. For more info visit

The Kansas City Blues Society – Kansas City, MO

The Kansas City Blues Society is raffling a cabin for 2 on the sold out January 2017 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. Only 500 tickets are being sold. You may purchase tickets for $20 each online at

KCBS has paid out almost $9000 this year to aid local music industry people in financial crisis. It is hosting the 5th Annual Michael Shannon Memorial Golf Tournament on Sept. 7 to raise funds. A fundraiser concert will occur a week earlier.

KCBS is sponsoring Blues in the Schools at Gillis (serving at-risk youth). Every other week, kids get to listen and learn from a local musician and write and perform their own songs. Local blues diva and music therapist and Gillis employee Lauren Anderson initiated this program. Visiting musicians include Jason Vivone, Brandon Hudspeth, and Jaisson Taylor, all former KCBS IBC winners.

Long Beach Blues Society – Long Beach, CA

The newly-created Long Beach Blues Society presents New Blues Festival III, on Saturday, September 3 and Sunday, September 4, at El Dorado Regional Park in Long Beach, Calif. Music starts at 10 a.m. each day. Tickets are $30. Blues legend Bobby Rush headlines Saturday’s Main Stage; roots/rockabilly great Lee Rocker headlines Sunday. Thirty original blues acts on 2 big stages. Big LLou Johnson, on-air personality at Sirius XM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville, is Guest Emcee. Tickets/info:

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