Bluesing in Chicago
Our last day on the East Coast was spent in Manhattan, where, in glorious sunshine, we did some of the sights, including the Dakota building near Central Park and the Strawberry Fields park opposite where there is a mosaic with the word Imagine. It seems plenty of people still revere John Lennon. From there we flew to Chicago where the weather was cold and wet. Not a problem our first night however as we walked the short distance from our hotel to Buddy Guy's Legends club. Ignore those who say it's just for tourists. It's a really nice place, well designed with photos of the blues greats and guitars on the walls, and the music was well worth the visit.
The singer, Mz Peaches, is a blues singer with a big voice to match her body and belted our her numbers with the power of an Etta James or a Ko Ko Taylor. Backed by the Casanovas, she began with great, extended versions of Walking The Back Streets and Crying and Ernestine, which showed off her pleading style to perfection. Other excellent numbers in her first set included the upbeat If It Don't Fit Don't Force It, the Pointer Sisters' Fire, with help from a lady called Miss Stella, My Babe, Lets Get Together, Hoochie Coochie Woman and Etta's I Just Want To Make Love To You. By the time of her second set the audience, most of whom were clearly not blues experts, were well lubricated and she moved into more mainstream territory with Let The Good Times Roll, the predictable (although well performed) Mustang Sally, Ko Ko's Wang Dang Doodle and Bad Girls, performed as a trio by Peaches, Stella and another lady. The corporate types in the audience, and some of her friends from the South Side, got up to boogie to I Will Survive and then Proud Mary, with a touch of Tutti Frutti. Not blues perhaps, but much enjoyed by the exuberant crowd. A highlight of the evening was a performance of Dr Feelgood by another large lady called Mary. It was not the purist night of blues but good fun, and I really liked the club.
The following day we wandered around the wet and windy and bloody cold city looking at the sights and in the evening, after an excellent meal at Maggianos Little Italy, we moved next door to Blue Chicago, a much smaller blues club. The material played by the J W Williams band was familiar stuff, including favourites such as I've Got My Mojo Working, but J W is a good and amusing singer, and his guitarist and female keyboard player were excellent and I Feel Good and Further Up The Road were particularly effective. Singing with him was Demetria Taylor, who I saw a few years back at the King Biscuit Festival. She's another lady with a big voice and a good stage manner. Numbers included Miss May's Juke Joint, Ernestine (again) and Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On. Good though she was, we gave up midway through her second set when she launched into the ubiquitous Mustang Sally. Night three in Chicago saw a return to Legends to catch 88 year old blues guitarist Jimmy Johnson. Despite backing many blues greats over the years Jimmy didn't record his first full album until he was 50. He has more than made up for it since then with a string of fine albums. On the strength of this show, which he dedicated to Lonnie Brooks, he remains at the top of his game both instrumentally and vocally. Going Down To Louisiana was a tour de force as was Born Under A Bad Sign. Fantastic.