Bob Koester set up Delmark Records over sixty years ago, and his Jazz Record Mart in Chicago is the biggest Jazz and Blues record store in the world. A music lover and collector of classic Jazz and Blues records from an early age, Bob’s labour of love became a thriving business as he progressed from trading secondhand discs as a student, to opening a record store. Then when his own record label took off, his consummate good taste led to his recording some genuine Blues legends. As a mentor, Bob has been a big influence on some movers and shakers in the business, who pay tribute to a man with Blues in his blood.
Relocating from St. Louis, Bob arrived in Chicago in 1958 intent on setting up a record store, recording the local talent and buying up interesting masters when he could. His first employee was Bruce Iglauer, who learned a lot about making and selling records from Bob. When Bruce couldn’t persuade his boss to record Hound Dog Taylor in 1971 (Bob was short of cash after financing the move to a bigger store), he left to set up Alligator Records to do the job himself, and went on to great success. Chuck Nessa of Jazz imprint Nessa Records; Michael Frank of Earwig; Jim O’Neal of Rooster Records; the late Bruce Kaplan of Flying Fish, and Amy Van Singel of Living Blues Magazine all got invaluable experience from working closely with Bob at Delmark.
When Delmark Records started out in Chicago, Bob’s evident enthusiasm for the music led to friendships with many artists like Magic Sam, who was unknown at the time, and Junior Wells whose ‘HooDoo Man Blues’ was Delmark’s best selling record. [stextbox id=”custom” caption=”Delmark Discography” float=”true” align=”left” width=”300″]This fantastic album/DVD combo has tracks from all Delmark’s big hitters, and performances by Carey and Lurie Bell, Taildragger, Bonnie Lee, Willie Kent etc.etc.
55 YEARS OF BLUES
[/stextbox]Jazz artists like Bud Powell, George Lewis and Donald Byrd featured on Delmark and Bob did not look at the commercial bottom line if he thought a Jazz or Blues player deserved a chance, but he also issued records by big hitters like Buddy Guy, JB Hutto, Robert Nighthawk, Luther Allison, Otis Rush and dozens of others. His selective purchases of ‘old masters’ led to important releases by Sleepy John Estes, Yank Rachell, Roosevelt Sykes and many more. As a contemporary label, Delmark continues to seek out Chicago Jazz and Blues artists sixty years after those first recordings in St. Louis, and the Jazz Record Mart is a vinyl junkie’s heaven.
On May 12th 2021, following a stroke, Bob passed away while in hospice care