Doc Clayton was a great Blues singer and song-writer who made a big contribution to Chicago Blues in the 30s and 40s. Like many characters in Blues History, his origins are shrouded in mystery and he came to a bad end, but while he was around his clever songs, full of double-entendre, his strong voice…

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Drag acts are not usually associated with The Blues, but in the Speakeasies of Harlem and Chicago, during the ‘Roaring 20s’, it was a case of ‘anything goes’. Gladys Bentley wore a top-hat and tux as she charmed the customers of New York clubs, and in Chicago, Frankie ‘Half Pint’ Jaxon would amaze his audiences…

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Very few women seem to play bass, but Queen Sylvia Embry was a fine player who impressed Willie Dixon so much he sent her to Europe to play on the American Blues Festival tours. She also had an expressive, deep-toned Gospel voice that made her a hit on the Chicago club circuit, and was even…

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Blues harp is perhaps the most expressive instrument in a classic Blues band line-up, and Jerry Portnoy must be one of a handful of men around today whose playing speaks with the voice straight out of 50s Chicago. With a fluency, range and emotional bite that is nothing short of thrilling, Jerry learned his trade…

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Kokomo Arnold is not well known today, but in Chicago in the mid-30s, he was a big player. The song that gave him his name, ‘Kokomo Blues’ was adapted by Robert Johnson as ‘Sweet Home Chicago’; ‘Dust My Broom’ came from another Kokomo song; and his ‘Milk Cow Blues’ has been covered by many artists.…

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Searing slide-guitar and howling electrified harp are the hallmarks of Chicago Blues, and Studebaker John is a home-town boy who is taking that tradition into the future. Inspired by Hound Dog Taylor and JB Hutto, John can thrash out a boogie while playing a lead-guitar line on top; he has a light but penetrating voice;…

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Willie Kent was a Chicago bass man with deep roots in the Delta, and his solid style, his strong voice, and his disciplined backing musicians made his Blues sound heartfelt and convincing without ever being flashy. With his tight, regular band providing the perfect backdrop, his passionate and committed vocals told of a man who…

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Chicago harp player Billy Boy learned from the best: legend has it that the kid knocked on John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson‘s door and asked him how he played the harp. The patrician Sonny Boy gave the 13-year-old some lessons, but that tutoring was cut short when the maestro was murdered soon afterwards. Billy Boy…

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Bill Smith had a rich smooth baritone voice that gave his Blues songs an urbane, sophisticated quality which was exactly opposite to what might be expected from his stage-name, especially as the man was a stylish dresser and had an eye for the ladies. Born in rural Mississippi in the mid-30s, Bill Smith sang in…

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For nearly 50 years Johnny Laws has been playing the Blues around the Southside clubs in Chicago and, apart from a couple of excellent albums in the 90s, he has never caused much of a stir outside his own community. That’s a shame because Johnny has a great voice: his passionate falsetto and smooth delivery…

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