Chicago Blues: In Memoriams and Keeping The Flame Alive
Two major figures in the Chicago music scene passed on last week. Cleotha Staples, who was the eldest daughter of Pops Staples, died on February 20 on the South Side of Chicago at the age of 78. She had been afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease for around the last dozen years. While she had not performed recently, Cleotha was a long-time main member of the Staple Singers starting in the 1940’s. The acclaimed gospel and soul group are inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as recipients of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Morris Holt, better known as Magic Slim, died on Thursday in Philadelphia; however, the Mississippi native (as was Cleotha, by the way) made his name in the Chicago blues world. Working in Chicago in the ‘60s, Slim was part of the younger generation following in the traditions of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. The guitarist enjoyed a good deal of success starting in the 1980’s with his band the Teardrops. They were named best blues band at the 2003 Blues Music Awards and 2008’s Midnight Blues topped the Billboard blues charts. Slim, who was 75, was touring behind last year’s Bad Boy when he was hospitalized in January.
Happier news on the Chicago blues comes in the form of the new documentary Born In Chicago, which will premiere at this year’s SxSW in March. The film chronicles both the performers who moved to Chicago from the American South and brought their music with them as well as the Chicago natives (often white kids) who learned to love the blues and play them too. Steve Miller, Charlie Musselwhite, Keith Richards, Elvin Bishop, Michael Bloomfield, Eric Burdon, Paul Butterfield, Marshall Chess, Bob Dylan Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin and Jack White are among the musicians who appear in the film. Directed by Grammy-nominated filmmaker John Anderson, Born In Chicago also spotlights the group The Chicago Blues Reunion (featuring such preeminent Chicago-bred musicians as Barry Goldberg, Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel and Corky Siegel) who formed a few years back to keep the sounds of the 1960’s Chicago Blues scene alive.
For those living in the Southern California, you have one more chance to see B-3 master Barry Goldberg jam with his friends at the Los Angeles club, the Mint, on Wednesday night February 27. He has had a weekly residency through the month and it has been the place to be whether you are a blues fan or player. In just the hour I was able to catch earlier this month, his guests included Carla Olson and ex-Prince/Cyndi Lauper guitarist Kat Dyson sitting in with his regular all-star band led by Conan O’Brien band chief Jimmy Vivino.