Singing the Blues in Chicago

Barrelhouse Bonni

Barrelhouse Bonni Plays Blues in West Virginia
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Barrelhouse Bonni Sings the Blues from the Americana Rhythm

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Barrelhouse Bonni's Chicago Blues Buddies
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EDDIE TAYLOR JR. is Larry's brother; only 30, he seems to have inherited the spirit of his father, the late Eddie Taylor Sr. He sings a wide range of songs, playing a wonderful electric guitar that sounds like the early 1950s and goes great with a piano. He has two albums out on Wolf Records. Eddie, and Larry and I have played a few acoustic-style trios.  See what Eddie's up to at a neat website designed by drummer and photographer Robert Pasenko:

JOHNNIE MAE DUNSON SMITH is my blues godmother. She's 83 and came to Chicago from Alabama and played drums with Jimmy Reed.  She wrote "Goin' Upside Your Head,"  "She-Wolf", "So Cold," and  many other tunes. She is a real fountain of blues songs and lore.

SHIRLEY JOHNSON moved to Chicago from Newport News, VA,  to sing the blues. She's one of the city's top blues and gospel vocalists, reaching out to the audiences with her sincere, no-nonsense delivery.  I played piano behind her on a few gigs at the downtown tourist center Blues Exchange and at a nursing home and a women's conference. If you need a real blues lady, she's the greatest, and a down home wonderful person to boot.

DAVID "CHAINSAW" DUPONT is an up and coming bluesman, whose name comes from his boyhood task of gathering wood in Mississippi.  He is the most modern musician of my buddies; his guitar heroes are Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix-but unlike all their imitators, he that actually makes their music his own. Maybe it's cause he's from Mississippi and really lived it!  We did a blues education program at the Evanston Friends (Quaker) meeting one Sunday.  Check out my buddy David  at

MAXWELL STREET-the city , UIC, and developers  foolishly tore down the birthplace of Chicago blues.  It was an open air market, spearheaded by Jewish merchants with lots of participation by Italians, Germans, Mexicans, African Americans and everybody else. Early blues and gospel musicians played on the street for nickels and dimes and were discovered by record companies at this unique multicultural melting pot.  Read this great history at

Chicago Blues Connection Travel Links

My Favorite Uppity, Mostly  Eastern Blues Women

GAYE ADEGBALOLA,  the Saffire gal who looks like Queen Nefertiti, is a ferocious singer and songwriter, and my vocal coach at Elkins. She has broken many barriers in her lifetime, and is revered as a teacher and a social observer, a very wise woman.

DORIS FIELDS,  "Lady D" from Beckley WV is a Theatre W.Va. actress and sings r & b, reggae, and now the blues. She plays the part of Bessie Smith in a one-woman show called "Lady and the Empress."  Bring Bessie to your town

LEA GILMORE, blues singer, civil rights worker and historian has won a  Keeping the Blues Alive award for her website focusing on blues women. I met Lea at Common Ground on the Hill, an intercultural summer camp workshop
at McDaniel (formerly W.Maryland) college in Westminster MD.  Can the blues help us get along better? Find out:

CATHY PONTON KING, whose Irish grandfather once played the fiddle, now plays the blues guitar and writes all kinds of songs.  She's all heart and a wonderful part of the DC live music scene

PAT  PEPIN, the up and coming Sax Lady from Maine,  has been a big inspiration to me as she makes friends and climbs the musical ladder.  I heard her play in Memphis at the 2003 Blues First competition.

ANN RABSON has no trouble struttin' her stuff; she's got one of the best left-hand piano chops in the country, and she was my teacher at Augusta Blues Week in Elkins, WV.  One of the three Uppity Blues Women of Saffire, along with Andra Faye Hinkle and Gaye Adegbalola, she has learned from the big guys, including Sunnyland Slim and Pinetop Perkins.   Catch her when she plays near you, and check her site to learn about some of those old boogie &
blues masters:

JUDY LUIS-WATSON, a fine boogie player and singer,  and her husband Paul of the acoustic group  Blues Works, have been coaching me at Augusta too.  Judy, who is originally from Tanzania, has a variety of ancestry and musical
influences.  The world is getting smaller!

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Other Eastern Blues Buddies

GUY DAVIS. Growing up in New York with actor parents, Guy is versed in Broadway and folk tunes-the same music I grew up with-- but  was called back to his ancestral roots and seized by the blues as his life's work. His voice is rugged, his tunes are finely crafted.   I once ran into him in a laundromat but that's a whole nother blues tune.

SPARKY AND RHONDA RUCKER, from Tennessee,  blues educators who sing and play guitar, banjo and harmonica; invite them to your town. Sparky can explain and perform slave songs, field hollers, spirituals,  minstrel songs.  They
bring to life the unique "Afro-lachian" tradition,  the joining of the music of  various ethnic folk in the mountains.

And of course. the folks at the ARCHIE EDWARDS  barbershop in Washington DC, where Barbershop Blues began  The site gives you some history of the Piedmont blues.   Most Saturdays they have an open acoustic blues jam.  Come and listen or play.  Mike Baytop is usually the dude in charge, he's a fine upcoming guitarist and bones-man.

For Weekly and Monthly Updates on Blues and other live music in DC, WV and Shenandoah Valley of VA, subscribe to these newsletters:

Shari Gallery's email newsletter on area arts events from Hampshire County WV -

Joy Berghaus of Shenandoah Arts Council has a newsletter based in Winchester VA

Eastern Panhandle of W.Va.:  Nightlife Digest:

DC Area:  Right on Rhythm newsletter at   Wayne Kahn has produced, recorded, chronicled, played and pursued all forms of roots music in the DC area; see his comprehensive website  and discover DC's brilliant
musical history at

Steve and Lisa O'Brien of the Groove Quest band and studio, Takoma Park, MD, have been playing for swing dancers; Steve mixed and recorded my Barbershop Blues DC sessions.  They can give you the further scoop of DC
music happenings and resources at

Links to What's Happening in Music Today

YES!  There is great music in this country. It's just not on the radio. Find out why, and what you can do to help roots and original music thrive:

Listen to WWOZ New Orleans, live streamed blues and jazz radio on the web

MOUNTAIN STAGE, a weekly radio-TV show founded by  some hard working musicians in Charleston, the capital of my home state of West Virginia, has brought traditional and original artists to a new audience.  And now there's a  NEWSONG FESTIVAL, songwriters festival in Charles Town, at the eastern end of the state, has a songwriters contest and festival.  This year's festival and accompanying Mountain Stage show in September 2003 feature blues & roots music creator Corey Harris, and country-Americana singer-songwriter Cathy Mattea, among others..

Please join your local  Blues Society and

DC Blues Society

Baltimore Blues Society

Blues Foundation:
Blues Music Association
The New Blues Page for The Shenandoah Valley

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You got to suffer if you want to sing the blues....