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NEWS -- Guitarist Chico Banks dead at age 47

Chicago blues guitarist Vernon “Chico” Banks dies at age 47


By Linda Cain

Photos by Jennifer Wheeler

The Chicago blues community was shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of guitarist Vernon "Chico" Banks on December 3, 2008. Very little information is currently available regarding the circumstances leading up to the passing of Mr. Banks, who was just 47 years old.

 Mr. Banks was hospitalized and declared brain dead on December 2 according to reports from Chicago blues musicians. It was on December 3, that his death actually occurred.  Various sources confirm that the cause of death was an infection. Nearly a year ago, Mr. Banks had undergone surgery to repair a heart valve.

Funeral Services for Chico Banks:

When: Wednesday, Dec. 10

Visitation -- 7-8 pm. followed by a service from 8-9 p.m.

Burial --Thursday morning, Dec. 11.

Where: United Missionary Baptist Church, 4242 W. Roosevelt Rd., Chicago.

Phone: 773-722-4357

chico-banksThe first time I heard Chico play the blues, I said, ‘Thank you, Jesus!’ The blues will live on through him and his generation. He is tremendously charismatic. His profoundly powerful licks make his guitar talk, laugh, cry and moan, leaving his listeners swept away in a swirling sea of soul salvation. Chico is the epitome of soul. Play on, Chico, and ‘take us there’!” – Mavis Staples

"He was the Magic Sam of our time."

 -- Toronzo Canon, friend and fellow blues guitarist

As a solo artist, Chico Banks played the blues in his own, very contemporary, way with a dose of funk, soul, rock and R&B. The son of West Side blues/gospel musician Jesse Banks (who played with the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Willie Kent, Eddie Shaw), Chico Banks was a guitar prodigy who could play in a variety of styles, which made him a sought-after sideman for an eclectic array of Chicago musicians for both their live and studio bands. Starting at age 14 in a Top 40 band, Chico’s talent was noticed by the late singer Johnny Christian, who first hired the teenager. The guitarist went on to work in touring bands with Otis Clay, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, James Cotton, and Artie “Blues Boy” White. He was a self-described “freelance musician” who backed up anyone and everyone. The list includes Little Milton, Melvin Taylor, Magic Slim, Big Time Sarah, Chick Rogers, Willie Kent, Big Ray, The Chicago Playboy Horns, Pops and Mavis Staples. In 1997, he made his solo debut with a CD on Evidence Records.

His discography includes:

·         Chico Banks – Candy Lickin’ Man (Evidence, 1997) featuring Mavis Staples’ vocals on “It Must Be Love”.

·         Freddie Roulette -- Back In Chicago (Hi Horse, 1997)

·         Willie Kent – Long Way To Ol’ Miss (Delmark, 1996)

·         Johnny Christian – two releases on Big Boy Records, circa 1980s

He was about to release a new CD. Several songs from it can be heard on his myspace page:

Chicago Blues Guide Photo Director, Jennifer “Lady Blues” Wheeler, reports that Chico had recently acquired a Jimi Hendrix tattoo, of which he was quite proud. Hopefully Hendrix and Chico are in blues heaven jammin’ away on “Red House,” “Voodoo Chile” and “Candy Lickin’ Man”.

To see Jennifer's photos of Chico, please visit:

Copyright 2008: Chicago Blues Guide


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