Your Complete Guide to the Chicago Blues Scene
Singer/guitarist Eddy Clearwater's show at SPACE on January 10 was
clearly one of celebration. It was his 81st birthday, and judging from
the full audience, his career is going as strong as ever. Unfortunately,
Otis Clay, a southern-soul institution who resided in Chicago, died on
the 8th. Before the show started, Otis' music was being played over the
PA, and several overheard conversations concerned themselves with the
last time they saw Otis live, including his many appearances at SPACE.
Despite this immense loss, Eddy's 81st birthday party came on strong
from the start with hardly any let-up.
Eddy has been a mainstay of Chicago since he first arrived here from the
South in 1950. Early on, he developed a distinct sound that fused West
Side R&B with Chuck Berry-ish rockabilly. While he blitzed the scene
with gigs on Chicago's South and West Sides (and the Illinois suburbs)
and several 45s, his profile was heightened in 1980 with the release of
his debut album, The Chief. Several albums and decades later, he
still continues to smoke through one amazing live show after another.
Backed by a band that included Dave Knoff (bass), Shoji Naito (harmonica/occasional guitar), Steve Bass (drums) and Tom Crivellone (guitar), Mr. Clearwater entered the stage through the audience, wearing a white suit and the massive Indian headdress that has been his trademark for ages.
Although fellow bluesman Ronnie Baker Brooks played guitar during the first song without fanfare, Eddy didn't pick up his axe until the second number, "Find You A Job." Although Eddy has amassed a lengthy catalog of original tunes, the show was peppered by standards like "My Babe," "That's All Right," and "You Don't Have To Go." Ronnie Baker Brooks, who has been producing him lately for the Alligator label, darted in and out of the show at different times, even performing a short segment at the beginning of the second set, dedicating his song "Stuck On Stupid" to the recently-departed Otis Clay.
Another Clay dedication happened when blues
vocalist Mud Morganfield
showed up to sing his own tune, "Health" ("fortune and fame don't mean a
thing without your health"). Other second-set superstars sitting in
included guitarist Dave Katzman,
drummer Jerry Porter,
guitarist Dave Specter and
harmonicist Billy Branch.