Harmonica player Snooky Pryor was a member of the circle of musicians (also including Floyd and Moody Jones and Johnny Young) who came to Chicago and laid down their elemental sounds in the 50s for such now-legendary small labels as Planet, Old Swing-Master, and J.O.B. They provided a kind of primal counterpoint to the increasingly stylized offerings of the better-known Chess artists. Pryor tends to rely too much on a medium-tempo shuffle unless he’s prodded by his accompanists, but within his stylistic restrictions he’s as good as classic Chicago blues gets: witty and good-natured, with a vibrato-rich voice that recalls both Sonny Boy Williamsons and harks all the way back to traditional arhoolies and field hollers, he fills the room with his warmth. Hi’s got the classic 50s-style Chicago harp tone–harsh squalls interspersed with a sweet, warbling tenderness–and his lyrics are almost unfailingly witty and occasionally outrageous (“Your daddy was a preacher / Your mammy was an alley cat”). Tonight, Rosa’s, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.