By the time singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Earl Livingston released his first full-length album as Son Little in 2015, he’d already worked with genre-bending artists such as the Roots and RJD2 and produced the 2015 Mavis Staples EP Your Good Fortune (he also wrote its first two tracks). In keeping with the musical openness of […]
Chicago’s 1920s nightlife incubated world-changing musical and social experiments
The Roaring Twenties have often been portrayed as a time of wealth, glamor, and social change. Technological advances, including more widespread electrification and increased use of automobiles, plus the growth of mass media such as radio and movies, drove a booming economy—though then as now the benefits were inequitably distributed. Inspired by movie stars and […]
The Reader’s guide to Chicago in Tune
The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events originally planned to celebrate the Year of Chicago Music in 2020. Then the pandemic diminished those festivities to the point that the city declared 2021 the Year of Chicago Music too. The ongoing surge of the Delta variant means the U.S. won’t be rid of the pandemic […]
The blues has become part of Chicago’s DNA
Blues music thrives on live interaction between performer and audience, but for nearly a year and a half, that’s been in short supply. Clubs are caught between “waiting to reopen” and “slowly coming back,” and Millennium Park has been largely quiet—for two Junes running, the city has canceled the Chicago Blues Festival. Our blues artists […]
A taste of Chicago to go
Upcoming events and recommendations for the next seven days
Bob Koester leaves a colossal legacy in Chicago jazz and blues
For nearly 70 years, Bob Koester owned the Jazz Record Mart and Delmark Records—and though his businesses could be “crazy town,” they helped nurture thriving communities.
Andrew ‘Big Voice’ Odom sang for blues stars but never became one
Andrew “Big Voice” Odom toured internationally—and also used to drop by Maxwell Street and overwhelm the makeshift sound systems.
Old-school musicians beat lockdown with new-school platforms
Veteran DJ Vince Adams and nonagenarian bluesman Jimmy Johnson both took to livestreaming during the pandemic.
Pianist Willie Mabon gave Chess Records its first big hit
Despite a 1952 smash for Chess Records, pianist Willie Mabon was soon overshadowed by labelmates such as Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters.
Big Daddy Kinsey was the Muddy Waters of Gary, Indiana
Blues patriarch Big Daddy Kinsey had three sons who played together as the Kinsey Report.
Johnny Shines belongs in the pantheon alongside Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf
Bluesman Johnny Shines spent the late 30s on the road with the great Robert Johnson, then lived long enough to win a W.C. Handy Award in the 90s.
The Aces helped invent the sound of electric Chicago blues
The Aces are best known as a backing band, but they took the lead when it came to the future of the blues.
Kokomo Arnold helped shape giants of the blues
Kokomo Arnold’s recording career lasted less than a decade, but he changed the world by influencing the likes of Robert Johnson and Elmore James.
Bless the Mad pay homage to Black music history—and to Chicago—on their self-titled debut
Chicago natives and lifelong hip-hop heads Ibrahem Hasan and Matthew Rivera met decades ago while crate digging at a flea market. Their new self-titled debut as Bless the Mad, released by their own Stay the Course label, exudes a collector’s care for music history and a producer’s ear for finding overlooked diamonds and giving them […]
Soul singer Bill Coday had two careers 20 years apart
Bill Coday’s early releases, especially on Denise LaSalle’s Crajon label, have been widely reissued—and his later soul-blues recordings are beloved too.