The Big Dog of The Blues Capital Chicago And the Chicago Blues Fest

Posted on 6/10/2009 by Monica Yasher

“I’m 6’10” and no, I never played basketball”

Martin Mercer is big, hence the moniker “Big Dog Mercer”.

Big Dog was born and Raised in Antioch, Illinois. Antioch is the most unlikely spot to raise a blues man. Nestled amongst numerous lakes; Chicagoan’s discovered Antioch in the later part of the 1800’s. They flocked to the area for fishing, hunting and gambling. Antioch’s most infamous resident was none other than Al Capone who had a residence there, as he did in so many areas of Chicago. It is rumored that he owned upwards of 400 houses spread throughout the Chicago land area. I guess you got to hide all them booze dollars somehow.

One would think that Antioch’s citizenry would birth fishermen, not blues men. I did not ask if Big Dog fishes, but he practices catch and release none the less. He catches his surroundings, writes about it and then releases it in song.

Big Dog is a blues man in every sense of the word. Off the record he has told me the regular spiels that all blues men have. He bit the blues hook and the bait was the “Blues Brothers Movie”. He jumped into that proverbial boat full of blues when he saw John Lee Hooker leaning up against a wall in the aforementioned. Something about that music hooked him and just blew him away. Big Dog claims that that movie influenced him to play guitar. The genre did not matter. At the age of sixteen he was playing Rock and Roll. I asked him what sort of music category he would put his music into, He replied, “Bluesbilly, Swamp Blues & Surfbilly.” That cleared up a lot.

The way he got his first guitar was like the way so many other teenagers got things, “Momma Please……….” Momma said no so off to old dad he went. He pleaded and he begged his father for one and he finally relented. Sears filled the order, as it did for so many guitar players and blues men. I often wonder if Sears Roebuck & Co. knows how much it contributed to the American music scene.

Not only does Big Dog pick a mean left handed guitar, he can slide on one just as well. He told me a little secret, “Whatever you can pick you can slide.” Yours truly has been plugging away at slide for a better part of a year now and I tell you folks it “ain’t” easy.

He has a way of singing that is extremely reminiscent of the old school of blues players. He has a growl to his voice that demands attention and combined with an attacking slide style, his is a joy to be heard. I might be a little partial towards Big Dog because I truly love the Blues and the blues is what he does best. Big Dog also has his own musical Instrument repair Shop.

While at Big Dogs mypace page make sure you listen to the songs "Alabama Wildman', "Big Dog Blues" and "Who's That Coming." Who's that coming has an excellent slide opening and closing.

If you get a chance to see Big Dog there is no mistaking him. There is a reason ya'll why they call him BIG DOG.




I know it's not blues ,but he's my buddy.




“And This is Free”
The Chicago Blues Festival in Grant Park (June 12-14)

The Chicago Blues Festival kicks off June 12 through June 14 in Grant Park. This free and critically acclaimed event showcases the talents of Blues musicians known throughout the world. Always rooted in the struggle, the music often is as uplifting as it is entertaining. Each day of the fest tells a different story about life, loss, independence and freedom and this year we will celebrate the life and work of Robert Nighthawk on the centennial of his birth. In tribute to Nighthawk, you can be apart of “Art of Slide Guitar” session featuring Jeremy Spencer, Lil Ed, John Primer & Elmore James Jr. Daily Festival hours are from 11am to 9:30pm.

Nighthawk, born Robert Lee McCollum, in Helena Arkansas was known as a rambling man. At the age of 15, he hit the road playing his harmonica. His life would forever be altered when his cousin, Houston Stackhouse, taught him slide guitar. Arriving in Chicago in the 1930s, he became a fixture on Chicago’s historic Maxwell Street but always considered the Mississippi Delta his home.

On Friday June 12th, there will be a special 70th Birthday Party for Eddie C. Campbell! He is considered one of the most distinctive, original bluesman ever and is one of the last of the originators of the West Side sound of Chicago blues still performing. Eddie C. is a master at deep funk blues grooves, mesmerizing audiences with his devastatingly wild, vibrato guitar and powerful, resonating vocals, along with a unique, personal songwriting style. The celebration begins at 8:20pm, Friday on the Petrillo stage in Grant Park.

Saturday and Sunday belong to the women of blues! Bettye LaVette performs at 8:20pm, Saturday at the Petrillo stage. LaVette is one of the greatest soul singers in American music history and possesses an incredibly expressive voice that exudes a formidable level of strength and intensity as well as vulnerability. Closing out Sunday night (8:20pm on Petrillo) is Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings. Jones, once disregarded by shallow record producers in the 1970s, is now considered a legend for making new music sound “old School.” A Georgia native, Jones has the moves, the roots and the soul. And The Dap Kings, sometimes a back-up band to Amy Winehouse, have been sampled by everyone from Kanye West to Jurassic 5, together Sharon and The Dap Kings promise to funkify the Blues Festival.

For many artists, playing the Chicago Blues Festival is considered a right of passage and this year the Blues Fest welcomes two dozen new performers to the event. To date, blues is considered one of the most popular kinds of music and it has influenced many famous musicians. Popular music like country, jazz, rock and roll, R&B and hip-hop are rooted in the Blues.

The Old Town School and the Mayor’s Office of Special Events celebrate the 30-year anniversary of one of Chicago’s venerated Blues labels, Earwig Music. Join in the celebration all weekend at the fest and for pre-events held at The Old Town School featuring Johnny Drummer & the Starliters and Liz Mandeville & the Blue Points, visit

Gibson Guitar Crossroads stage located on Jackson and Lake Shore Drive in Grant Park will provide music fans with the ultimate guitar experience. A “state-of-the-art” custom trailer will be on-site during the festival. The trailer will have thirteen interactive guitar stations with a combination of Gibson and Epiphone guitars, each providing the guitar lover with their own opportunity to jam. Music fans can also register to win a new Gibson guitar.

Younger blues fans will appreciate the Diddly Bow making and story telling sessions as well as the guitar workshop at the Roadhouse and for the up and coming artists and the daily jams at the Mississippi Juke Joint.

The Chicago Blues Festival would like to thank the following sponsors: Chicago Jazz Magazine, Chicago Transit Authority, Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Division, Rosa's Lounge, ABSOLUT, Best Buy, Bud Light,
Communications Direct, Essex Inn, FlashCash, Gibson Guitar, LaGrou Distribution System, Pepsi-Cola, Hyatt Regency, McCormick Place, Southwest Airlines, WSSD Radio-FM 88.1, Chicago Tribune,, CLTV-ChicagoLand’s Television, Health Craft Cookware, WGN-Television, ZonePerfect All Natural Nutrition Bars, 93XRT, Blues Heaven Foundation, Chicago Blues Foundation, Chicago Blues Museum Record Row Foundation, Hinckley Springs, Illinois Lottery, Koko Taylor Celebrity Aid Foundation, and Maxwell Street Foundation.

For more information on the Chicago Blues Festival and the complete schedule, visit or call 312-744-3315.

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

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