CHICAGO: MIni-Blues Fests

Posted on 8/05/2009 by Monica Yasher

In the late afternoon of August 3rd the Chicago Park District recently held a blues summit of sorts in Nichols Park. This is within walking distance of President Obama’s Chicago residence. Two of Chicago’s greatest living blues men met on the south, near west, side of the city, Smilin Bobby and L V Banks. A two hour performance by L V Banks took place with Smilin’ Bobby taking the stage for a couple of numbers.

I sat on one of the numerous park benches surrounded by some very lush foliage meticulously maintained by the park. I’m not much of a plant aficionado, but the area is extremely flush with flowers and shrubbery. Nichols Park is a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city. I might add that the Chicago has numerous parks such as this spread throughout the city. I sat patiently while the band arrived. In typical L V style he told JP and I that the start time was Two. It was not it was actually four.

L V Banks walked to the site briskly as a man of much younger years. He carried his guitar across his back reminiscent of a shot gun shell toting bandito. His Fender amplifier followed briskly behind strapped to a small two wheel cart with multiple bungee cords. He never ceases to amaze me. He is a spry 76 year old that has lived and played in Chicago since 1960. He can squeeze a guitar string until it squeals. His vocals are beyond compare. When he does “Tail Dragger” by Howlin Wolf you would swear that the Wolf was singing. L V‘s guitar lead work is laid back and quite spacious. There is something to be said about playing the spaces kiddies.

Smiling Bobby arrived unencumbered with neither instrument nor amplifier. A recently stolen and held for ransom 1983 Oldsmobile stopped sharply at his designated parking spot. The passenger door slowly opened and out came a black hat firmly affixed to a bobbing head that bore a wide toothed grin. Smilin Bobby had arrived. Bob is another veteran of the Chicago blues scene who has played with a great number of artists. He is a master of his craft and plays about 3-4 nights a week. He will play with just about anybody as long as you pay him his going rate. He came to this park mainly to visit with me, but I coaxed him up to play and man I am glad that I did. There is no mistaking Bob as nothing other than a west side Chicago Blues man.

This was a day of Blues that I will not soon forget, because two of my friends and mentors were meeting for the first time in 20 years. L V and Bob have a history together. The major blues artist’s (300 -400) of Chicago have played together and most of these artist know each other. These artists’s are competing with each other for the 30 or 40 blues gigs daily. In order to establish a name in the network an artist has to play as often as possible and for whatever little pay they can finagle. When two powerhouse old time blues artists get together the behind stage can be a bit tense. My friend JP has stated on numerous occasions that all blues men have issues. How true that statement is.

Every year the Nicholas Park Advisory Committee solicits money for their annual July 4th on 53rd street Parade. They use part of this funding to support Jazz and blues Summer Concerts in the Park. Nichols Park is in Barbara Flynn Curries’ 25th District. Barbara and her Chief of Staff Ted Fetters are to be commended for the wonderful job they are doing. I met Ted for the first time Sunday. He is a very cordial and straight up guy. Ms. Currie is lucky to have him.

Thanks to everyone involved in supporting the blues.

Here's the rest of the year Line-up

August 9 Vance Kelly
August 16 Walter Scott
August 23 Super Percy
August 30 Vance Kelly
September 6 Curtis Black Quartet
September 13 Akalasha
September 20 Julia Huff
September 27 TBD

Gatorman band


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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