by DICK SHURMAN
This time our dispatch will be short, but with festival season, many Howlin’ Wolf centennial commemorations and the annual symposium at Dominican University looming, we’re already sure that the next one will make up for the brevity this time.
Speaking of Wolf, filmmaker Josh Hecht is putting the finishing touches on another documentary which should be a nice complement to “The Secret History Of Rock & Roll.” I’ll be part of a panel with Wolf’s daughters, Jody Williams and Barry Dolins at the Harold Washington Library on May 21. This will be Barry’s last year as Co-Ordinator of the Chicago Blues Festival; hopefully the next regime will continue the integrity with which he booked the event.
Among recent events, the Richard Stamz Celebration at Columbia College on Feb. 1 was enjoyable with Stamz’s biographer Patrick Roberts and Richard’s daughter Phyllis joined by radio personalities Lucky Cordell and Pervis Spann (now suffering with Alzheimer’s, which hasn’t erased his wistful memories of how he liked to drop by Stamz’s house to catch a glimpse of “his fine daughter”). A video about Stamz was shown and Patrick signed copies of his book “Give ‘Em Some Soul, Richard!” till they sold out. When Patrick returns from an academic assignment in Herzogovinia, we’ll figure out what material from the Stamz archives we’ll try to package into a reissue compilation.....
I wasn’t able to get to the annual appearance of the Blues Is Alright tour on March 6 in Merrillville, Indiana, but the lineup was fairly similar to last year and reports were good. One of the featured acts was Bobby Bland; an old friend of mine, Charles Farley, has written a good Bland biography called “Soul Of The Man” to be published within the next year by the University Press of Mississippi.
More information may be found at souloftheman.com.....
It’s been fun to see the so far low-key re-emergence of vocalist/ guitarist Smiley Tillmon. In the ‘60s through the ‘80s Smiley was a strong vocalist and one of the fanciest blues guitarists around (one musician described him back then as “Matt Murphy with feeling”) and a versatile artist who also worked outside of blues. He was based in the south suburbs, recorded with Singing Sam (Sam Chatmon’s son’s band) and Billy Emerson and backed up Lee “Shot” Williams and Big Time Sarah among others.
Eventually he focused on his job as a school custodian and was off the music scene. But he’s now retired from the job and finding his way back, with a band led by bassist Tom Rezetko.
A lot of their gigs are on the southwest side; I saw them at The End Zone near 100th and S. Western. They also hire Rockin’ Johnny as an occasional featured guest. (Incidentally, Johnny has a nice new self-produced CD called “Now’s The Time” due out soon; the title track is one of two Jesse Thomas covers among a nice program of mostly Chicago obscurities.) I’m sure that if things continue to progress, Smiley will get more notice and exposure soon, as he deserves. Efforts are underway to include him in the program at Reggie’s Saturday night, June 12, during the Chicago Blues Festival.
On the club front, there haven’t been major changes, but Legends is finally preparing to move a block north to their new quarters; that should be done by the time we write the next news column.
As usual I’ll leave almost all of the obituaries to others who cover them with greater promptness and depth online, but I do want to note the passing of former Albert Collins & Bo Diddley keyboard player Bobby Alexis after a massive heart attack in Texas. Bobby worked recently with Guitar Shorty, and can be seen and heard to good advantage on the 1992 Collins Montreux footage. Researcher and writer Charlie Gillett also deserves a farewell salute. And with apologies to everyone who did something newsworthy that I omitted, that’s a wrap for this time; here’s to a good summer of blues for all!
----- DICK SHURMAN
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