[Blues-l] Chicago Blues Fests 1988/1989 and Willie Dixon's book

John Kristoff jtk@depaul.edu
Mon Jul 6 23:26:13 EDT 2020


First up, pictures of a couple of t-shirts from the Chicago 1989 (6th
annual) blues festival.

The first is I think one of the official t-shirts that was probably
sold at the fest.

  <https://dataplane.org/jtk/images/chi-blues-fest-1989-tshirt-front.jpg>

There is nothing on the back.

  <https://dataplane.org/jtk/images/chi-blues-fest-1989-wisefools-tshirt-front.jpg>
  <https://dataplane.org/jtk/images/chi-blues-fest-1989-wisefools-tshirt-back.jpg>

Here is the front and back of a t-shirt I may have gotten at the fest
or at Wise Fools itself, I don't remember. Wise Fools was a well known
and popular blues clubs in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Unfortunately it is long gone.

My first Chicago blues fest, was from 1988, but I don't think I have
anything that survives from that one other than some memories and even
then I think I get '88 and '89 jumbled together now.

One of the fondest memories was enjoying and joining in the music on the
street rather than the stage bands and musicians.  There was a guy who I
believe referred to himself as Big Bee.  I think I knew his real name
at one time, but if so I've since forgotten.  He was white, probably mid
to late 30's, early 40's perhaps, thin, 5'9" to 6' tall. He hauled a
wagon around with a bass drum, guitar, amp, and other paraphernalia. He
also played harp on a rack.  A regular one-man band. He was sometimes
with an African-American woman that may have been his wife who used to
sometimes sing with him. He wasn't particularly sophisticated an
instrumentalist, but he made it sound good, drew a good crowd and
probably made decent tips.  He usually played slide and common blues
songs like Sweet Home Chicago and various Jimmy Reed tunes if I
remember correctly.  I have no idea what happened to him.

Big Bee was very agreeable to let people sit in with him.  This is where
I first played with Big Smokey and later saw the unknown guitar player.
I met a few other random players during these times.  I'm pretty sure I
also crossed paths with Annie Raines here, but I didn't realize who she
was until many years later.  Coincidentally we are both the same age
and had probably both found our way to Chicago from the same state
for much the same reason.  She played just briefly during a break and I
recognized immediately she was good.  I think I saw her picture or a
video of her years later when I realized "oh, I think she was the harp
player I remember hanging out with Big Bee at the blues fest years ago".

I was never one to carry a camera so unfortunately I have very little
material evidence of anything from those days I'm afraid.

Last odd bit of history I came across today...

The following is the inside cover of Willie Dixon's book with what I
assume is his genuine signature.  I picked this up at a used books
store years ago for less than the cover price.  A couple of listings on
eBay suggest it may be worth something more than that so I'll try to
take good care of it.

  <https://dataplane.org/jtk/images/willie-dixon-signed-book.jpg>

John


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