Lesson from the South Side – The Chicago Blues Reunion passes on a legacy | SteamboatToday.com
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Lesson from the South Side – The Chicago Blues Reunion passes on a legacy

Chicago in the 1960s was a place where race-related problems were prevalent and a clear boundary existed between the city’s North and South sides.

It was during that era that a group of young white teenagers ventured to the South side to strike up a conversation with some of the masters of blues music.

“We babysat and ran errands for them, and they let us sit in the club where white people never went,” said Chicago Blues Reunion keyboardist Barry Goldberg. “They taught us about the blues, and the lifestyle, as well.”



Goldberg, Corky Siegel, Nick Gravenites, Sam Lay, Harvey Mandel and Tracy Nelson have now reunited to pass on to the next generation what they learned from the blues legends such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.

“What we are doing now is passing the torch again and keeping the spirit of the Chicago blues alive,” Goldberg said.



The members of Chicago Blues Reunion first heard blues music on a radio station located at the far end of the dial.

“It was a blues station that played really far out, unnatural kinds of sounds that were haunting and mystical and sent us into another world,” Goldberg said.

Although the musicians comprising Chicago Blues Reunion had never played together as part of the same band, they all were part of the same Chicago music scene that incorporated blues and rock ‘n’ roll.

Gravenites wrote a lot of material for Janis Joplin.

“The day she was supposed to put the vocals on one of his tracks – she died that day,” Goldberg said. “The song ‘Buried Alive in the Blues’ appeared on her album as instrumental.”

“Buried Alive in the Blues” is now the title of the Chicago Blues Reunion tour and a CD/DVD release that includes interviews with band members and Buddy Guy and B.B. King. In their live performances, band members play original tunes and those of some of the great blues artists.

“There is big history here,” Goldberg said. “It’s a big historical part of American music that is an important element of the roots of how rock ‘n’ roll began.”

Goldberg was part of another important moment in music history – he played the keyboard with Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.

“It was a very controversial concert,” Goldberg said. “It was the first time Bob Dylan went electric with the first actual folk/rock sound.”

Goldberg and Dylan developed a strong friendship over the years.

“We have a relationship that goes way back to a time when things were a lot simpler and easier for everybody,” he said. “He’s a great guy. My wife and I would baby sit for his kids and hang out and go to basketball games together.”

Goldberg took a break from the music scene after his son was born in 1976. Until he played again with Chicago Blues Reunion in 2003, he forgot about the joys of being a musician.

“I sort of lost that feeling of playing in front of people,” Goldberg said. “That’s why I’m a musician in the first place.”

Although there are many talented young blues artists, Goldberg said the original blues scene in Chicago can never be replicated.

“That particular magical time in Chicago was a special thing for us. It was an original kind of concept,” he said. “People who come to hear us get the feeling and vibe of that special kind of place.”


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