Friday, April 29, 2011

Chicago band The Bad Examples not dead yet, still deliver catchy hooks


Any band looking to write songs with catchy hooks and solid melodies would do well to follow the trail blazoned by Chicago band The Bad Examples.

The band still has plenty of that in supply, as evident on its new CD, "Smash Record." Lead singer and songwriter Ralph Covert, who also performs children's music under the moniker "Ralph's World," once again has proven that he has not lost a step in making music that is appealing to adults as well.

Charging out of the gate with "Big E Chord," the CD is 42 minutes of pure power pop bliss. The album will appeal to anyone who can admire smart songwriting.

The Bad Examples will perform songs from the new album and others from its 24-year-career when it plays at 9 p.m. tonight, April 29, at FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn.

There is a $12 cover charge. More information is at

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Iconic band Hot Tuna releases new studio album after 20-year wait


Iconic band Hot Tuna does not feel pressured to churn out a new album every year.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that it took 20 years for the band, lead by Jefferson Airplane founding members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen, to release a new studio album. "Steady As She Goes" was released in April on Red House Records.

Kaukonen will perform solo May 7 at the S.P.A.C.E., 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston,

The show starts at 10 p.m., and tickets are $25, available at

I had the chance to talk to Kaukonen about the new album and his various other activities.

Q - You are busier than ever these days. Probably a lot of people have been wondering what took the band so long to release a new album.

That's the obvious question. I guess the moment really wasn't right. I started talking to my friend, Eric Peltoniemi, president of Red House Records, about a Hot Tuna record, and he was really excited about it.

We had some new guys in the band, the drummer, Skoota Warner and mandolin player Barry Mitterhoff, and it just seemed right. We got Larry Campbell to produce it for us. It was like a perfect storm for making a record.

Q - And of course you recorded the album in Levon Helm's studio. Was it a good vibe in there?

Oh, absolutely. I live in a very rural part of the country. Woodstock is not quite as rural as where I live, but it is definitely country. Levon's place is in the middle of a pine forest. It was very cool.

Q - You've played with Jack Casady for more than 50 years. What makes the relationship work?

I think what makes it work is the fact that even when we were kids - we have played together since Jack was in junior high school, he's a little bit younger than me - we've always respected each other as artists and men.

I think that's always carried us through everything.

Q - How does the collaboration work? Do you both toss out ideas and rummage through them?

Pretty much. What happens is that Jack brings an idea to me, or I bring an idea to him, and we start playing around with it, and then we see where it goes.

Q - How long did it take for Hot Tuna to write the songs for this album?

Well, it's sort of different for different songs. "Smokerise Journey," the song that Jack and Larry wrote the music to, they did the music in an afternoon. The next morning, before breakfast, I wrote the words.

That doesn't always work like that. I'm not recommending that as a way to write songs. Sometimes I just sort of digest things.

My metaphor is that it's kind of like following the rabbit down the hole. If you see him go down the hole and you don't jump in to follow him, you will never see where he's going.

So as soon as you get an idea, as soon as something pricks your creative curiosity, you really have to jump on it immediately.

Q - I know you are going to be solo at the May 7 show. Are you going to be playing songs from this album?

I will. Obviously not the songs that require a rock band, but there are a number of songs that I wrote solo and that I will be able to play solo.

Q - Do you need that as a musician, to sometimes play solo and with a band as well?

I think it is better for me. I'm a really lucky guy, because I can do that. I grew up playing by myself.

It makes me appreciate each one of those moments perfectly. I love playing with other people, because when you play with other people, there's no question that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

But every now and then, it's just nice to sit back and play the song yourself.

Q - Do you see yourself as an icon?

Of course not. I see myself as a guy who has been very fortunate.

I have had a lot of longevity in the music business for whatever reason. Us older guys are just trying to do the same thing as the younger guys are doing, and that's to be creative and to be heard.

Q - Who are your biggest inspirations?

There are so many of them. To go back to when I was a folkie, obviously Reverend Gary Davis was huge. There were some people that I knew that are not well known but they were there, like this guy Ian Buchanan in New York in the late '50s and early '60s.

He really never got outside of the area much, but he really taught me so much. You probably don't hear it in my music, but Joan Baez certainly inspired me along the way.

Having grown up in the '50s, so many of those classic real rock 'n' roll acts of the time inspired me, guys like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, all those classic Chicago guys.

Chuck Berry. How can you be in my line of work and not pay homage to Chuck Berry? He wrote the poetry of my youth. I don't know if he personally realizes how important he was to so many of us.

Q - Speaking of that, the music business has changed so much since you got into it. Do you think it is harder or easier to make music these days?

Well, that's a good question. When I came up in the business, you needed a record deal to record because you couldn't do it yourself.

Now of course, anybody with a computer and a little bit of computer literacy can make a great project.

So back in my day, in order to be heard, you needed to have some big company say they believe in you and to put up money.

However, once you did that, they kind of took care of the publicity and distribution and stuff. Once you did that, you were kind of guaranteed to be heard, at least for 15 minutes.

Today's artists are a lot freer than we were, because they can make stuff on their own, they are not beholden to corporate entities.

But once they do it, it is a little bit harder to break out on a national level. But in another way, because of the way the Internet is, you don't know what's going to happen. It could go viral, and all of sudden, people in Zimbabwe heard your song.

So anyway, it goes both ways. And of course none of us really know what's going to happen with all this stuff.

Q - But have you tried to embrace technology?

On a minor level. All my stuff is downloadable, our Hot Tuna live shows are available on iTunes, all our records are downloadable. And that's pretty much as far as we've gone.

Q - You and your wife started The Fur Peace Ranch in 1989. Has it met your vision?

It's vastly exceeded our vision. We are able to do what we wanted to do in the beginning, which is to provide a musical community for like-minded spirits, to play and to listen in an unintimidating atmosphere.

And it's more than exceeded those expectations. We're not a large business, and we want to keep it that way. And then when I'm working at the ranch, I get to go home every night, which is nice too.

Q - Do you see Jefferson Airplane ever reuniting again?

No. The main reason is that we have all sort of gone off in different directions. But the real reason hinges on Grace Slick.

Grace doesn't sing anymore. And without Grace, there is no possible way to have a Jefferson Airplane band.

Q - You've worked with so many different people over the years. Any dream collaborations?

Well, I just had a dream collaboration with Larry Campbell twice. And we're getting ready to do four shows, and he's going to be in the band for those shows.

I would love to do something with Eric Clapton someday. I have so much respect for him as an artist. That would be really cool.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Eminem, Coldplay, Foo Fighters top the bill at this year's Lollapalooza festival

Eminem, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Muse, Cee Lo Green, The Cars, Ween and My Morning Jacket are among the more than 130 artists that will perform at this year's Lollapalooza, Aug. 5 to 7 at Grant Park in Chicago.

The lineup was announced today. For the full lineup and more information, go to
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Musician Marcia Ball will bring her rollicking piano to Chicago next month


At 62 years young, Texas-born, Louisiana-raised songwriter Marcia Ball still has some stories to spin about life on the road.

Ball does so in rollicking fashion on "Roadside Attractions," released on March 29 on Chicago-based Alligator Records.

"Roadside Attractions" is Ball's 15th solo record, and her fifth on Alligator Records. The four-time Grammy nominated artist will perform May 13 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

She will perform two shows at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. The Sanctified Grumblers also is on the bill.

Tickets are $22, available at

The critically acclaimed musician was inducted in the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame last year, joining such legends as Janis Joplin, ZZ Top and Edgar and Johnny Winter.

She has a deep love for the Gulf Coast, and last year joined other musicians in performing at a benefit for the Gulf Coast in the wake of the BP oil spill.

I had the chance to talk to Ball about the album and how she continues to be inspired.

Q - Your new album debuted at #5 on the Billboard's blues charts and was the #1 most added record on Americana radio. Are you surprised the album is doing so well?

Well, I'm thrilled. You never know. But I'll tell you what I do have on my side. I have Alligator Records on my side, and I know they are doing a great job.

Q - I believe this is your fifth album for Alligator Records, and your 15th solo record. One thing that separates "Roadside Attractions" from your other efforts is that you wrote or co-wrote every song on the CD, the first time you had ever done that. Was that one of your goals for the album?

Yeah it was, actually. I just started writing. The album's producer, Gary Nicholson, is a relentless writer. He just loves to write.

We had written some songs together, and he had listened to the songs that I had. And before you know it, we had a record full of material and then some.

Q - How did the collaboration happen?

Well, I've known Gary for a long time. We go on the Delbert (McClinton) Cruise together every year. I love him as a songwriter. He is inspiring and interesting, and we just started talking about it.

We've written together before, too. It just seemed right that we should do this.

Q - What other goals did you have for the album?

The bottom line is that I'm glad to get out there with a record full of material that we enjoyed playing and that people are apparently enjoying hearing. That is gratifying.

Q - I understand that you view "Roadside Attractions" as a series of stories.

It's pretty autobiographical. The songs might not be totally true, but it could have happened like that.

That's what writing is. It's just somebody's version of the truth. So I guess the album is my version of the truth.

Q - Would you say that it is your most personal album to date?

Well, yes. What concerns me is when you start talking about doing a biographical/autobiographical personal sort of album, how much and how long can you mine this same load of material?

I've been talking about growing up in a small town in Louisiana for a long time. The first record I wrote a lot of my songs on was "Gatorhythms," and it has some people's favorite songs, like "La Ti Da" and "The Power of Love."

You have to really come up with another way of saying some of this stuff, I guess. Or you have to write about a universal truth, something that is larger than your neighborhood, something about your neighborhood that is more universal.

And the great writers can do that. You don't want to write the same story over and over again. You want to draw people into your world.

And then there are the issues that we all deal with. A song on the album called "This Used To Be Paradise," has its relation to the BP oil spill and beyond.

Q - But "Roadside Attractions" ends on a hopeful note. Do you think the album's last song, "The Party's Still Going On," kind of summarizes where you are at these days with your career?

I guess so. That's kind of true too. You can look at me and say, "Lord, how long has she been doing this?" But you know what, the party's still going on.

Q - Over the years, you've collaborated with a lot of great people. Do you have any dream collaborations?

Well, I've had some dreams come true, like working with Irma Thomas and Dr. John. I've been fortunate with that. I'd love to work with Eric Clapton.

I'd like to bring a few people back to life.

Q - Yeah, the great ones are dying off. We just lost of course Pinetop Perkins. Did people like that inspire you?

Absolutely. You know, he was living here. He came to a lot of my gigs. We'd bring him up in the middle of the set. Everybody loved it. He could still draw a crowd. I have some wonderful memories of him.

Q - What keeps you going?

I love doing this. I love going out on the road, I love playing music. I have lots of friends out there. I love this.

Q - Of course, the music business has changed a lot since you first started. Do you think it's harder or easier to make a living at it these days?

I think it's harder. There's lots more competition. Kids who are starting out are going to have a harder time than maybe I did, although it was never super easy.

Q- What advice would you give to a musician that is just starting out?

If you love it, do it. You don't have to be Sara Lee to be a good baker. You can play music and have a career and support yourself and support other people, and not necessarily be the biggest household name in the world.

You can just be good and do what you do. But you have to love it. If you don't love it, don't even do it.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Innovative musician Bootsy Collins to play one last show in Chicago in June

Famed bass player Bootsy Collins in June will perform one last show in Chicago before retiring.

On June 10, Riot Fest will bring Collins to the Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago.

After a career spanning 50 years and including stints with James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic, Bootsy’s Rubberband, Deee-lite and innumerable co-productions, Collins has made his mark on the funk music scene.

Tickets will go on sale at noon at noon Saturday – go to and to purchase.

The Amazing Kreskin to bring mind reading feats to Zanies in Vernon Hills


He has amazed audiences worldwide with his incredible mind reading feats, and provided the inspiration for the 2009 movie, "The Great Buck Howard."

Now mentalist, will perform three shows April 29-30 at Zanies Comedy Club, 230 Hawthorn Village Commons (Hawthorn Village Commons Plaza), Vernon Hills.

More information is available at, and tickets are available at

I had the chance to talk to the 76-year-old Kreskin about his gift for reading thoughts and how he has tried to use that gift.

Q - I understand you discovered your powers as a child.

It was in third grade. It was raining outside, so Miss Curtis, as I can vividly remember, decided to teach us a game.

She sent Jane Hamilton out of the room, and we hid in the room a bean bag. We would tell her if she was getting warmer or getting colder, depending on whether she was near the bean bag or not.

I was really disappointed, because I didn't get a chance to play. So I'm going home, and me and my brother walked over to my grandparents house. They were from Sicily and did not speak English.

So I told Joey to go upstairs and hide this penny. And then he called me.
I ended up in my uncle's bedroom. I climbed up on the chair, reached behind a curtain rod, and felt a penny. Then it dawned on us. I forgot to tell my brother to give me clues. We never spoke a word.

That was the beginning of a tremendous evolution in my life. The teachers heard about this. In show-and-tell, I attempted experiments in thought reading.

By the time I was in my teens, I was doing two-hour performances.

Q - What will you do during your show?

In one of the my shows at Zanies, I will do something that is part of my performances all over the world. I will turn my check over to a committee in the audience. I'm escorted from the theater and guarded by part of the committee, and the committee will hide my check anywhere in the entire theater.

If I fail to find my fee, I don't get paid. I tell you something, it's a hell of a way to make a living. People ask if I ever failed. I failed nine times out 6,000.

I have found it hidden in some wild areas. At a Bob Hope dinner in his honor some years ago, I shoved my hand in the stuffing. They cooked it in the stuffing of a turkey.

My work has been exciting.

Q - Was it an honor to have your life portrayed in the movie "The Great Buck Howard?"

Extraordinary. The storyline is not my life, but the things that happened on stage all happened to me because the writer (Sean McGinly) was my road manager in the 1990s. John Malkovich played me in the movie.

My life has been an adventure.

Q - Have you ever viewed this power of yours as a curse rather than a blessing?

No, I haven't. This is not something I am doing all the time. How could people be comfortable around me? Can you imagine being around me if I'm reading your thoughts all the time?

The members of the audience have to concentrate. I couldn't find my check if the committee did not concentrate. It is not something that is happening spontaneously.

Q - You recently talked about your abilities in a book about synesthesia.

It's the first time I've ever discussed this. It's a book by Maureen Seaberg called "Tasting the Universe."

They've discovered that about five percent of the population think differently when they are stimulated by a word, name, sound or picture.

Billy Joel whenever he hears music sees colors all around him. In my case, I often hear a voice talking to me. It's as clear as day in my head. It just seems to be one of those factors.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Chicago band Paper Thick Walls hypnotizing audiences with its brand of folk pop


One can't help but be drawn into the hypnotic folk pop of Chicago band Paper Thick Walls.

With the May 3 release of the group's first record, "A Thousand Novels," Paper Thick Walls,, is set to ensnare even more listeners.

The band, fronted by Kate Schell and Eric Michaels, will perform at a record release party May 6 at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Chicago.

Derek Nelson & The Musicians also is on the bill. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at

I had the chance to talk to Schell about the band and the making of "A Thousand Novels."

Q - This is your first record. What kind of goals did you have for the record?

Well, we're doing a lot of work right now. Right now, we are on tour a lot, almost every weekend. We're trying to get our album out to different markets. It would be awesome for it to get picked by a pretty cool record label. That's the final goal so far.

Q - Like an indie label?

Yeah, a cool indie label like Matador or something.

Q - When you sat down to make the record, what kind of goals did you have?

Eric and I would just get together and sit down and write music, the lyrics before the music. Almost everything we have written so far is all fiction.

Our idea was to create these really visually enhanced songs, such as in the lyric, "I saw you reading by the water." We talk about a lot of atmospheric themes.

When you talk about stuff like that, people can get involved in it better.

Q - It sounds like you were really trying to draw a picture for people through your songs.

Yeah, definitely.

Q - As far as how the album turned out, did it live up to your expectations?

Yeah. A lot of the stories are different, yet all similar in one way or another. They are all about love and loss, and that is sort of the idea that we had, a collaboration of different vignettes within a novel.

Q - Back in 2004, you were named VH1 Songwriter of the Year. How did you feel about getting an award like that?

I really couldn't believe that I got it. It was kind of overwhelming, but at the same time, it was really great, and just gave me a huge boost of confidence.

My songwriting style from that record has definitely changed and evolved. It is a little bit more mature.

Q - How so?

The style of my music and who I'm influenced by personally has changed vastly in the past six years. That was like piano pop.

My style now is much more folky. I'm influenced by people like Cat Power and Joanna Newsom.

Q - I'm sure you have seen your band's music labeled in different ways. How would you classify your music?

It's like folk pop or folk rock. A lot of people compare us to Arcade Fire. The band that we are into right now is The Nationals.

Q - You met Eric, I understand, when you were both attending Loyola University Chicago.

I was a music major, and he was a theater major at Loyola. Those departments are literally stacked on top of each other in the same building.

But we didn't meet each other until our last year there.

Q - Did you discover early on that your voices blended well together?

Yeah, it's really weird. We would go to each others' shows, and finally, one day, we said, "why don't we sit down and try to write some songs?"

The first song we wrote together was "A Thousand Novels."

Q - I see that Mike Hagler, who has worked with the likes of Neko Case and Wilco, was the sound engineer for "A Thousand Novels."

He's a great guy. We recorded "A Thousand Novels" in both of our apartments, mostly in Eric's. We took what we recorded, and gave it to Mike Hagler, and he just polished it up. It sounds like it was recorded in a professional studio.

Q - How did he hear about you guys?

Eric's former band, Glasko, recorded their album with Mike. We went to see Mike, and he loved our music. He loved Paper Thick Walls. It was right up his alley, with the whole Neko Case thing. And by the way, I love Neko Case.

Q - It would seem like it would be hard to recreate some of the songs live. How do you do it?

The reason why it works live with all the other sounds is because well, for one, we have Jacques Rene, who plays violin and mandolin. He recreates the sound in a brilliant way.

Eric and I play the core of the songs on piano, and he plays guitar. And it all works really well together.

Q - How do you guys see yourself fitting into the Chicago music scene? Do you think you are creating your own niche?

Yeah, I think we're doing a really good job with that now. I'm sure a lot of bands like to stick around in the city and play weekend after weekend in Chicago.

What we are doing is a little bit different. We're going on tour, and trying to test the other markets. We've gone all over the Midwest. It's really important to get out there.

Q - Do you think the Chicago music scene is still vibrant? In the '90s, the Chicago music scene was kind of the "it" scene, with acts like Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair. What do you think of the scene now?

Maybe it's not as much as it used to be, but I think it can be whatever you want it to be. I still think it is a great city for music. It's all about making a buzz wherever you can, and working your butt off.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chicago musician Cathy Richardson takes on new sound with the Macrodots


Grammy-nominated musician Cathy Richardson has done it all, from portraying Janis Joplin in the Off Broadway hit "Love, Janis," to being the current lead singer of legendary group Jefferson Starship.

Now the Elmhurst resident and Burr Ridge native has a new band, Cathy Richardson and the Macrodots, a group she formed with guitarist Zack Smith, best known for being a member of '80s group Scandal.

The Macrodots,, last year released its debut album, "The Other Side," and will perform April 30 at the InterContinental Chicago O'Hare, 5300 N. River Road, Rosemont.

Chicago band Luna Blu will open. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets start at $20, available at

I had the chance to talk to Richardson about her latest activities.

Q - You were just at the Mayne Stage in March with Jefferson Starship. How is it being on stage with somebody like Paul Kantner?

It's a trip. It's just a trip. Paul is a real life rock star. They don't make them like they used to.

He just turned 70, and God I hope I have that much spunk when I'm 70 years old. He's quite a character, and it's just a great honor and it's a great trip for me, because I was such an Airplane and Starship fan growing up.

Q - What did he see in you? What did he think you could contribute to the band?

Well, I was opening for Starship, I was singing with Big Brother and the Holding Company on a tour, like a '60s package kind of thing.

We were having great shows and getting great crowd reaction. The Janis thing is something I had been working on for a number of years. I think he saw me as a strong singer and a strong performer that got a lot of reaction from the crowd.

When Diana Mangano decided to leave the band on that tour, they asked me if I would be interested in coming on board. And I was like, "Absolutely. What are you kidding me?"

It wasn't even a dream come true, because I wouldn't have ever dreamed that I would be singing with them. It's just one of those trippy things that happens in life.

Q - And of course you have this new band, the Macrodots. Are you going to be able to do both?

Well, yeah. The Macrodots are still getting off the ground. It's sort of a situation where everybody in the band does other things. It is hard to get everybody together.

We're just getting off the ground. We don't have a record label. We are doing it ourselves. It really started as a studio project between Zack and I, and we had so many great songs and we really made what I think is a super strong record.

We just want to play live. We want to get the songs out there. It's just something we are trying to do and coordinate everybody together. It's not to a point yet where the band is demanding more of my time than Jefferson Starship.

Q - I understand Zack saw you performing "Love, Janis" in San Francisco and wanted to do something with you.

He came to the show and I guess he really liked it. He wanted to meet me after the show, and we went out afterward and we hung out a little bit, and he invited me down to his studio.

We just sort of struck up a friendship, and he was a big fan of my singing and wanted to figure out how I could become more well known. He started sending me song ideas.

We ended up writing 20 songs over the course of a few years, and then we honed in on the 11 strongest ones that we thought would make a really strong album.

Q - Were you a big fan of the band Scandal?

When I was growing up, it was all about Heart for me. Honestly, I really didn't even listen to anything else. Ann Wilson was my goddess, and nobody else could touch her.

Q - I've heard Macrodots being described as a power pop band. How would you describe the band?

I wouldn't have called it power pop, but now that we've been called that, it is an appropriate category to put us in. It's hooky, melodic, rock 'n' roll.

Q - Was it hard making the transition to doing this type of music?

No. I tend to write what I write, and when you collaborate with somebody else, obviously their thing is going to come into it.

A lot of this music is Zack, and I really like a lot of his ideas and the music that he comes up with. It was a really cool musical marriage.

For me, it has never been a preconceived thing to do a certain type of music. I just wrote what came out of me. And I've always written all different kinds of music.

To me, it's just about good songs.You could take these songs and play them with an acoustic guitar and vocals, and they'd still be good songs.

Q - The song "Kiss My Ass" off the album is a pretty intense song. Is the song directed toward critics?

It's a little bit to critics, it's a little bit political. The Religious Right has kind of gone after gay rights as their target, and it's very hypocritical, and it's a little bit about that.

There is some definite anger in there, but it's also tongue-in-cheek and it's fun. I get a kick out of that song.

Q - Do you view being gay as an obstacle?

I used to think that a lot more. Times have definitely changed. In the past 10 to 20 years, things have changed a lot. 

It's not an obstacle at all. I really don't think it's a big deal. I never wanted it to be a big deal. 

I am who I am. I don't have an agenda or a mission or a message or anything that I'm trying to use my music to get across. 

All I really want to do is sing, and entertain people. That's what I am in it for. I just didn't want it to ever be a topic of conversation.

It affects your life more psychologically. I live my life, and nobody messes with me. I don't get harassed or anything like that. It's just more in your mind, how you feel like there's a part of society that doesn't accept you and is actually against you.

I personalize it. To them, it might be a general faceless thing that they are not really thinking about, but I take it personally because I am gay and I've seen people making a political issue about it. It does hurt me emotionally.

I just want to live my life. I don't want to take anything away from anyone, and I don't think that my happiness does take anything away from anyone. I think it contributes to the betterment of the world.

How about live and let live? I think that was one of Jesus' main messages. It angers me to see people using their religion in a truly hateful way, and they don't even realize it.

Q - Earlier, we were talking about Big Brother and the Holding Company. I read that they will be at Naperville's Ribfest (along with Jefferson Starship) this summer. Are you going to be part of that?

Yeah, I think I will be part of that. That's the plan for right now. A lot of people know me for the Janis show. I love that music and I love those guys. 

I just did a show where Big Brother opened for Paul Kantner's 70th birthday show. I sang with both bands, and it was a lot of fun.

It is very demanding on my vocal chords, so it's not something I can do every day. But Naperville is very close to my stomping grounds, and it will be a lot of fun.

Q - You're part of so many different genres of music these days. Is that fun for you?

Clearly. If you look at the history of rock 'n' roll, the two iconic females of rock are Grace Slick and Janis Joplin. They are the originators, and they are the ones who influenced me either directly or indirectly by influencing the people who influenced me.

They paved the way for women in a very male-dominated genre of music.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chicago blues musician Lacy Gibson dies of heart attack, recorded on Alligator, Delmark Records

Chicago-based record label Alligator Records has announced the death of Chicago blues musician Lacy Gibson:

Famed Chicago bluesman Lacy Gibson died on April 11 as a result of a heart attack. Known for his sophisticated, jazz-influenced guitar style and robust vocals, Gibson was a musician's musician. 

He recorded three albums under his own name and appeared on scores of recordings. His rich, flashy guitar style was featured in dozens of bands, including those of Son Seals, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Billy "The Kid" Emerson, Billy Boy Arnold, Sun Ra and many others.

Born on May 1, 1936, in Salisbury, North Carolina, Gibson headed to Chicago with his family in 1949. 
He gravitated to the city's blues scene, where he met Willie Dixon, Matt "Guitar" Murphy,  Sunnyland Slim and Muddy Waters, learning directly from the masters.

By the mid-1960s, Gibson was an in-demand session player for local labels, including Chess, where he worked with Buddy Guy and sang "My Love Is Real" with Buddy on guitar. He cut two 45s for the tiny Repetto label in 1968, one of which also features Guy on guitar. His first LP, "Wishing Ring," was released on his brother-in-law Sun Ra's El Saturn label in 1971.

Gibson played in Son Seals' band for two years, and appears on Seals' "Live And Burning" album on Chicago-based Alligator Records. His opening numbers at Son's shows were always highlights, which is why Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer recruited Gibson to cut four stand-out tracks for the label's Grammy Award-nominated Living Chicago Blues series, released in 1980

In 1983 Gibson released "Switchy Titchy" on the Black Magic label. During the 1980s and throughout the 1990s he continued to perform locally around Chicago, sometimes with his own band and other times backing Billy Boy Arnold and Big Time Sarah.

Along with his wife, Gibson ran Ann's Love Nest, an after-hours club on Chicago's west side. Over the years Gibson continued to hone his craft and perform as his health allowed. He appeared at the Chicago Blues Festival in 2004, performing his signature version of "Drown In My Own Tears" to thunderous applause from the crowd.

His most recent release was 1996's "Crying For My Baby" (on Delmark Records), a first-issue of sessions originally recorded during the 1970s.

Survivors include his wife, Ann Gibson, son Erte Lacy Shaffer, daughters Coronto Shaffer, Synphia Shaffer, Verdonna Shaffer, B.B. Gibson, Tamika Gibson, 17 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

No funeral arrangements have been announced at this time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Chicago band Head Honchos shaking it up with energetic blend of rock, blues


Rocco Calipari has already made his presence known as the man behind the commanding guitar licks in Chicago band Howard and the White Boys.

Now he is taking on a new role as the frontman of the hard driving group Head Honchos, which recently released a seven-song CD. Joining him on guitar in the band is his son, Rocco Calipari Jr., who first sat in with Howard and the White Boys when he was 15.

Head Honchos,, will be playing throughout the region in the coming months, including a April 22 show at Kendall Pub, 209 S. Bridge St., Yorkville,

I had the chance to talk to Rocco about his new project.

Q - How long have you been thinking about doing this?

I've always kind of had side projects. But this one I got serious with because of my son's involvement.

Q - How did you bring him into the project? Was he wanting to be part of it?

He started playing. He started getting more serious with it, and then he went away to school. He came back, and he showed a lot of interest and wanted to play. So we decided to put a band together. And here it is.

Q - Did you ever push him to get into music?

No, not at all. If I pushed him to do anything, it was to play the bass. There's a lot of guitar players out there, and I told him that if he was a good bass player, he would work a lot more.

He played bass for a little while, but then he really wanted to play guitar. 

Q - What do you think he brings to the band?

His youth. He has a lot of the influences that I turned him onto, but then he has a lot of his own influences, guys like Buckethead.

Q - What were your ideas for Head Honchos? How did you want it to be different than Howard and the White Boys?

We have more of a rock edge. I grew up listening to more rock than I did blues, although I love the blues. Growing up, I liked everybody from the James Gang to Van Halen.

Q - On a couple of the songs I hear a ZZ Top influence.

Yeah, I'm a huge fan of them.

Q - So you really wanted to make more of a rock album than a blues album?

Yeah, rock and blues. We wanted to try and mix the two, in a way that we felt was cool. I think there are elements are both, but it is definitely leaning toward the rock.

Q - How do you think the album turned out?

I didn't really know what to expect at first. I figured it would come out sounding OK. It was just supposed to be a demo at first, to help us get jobs. As we recorded it, it felt good. I felt the end result was great, right to the point and rockin' out of the gate.

Q - Of course, it has a couple of originals along with some covers, like Albert King's "Going Down" and Wilson Pickett's "99 1/2 Won't Do." How did you go about choosing the songs?

That comes into where like I say, it started out just being a demo for jobs. We just wanted to kind of show our influences, so we took a few covers from the long list we do and some of the originals we had written at the time.

Q - Both Head Honchos and Howard and the White Boys have a full schedule these days. How do you juggle being in both bands?

I drive to this one, and then I drive to that one. I book both bands too, so I just make sure that I don't book on top of each other.

Q - Could you ever see Head Honchos opening for Howard and the White Boys?

Oh, sure. I could probably do that anytime I wanted to. I'm keeping it kind of separate right now. And I'm not opposed to it. I'm sure eventually we will. 

Q - In this project, you are the frontman. How do you feel about that role?

I like it a lot. The more I do it, the more I enjoy it. When you are the guy singing, you get to pick all the songs.  It's getting more comfortable as I do it.

Q - What should one expect at a Head Honchos show?

We're high energy. It's rock, blues, funk and soul. We kind of mix it all up. We try to cover all genres. There's a lot of interplay between the two guitars.

Q - You've played with the likes of Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Chuck Berry. Who would you say has been the biggest influence on you?

I started playing guitar because of the song, "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry. And when I finally played with Chuck Berry, to me that was the greatest thing in my life.

Q - What was it about that song that made you want to become a guitar player?

It was like one of those things, like the first time you hear rock 'n' roll or something. Just that intro and the way it went along, I just couldn't believe it. I thought it was the coolest thing I ever heard.

My parents bought me a guitar, and on the 45, I learned the song. I kept moving the needle back and forth a thousand times. To this day, it is still my favorite song.

Q - So you are really liking this project?

It is the most fulfilling thing that I have ever done, doing this with my son and playing songs that I really love, songs that I grew up with that I never played with a band before.

Q - What's next for the band? Are you going to do a full CD?

It will be all originals this time. We have more than enough songs, but we have to pick which ones we want to use. Probably in mid-summer we'll start recording.

Q - Can we expect any new material from Howard and the White Boys? Your last CD, "Made In Chicago," came out in 2006.

Howard, you know, he's a teacher. He teaches fifth grade in the Chicago public schools. Our drummer, Jim, he's married now and has little kids. 

We can't really tour and do the things we used to do. We do have new songs written, but not enough for an album.

We know we have to do that, but there is no exact date yet. But it will happen.

We've been doing it so long, we're content with the way things are right now with us anyway. We still love playing each other. It's still all good.

Q - Is Head Honchos a project that you see lasting a long time and continuing to grow?

Yeah, I hope so. I'm into the longevity thing. Howard and the White Boys, I've been with them for 17 years.

We're not trying to be famous rock stars. We're just trying to get to the point where we can make a decent buck and have fun and play cool shows and travel.

Dave Matthews to bring Caravan festival to new Chicago venue

Dave Matthews will bring a Caravan of artists July 8-10 to a new venue on Chicago's south shore of Lake Michigan.

Besides the Dave Matthews Band, other artists set to appear at the festival include Emmylou Harris, Ben Folds, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Gomez, The Jayhawks, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Flaming Lips performing "Dark Side of the Moon."

More information is available at
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Legend Jerry Lee Lewis to bring a whole lot of shakin' to Chicago in July

Jerry Lee Lewis in Credicard Hall, São Paulo, ...Image via Wikipedia

At 76 years young, living music legend Jerry Lee Lewis still commands the stage like no other.

Lewis will perform July 9 at the Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. April 9 at

Lewis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and his pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 24 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists Of All Time.

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Peter Gabriel coming back to Chicago

At long last, Peter Gabriel is returning to Chicago.

Gabriel and his New Blood Orchestra will perform June 20 at the United Center, 1901 W. Madison St., Chicago. Presale tickets go on sale Friday, and tickets will go on sale to the general public Monday.

More information is available at or

The tour is in advance of Gabriel releasing the album "New Blood" later this year in which he will reinterpret his past songs with an orchestra.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

North Coast Music Festival to return to Chicago's Union Park

The North Coast Music Festival will return to Chicago's Union Park on Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2 to Sept. 4.

Single-day passes to the eclectic festival are priced at $40, and three-day passes are $95. More information on tickets and artist lineup will be announced April 16 at