Various – Chicago Blues: featuring Muddy Waters, Johnnie Lewis, Buddy Guy, Junior Well, and J.B. Hutto
HARLEY Cokliss’s Chicago Blues filmed in 1972 was a remarkable film; remarkable in that it was not just a competent documentary but a film crafted with care by professionals with a love and understanding of music and a respect for its history and artists. The music and its artists of Chicago Blues reflect faithfully the structure of the city’s Blues activity of the late ’60s from unknown amateur to world famous stars, from house to small bar, from traditional downhome to modern city style. Thus Johnny Lewis, a housepainter who played for his own amusement at home and was almost a discovery of the film team, to Muddy Waters, Chicago Blues’ most famous figure.
Lewis’ Hobo Blues opens the film over images of the Bus Station and fixes firmly the importance of migration in the development of Chicago’s postwar Blues. But with the great bulk of migrants coming from the Delta this pure East Coast offering sits oddly with the heavy electric Mississippi sound to follow. Strictly, only Muddy and Johnny Young came from Mississippi and while they contributed to and still played in the classic Chicago style, by the ’60s the influence of Mississippi and the Delta was fading fast. The young lions of the West Side were in the ascendant and it’s the nervous, raw energy of Buddy Guy’s guitar and searing vocal that catches the positive mood of that decade. (The political mood was also captured on this film by interviews with Rev Ridick. Alderman A.A. Rayner and in a particularly telling contribution from Dick Gregory).