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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End Page - 2008

Most people that hit middle age have had their share of New Year's Eve experiences where they ended up like the fellow pictured above. Tonight, I will not be in this condition.

I am still in Mexico with my family (or "my ladies" as I like to call them). They are not big party/night life people. The resort is having a massive blow-out party down on the beach - they have set up a restaurant, bar, bandstand and dance floor down there. The cost is 850 peso per person - about $65. That isn't a ridiculous price tag, but I couldn't get any takers among my ladies. We are going to have a quiet evening - well, as quiet as possible since there will be hundreds of party people on the property all night.

Since I have been at leisure the past few days, I had time to read and listen to music on the iPod. I am almost finished with my 6th book. My favorite of the six was the 1990 novel by Kurt Vonnegut, "Hocus Pocus." I somehow missed this book when it was originally published. Vonnegut is in top form, weaving multiple story lines and a large cast of characters into his satirical, cynical look at late 20th Century America. Best line: "The two prime movers in the universe are time and luck." This is a thought worth pondering as we enter a new year.

On the iPod, I have gone back into my library of tunes by the two Chicago blues harmonica greats Little Walter Jacobs ("LW") and Big Walter Horton ("BW"). I could write pages on each of these musicians. Only fellow harmonica-playing geeks like me would want to read it. LW didn't invent the Chicago blues harmonica sound (John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson gets the nod on that score), but he expanded it, changed it, invented musical techniques never used before, and continues to influence anyone who picks up the tin sandwich. BW is equally awesome, but he is about tone and rhythm.

A final note - remember New Year's Eve 1999? The Y2K freak-out? What a scam. On that New Year's Eve, my wife and young children braved the snow and rode in a horse-drawn wagon through the streets of Evanston IL. We ended up at a party in a seafood restaurant, dancing with our friends and neighbors until the wee small hours to tunes spun by a DJ that we knew well - he was the adult son of our next door neighbors. Now that was a good time.

Happy 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ending the Year Feeling Warm

I thought that I was done posting blog entries for the year, but I am waiting for one of my womenfolk to finish in the shower - down time.

We have escaped to Puerto Vallarta and the weather is a complete relief after the first blasts of what looks to be a wiched Chicago winter. Everything is terrific, except we all got sick yesterday - that miserable gastritis stuff that I won't describe in detail, but you know what I mean. So we were up all night and in misery until we finally dug out a doctor on Sunday to prescibe us the meds to end the insanity. We got on the pills last night. We are better today.

My wife is a native Spanish speaker, so we do well on our trips to Mexico. My family occassionally travesl to San Luis Potosi', which is where my wife's Mexican family lives. SLP is a very large village that is still mainstream Mexican. Puerto Vallarta is a vacation mecca that feels much llke other resort areas. There are many wealthy Mexicans in our hotel, but scads of Americans and a smattering of Europeans and Canadians. It's nice, but it isn't mainstream Mexico.

Since my wife is bilingual, she ends up acting as our family "mouthpiece" and interpreter. I feel guilty about this. I should be a fluent Spanish speaker, but I can't really communicate much in Spanish - I can order food at a restaurant and know several random words. Once we get into full sentences and such, I am dead meat. I resolve every year to become conversational in Spanish. So far, I haven't done it. It will be on my 2009 resolution list (again).

Iguanas are all over this resort - they are like squirrels in Chicago. A lean and lanky specimen jumped into the kiddie pool this morning, generating quite a lot of excitement for the kiddies and horror for their parental units. Bah! It was harmless, and very entertaining. Iguanas are very good swimmers. One of the staffers fished him out with the pool net. I was sorry to see him go.

Time to leave - the shower time is over.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve/2008 Wind Down

Heh, heh....Merry Christmas. The weather has been very evil here is Chicago. We had a goodly amount of snow this month, then temps dived to 8 below, then we had more snow and temps got above freezing, turning the snow to slush. Now we are back down in the teens and the neighborhood is a vast ice skating rink. It is "survival of the fittest" weather.

I just said goodbye to my pregnant daughter and son-in-law. We had a very nice British Christmas Eve meal - roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roasted root veggies and apple pie with ice cream. I am quite full, facing a kitchen full of dirty dishes.

On December 19, the Mystery Band had its last gig of the year at C.J Arthurs in Wilmette IL. We did not fill the house - the weather was awful - but the music was magical. In the words of my guitar player, The Fret-burner, "When we make the music right, it is better than an orgasm." True words. We had to recruit a drummer at the last minute, Brian T. Brian plays with Koko Taylor; he was in the horrific auto crash that injured Koko's entire band last summer. Brian is still limping; can't put his full weight on his leg (it was severely fractured in the wreck). Brian is a monster drummer, bad leg or no bad leg. Darryl Coutts sat in on keyboards, so the Mystery Band had a lush, exciting sound. It was a great way to end our year of performances. Too bad we didn't have a couple hundred people in the audience.

This past year was very unusual. The U.S. elected an African American president - and a liberal, to boot! The credit markets locked up and the world has plunged into a "Great Recession." Like many people, I am much less wealthy than I was a year ago. But I really don't care that much - easy come, easy go, right? I am heading south for a few days to defrost and won't be back in the frozen U.S. heartland until New Years Day. So Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year. I will be back atcha in 2009.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bobby Broom Trio at Pete Miller's Steakhouse

This past Wednesday night, I was a little bored and restless. After the family dinner and kitchen clean-up, I headed out to find some music. I went to Pete Miller's Steakhouse in downtown Evanston IL. Pete Miller's is the classic expensive steak and potatoes dinner house, with a collection of fancy single malt scotches, etc. etc. This restaurant format is very popular in the U.S. The portions are huge. No wonder Americans are so chubby. But Pete Miller's has also embraced live jazz, and on Wednesdays, you can listen to the Bobby Broom Trio - NO COVER!!! This is wild - Bobby is among the finest jazz guitarists in the world - I mean, WAAAAAY up there, with George Benson and John Pizarelli. He is in the Sonny Rollins band, fercyinoutloud! And every Wednesday, he plays to a sparse house in a suburb where people are too busy stuffing their pieholes and swilling liquor to pay attention to his amazing gifts.

Bobby opened his set with a wicked, hard-swinging cover of the Beatles tune "Can't Buy Me Love;" and the music just got better from there. I didn't catch the names of his bandmates, but they were as passionate about the music as Bobby. I had to move right in front of the bandstand to hear because there were a bunch of drunken braying donkeys hanging off the bar creating a wall of noise.

Bobby Broom has an amazing life story, which is described in detail on his web site. He has been playing professionally since he was 16 years old; he spent many years playing in Dr. John's band and then he decided to settle in Chicago. We are very lucky to have this guy in our town - he is the Michael Jordan of the jazz guitar. I hope that he gets better crowds and attention at Pete Miller's than he did this past Wednesday. Get out and support the brother, people!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Liz Mandville's CD Release Show - 12/13

Liz Manville is another under-appreciated blues artist (Chicago has an endless supply of talented folks that aren't well-known outside of a small group of true blues fans). She is releasing a new CD and is having the release party in Evanston on Saturday, December 13 at Tencat Productions, which can be found at

1316 Sherman Ave
Evanston IL 60201
Liz is also a painter, and her visual art is linked to the blues life. There was a great article on Liz in the Chicago Sun Times yesterday. Here is the link.

Liz is the real deal - she has an outstanding, powerful voice and she can play that blues guitar with the best of them.

Christmas Concert - Evanston Symphony and ETHS Singers

Blues, funk, jazz and soul are the musical genres that I prefer, but I ventured into the world of light classics yesterday.

My 16-year old daughter began singing with the Evanston Township High School ("ETHS") a capella choir this fall. On Sunday, she was in her first public performance, singing Christmas carols at the Evanston Symphony's Christmas Concert at the ETHS Auditorium. The student singers entertained prior to the concert and at intermission, and they were terrific. A capella singing is not for sissies - intonation can be tough to maintain, getting voices to blend is a challenge (particularly adolescent voices). My daughter and her 30+ colleagues pulled it off. The leader of the choir, Ms. Reed, is very passionate about vocal music and her students love her.

I caught the first half of the Evanston Orchestra concert; had to split after intermission. The Evanston Orchestra is a very credible group - one of the best community orchestras I have ever heard. The musicians are all volunteers and they have day jobs (one of the trombonists is a parter in a large Chicago law firm, for example). The orchestra was established in 1945 by returning WWII veterans. As a community orchestra, it has wandered among venues in Evanston, settling into the Pick-Steiger concert hall at Northwestern for some concerts and the ETHS auditorium for others. The Evanston Orchestra does five concerts a year (including the Christmas show).

The group was all gussied up in formal attire at Sunday's show. I always thought that it was odd that classical musicians are forced to wear tuxes and formal dresses when performing. Don't these clothes constrict movement and breathing (two important activities for orchestral musicians)? In spite of their stiff attire, the orchestra sounded luxurious, laying out lush arrangements of "White Christmas," "Sleigh Ride," and a bunch of other traditional carols. The orchestra was joined by the Evanston Dance Ensemble for a medley of themes from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. The dancers were young folks - 12-18 years old, I would guess - and they were fun to watch.

I am ashamed to admit this is the first time I have heard my home-town community orchestra. It won't be the last.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

L.V. Banks in the Suburbs

A This picture of L.V. Banks by Joe of Joe's Corner (

Bill Gilmore, proprietor of Bill's Blues Bar in Evanston, IL, is fond of guitarist/vocalist L.V. Banks. The South Side bluesman hits Bill's Blues every 6 weeks or so. He was holding down the middle of the evening on this past Saturday (between the indie rock group and the reggae D.J. that came on after midnight). If you like your blues raw, unpolished, gritty and loose, L.V. is your guy. By the way, Mr. L.V. Banks is not related to the late, great Chico Banks (I checked with L.V. last night).

He is no youngster - he celebrated his 76th birthday this year. L.V. arrived in Chicago in the 1960's from Greenville, Mississippi - he is in the second generation of Delta blues artists that came to Chicago to try to make a living; about the same age as Buddy Guy and Eddy Clearwater. In L.V.'s case, stardom didn't come knocking. He has played the clubs in Chicago for over 40 years; he finally got his first record out in 1995. The second disc was released in 2000 (both were issued by Wolf Records, a European label). That is the sum total of his recorded output over four decades as far as I know. L.V.'s son, Tre' Hardiman, is one of the "young gun" blues guitarists in town - yeah, the apple don't fall far from the tree.

L.V. Banks and the Swingin' Blues Band is a casual group. They kick off their songs in a relaxed fashion and build the groove around L.V.'s stinging guitar tone and effective vocal style. Banks likes to banter with the crowd ("So what y'all want to hear next? Fast or slow blues?"). The band stuck to the Chicago blues repetoire - "Hoochie Coochie Man" was covered; so was "Rock Me Baby." An attempt to fulfill a request for an Al Green tune ("Love and Happiness) ended badly. But the band's blues was as real as it gets.

L.V. and I know each other, a little, so he called me up and I played harp and sang a couple of tunes. Mr. Banks is a gentleman and it was a joy to play with him - a very comfortable experience on a very cold night.

Anyone in Chicago that loves pure blues needs to see L.V. Banks. His music used to be played in every other tavern on the South Side in the 1950's and 1960's. Catch him before he is gone...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Services for Chico Banks (RIP)

OSee Anderson just sent me information regarding Chico Banks' services coming up on Tuesday December 9 and Wednesday, December 10.

Visitation Tuesday, December 9, 2008 4-9pm Smith & Thompson Funeral Home 5708 W. Madison, Chicago, IL 60644

December 10: 4242 W.Roosevelt Rd. United Missionary Baptist Church.
Wake: 7:00pm-8:00pm; Funeral 8:00 - 9:00pm.

It will be sad to say good bye to such a talented young man.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Mystery Band CD Preview - Part 4

I dig this picture of me with Piano Willie. It was taken backstage at the 2005 Chicago Blues Fest. Willie is an awesome old-school piano dude. I have never seen him play an electric instrument.

So I spent some time with Grant Kessler today - he is designing the packaging for the CD. Grant is a great photographer and has terrific design skills. He is also a damn fine harmonica player.

So here is the track listing for the Mystery Band CD:

1. It’s A Mystery 5:42
First Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
Second Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
2. My Dog & Me 8:08
First Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
Second Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
3. Hey Jose’ 4:32
Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
4. After Party 5:07
Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
5. I’m Tryin’ to Quit 6:03
First Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
Second Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
6. Cheat Me Fair 7:57
Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
7. How Much Longer 7:45
First Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
Second Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
8. Get Out and Walk 6:40
Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
9. All I Need Is Your Love 6:21
First Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
Second Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
10. Payin’ Taxes 7:36
Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
11. Work, Work, Work 6:38
Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer

All songs written by Chris Gillock, published by G-FreeThoughts Publishing (BMI)
Arrangements by Chris Gillock and OSee Anderson

Mystery Band CD Preview - Part 3

Here is yet another "snip" from the CD Liner Notes:


Mr. G: Harmonica, Vocals, Percussion
OSee Anderson: Guitar
Anthony Palmer:
E. G. McDaniel: Electric and Acoustic Bass
James Carter: Drums

Producer: Jim Reeves
Co-Producer: Chris Gillock

Recorded March 22, 2008 and March 29, 2008 at Reeves Audio Recording, Evanston IL (

Engineer: Jim Reeves
Mixed and Mastered by Jim Reeves
Photographs: Grant Kessler
Art Direction and Design Grant Kessler

Thank You To: My wife and partner, Consuelo Alonzo Gillock, for her love, patience and encouragement; Joe Filisko, Harmonica Virtuoso and Guru, for introducing me to the history and heroes of the Chicago blues harmonica style; Jim Reeves, genius producer/engineer, for his meticulous mixing and sage advice on various musical and technical topics; Elizabeth Gillock Blackwell, for introducing me to the Old Town School of Folk Music and for being a wonderful daughter and a fabulous singer; Ben Gillock/Amanda Gillock/Sarah Gillock, for not being too embarrassed by their crazy dad; Bill Gilmore, Proprietor of Bill’s Blues Bar, for letting the Mystery Band launch in his club; E.G. McDaniel, Anthony Palmer, OSee Anderson and James Carter, for aiding and abetting in the creation of the music on this CD; Stuart Miller and Jeff Guylay, my partners at Colonnade Advisors, for putting up with my weird hobby; Ken Zimmerman, Proprietor of the Harlem Avenue Lounge (Berwyn IL), for bringing the Mystery Band to the western suburbs of Chicago; The Morseland in Rogers Park – Chicago, for its support of the Chicago blues scene; Neil Lifton and Duke’s Bar in Rogers Park – Chicago, for keeping the tradition of musical taverns alive and well in Chicago; C.J. Arthur’s in Wilmette IL, for booking gritty blues bands in their respectable establishment; Tom Albanese, harmonica star and friend, for his encouragement and support; Shoji Naito, triple-threat bluesman (harmonica/guitar/bass) for his quiet guidance and musical excellence; AND TO ALL THE GREAT MUSICIANS THAT HAVE PLAYED IN THE MYSTERY BAND!

Anthony Palmer, E.G.McDaniel. OSee Anderson, James Carter, Twist Turner, Shoji Naito, Sammy Fender, Mike Finnerty, Harlan Terson, Mike Wheeler, Illinois Slim, Tom Holland, Steve Arvey, Carl Davis, Jon McDonald, Tom Crivellone , Mark Wydra, Andy Meacham, Felix Reyes, Dave Herrero, J.R. Wydra, Karl Meyer, Adam Kraus, Steve Hart, Tom Susala, Kevin Summers, Mike Azzi, Smokin' Joe Pratt. Rudy Kleiner, Orlando P. Condon II, Tino Cortez, Highway RickEy Trankle, Merle "the Perkolater" Perkins, Mike Linn, Tim Austin, DeWan Austin, Louis Powell, Aaron Almon, Robert Pasenko, Brian James, Barrelhouse Bonnie, Darryl Coutts, Frank Catalano and Bob Centano (Mr. Centano is the only septuagenarian baritone saxophonist/flautist to perform with the Mystery Band).

Check out the Mystery Band’s MySpace Page:

Check out the Mystery Band’s website:

Check out Mr. G’s blog:

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mystery Band CD Preview - Part 2

Here is another "snip" from the CD Liner Notes:

Here is a little info on the Mystery Bandsmen:

Mr. G, Harmonica and Vocals: Mr. G started out on the west coast in the San Francisco Bay Area. He soaked up the intense funk/soul/jazz scene out there, as a fan and as a trombonist in the horn section of various funk and jazz bands. After finishing his education in the Chicago area, Mr. G put down the trombone and began goofing around with the harmonica. He became a student of Chicago blues and found his voice as a barroom singer, songwriter and harp player. Mr. G has a day job, and he intends to keep it.

Anthony Palmer, Guitar: They call him “The Fret-Burner,” and other guitar players are awestruck when they hear him play. Born and raised on the West Side of the Chicago, Tony Palmer has supported many of the legendary blues players – Otis Rush, Lurrie Bell, Bobby Rush, Sugar Blue and many others. Tony was a member of the hard-touring Joanna Connor Band for 12 years, and then joined the Jimmy Burns Band in 2003. He provides Jimmy with virtuoso guitar support that is the backbone of the band’s sound. Tony has been a Mystery Bandsman since the first Thanksgiving night gig in 2003.

Greg “E.G.” McDaniel, Electric and Acoustic Bass: E.G. was also an original Mystery Bandsman on the Thanksgiving 2003 gig. He is Tony Palmer’s partner in the Jimmy Burns Band and one of the first-call bass players on the Chicago blues circuit. E.G. has provided the foundation for many blues notables, including Eddy Clearwater, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, Katherine Davis, Erwin Helfer and many others. E.G. was born into music – his father was the legendary Chicago blues/jazz guitarist, Floyd McDaniel, his mother was the wonderful singer/pianist Bessie Jackson McDaniel and his cousin was the late, great Bo Diddley (aka Ellas McDaniel). E.G. is a rock solid, tasteful player.

OSee Anderson, Guitar: OSee is a multi-faceted guitarist who has mastered the blues, jazz, funk and rhythm and blues. He began his professional career at age thirteen, and has performed with The Staple Singers, Al Green, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, James Cotton, Billy Branch, Albert Collins, Lonnie Brooks, John Mayall, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and many others. He has also led his own band, The Hit Squad, in the late 1980’s. OSee is also a talented songwriter, and his songs have been recorded by many artists, including James Cotton. OSee has recorded three CD’s under his own name.

James Carter, Drums: James is the youngest Mystery Bandsman on this CD. He has mad percussion skills, built over 30 years of drumming (he started when he was 6). James works with E.G. and Anthony in the Jimmy Burns Band; he also played drums for many years for his uncle, the late, great bassist/vocalist Willie Kent. James has been hotly sought after by many blues greats over the years, including Sunnyland Slim, Johnny Littlejohn, Melvin Taylor, Byther Smith and many others.

More to follow......

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mystery Band CD - A Preview

I am pushing to get this project completed. The liner notes are written; I am working with my buddy Grant Kessler on CD design and photography. I found a place that will produce 1,000 CD's in jewel cases with a four-page booklet and shrink rap for under $1,000. If I can sell all 1,000 at a decent price, I will break even (plus a little) on the project.

Here is a snip from the liner notes.....

The Mystery Band was born in a bar. Bill Gilmore, proprietor of Bill’s Blues Bar in Evanston, Illinois, had no band booked for Thanksgiving night in 2003. Being a hanger-on at the bar and an occasional blues singer/harmonica player, I offered to assemble a band for that night. It gave me an excuse to go out and work off my Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t know who would show up to play; I just started calling my favorite musicians – so we became “the Mystery Band.” Several folks attended the show that night, looking for a break from family togetherness. Thus began the Mystery Band experience.

We remain a proud bar band. But we are different than a standard bar band. The mission of the Mystery Band is to bring Chicago’s finest blues musicians together and have a ridiculously good time. Over the past 5 years, more than 45 terrific musicians have joined the Mystery Band (maybe for only one gig). We almost never rehearse – it comes together on the bandstand, sort of. But I started scribbling out a few blues songs to amuse myself, and then people started asking if they could buy our CD’s. Well, we didn’t have any product. So this CD is our effort to respond to our small group of dedicated fans. It is unusual for The Mystery Band to get organized like this – improvisation and accident are our core values. But it has been a gas to get in the studio and cut these tunes. We tried to stay true to our roots – there is very little overdubbing on this disc, and the all of the tracks were recorded in one or two takes. And we didn’t rehearse – we pulled it together at Jim Reeve’s studio in Evanston. I hope you enjoy the songs.

The supporting musicians on this disc are among the finest blues/R&B players in the world, and they are my “go-to” guys – I use them on as many gigs as possible. It is an honor to play with them.

The band loved working at Reeves Audio, run by the legendary Jim Reeves – one of the unsung heroes of the recorded music industry.

More to follow......

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Oh No, Not Chico Banks .....

We lost a giant of the blues guitar today - Chico Banks died unexpectedly and way too soon. He was only 47 years old. He is part of the "killer guitarists" in the third generation of Chicago bluesmen (first generation included Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Howlin' Wolf et al; second generation included Buddy Guy, Lonnie Brooks, Eddy Clearwater, Magic Slim et al, third generation included Melvin Taylor, Bernard Allison, Billy Branch, Chico Banks et al). Chico played the blues, he played R&B, he played funk, he played gospel and yeah, he could play rock too. Music was Chico's family business - his dad, Jessie Banks, was a fabulous guitarist that played with the great gospel group the Mighty Clouds of Joy.

Chico was also an engaging vocalist - his vocal stylings are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. He was a fine songwriter. He was a great talent that was in the process of breaking out when he died. He was loved by his fellow musicans and legions of fans around the world.

I was vaguely aware the Chico had some health problems, but I had no idea that he was seriously ill. This is a huge shock to the blues community in Chicago.

Light a candle, people.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Schwing Daddies, The Tillicum Club - Portland OR

The Chicago branch of the family traveled west last week to enjoy Thanksgiving with the Portland branch of the family. The turkey was great (smoked outside, until the rain forced a transfer to the oven). And Portland OR is a unique place - great scenary, great beer, great coffee, great pinot noir, great seafood, great cheese and great music. If there is a heaven for Mr. G, it will look a lot like Portland.

On Friday might, my brother, my nephew and I were in the mood to catch some tunes. There were plenty of opportunities that involved a fairly long drive. But there was also a place nearby that had some music going on - the Tillicum Club (known locally as the "Tilly"). We drove less than five minutes to get there. It was pretty full; the crowd was skewed toward middle age. It looks like a neighborhood sports bar, but there is a small stage and a dance floor in the club. The stage was occupied by the Schwing Daddies (pictured above). The group was a very talented quartet, covering blues standards and Motown stuff. The group usually goes with two guitars, but for this gig, they had an organ player. It was nice to hear a big Hammond B3 with the Leslie speakers in such a small space. It was clear that many of the folks at the Tilly were regulars that knew the band members well. There was no cover charge - just a tip jar. I think these are guys with day jobs, doing music for the love of it.

Playing in a sports bar for no money, taking your wages in elation - that is a common fate for musicians.