Eddy Clearwater remains one of Chicago’s most energetic and celebratory bluesmen | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Eddy Clearwater remains one of Chicago’s most energetic and celebratory bluesmen

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Eddy Clearwater, also known as “the Chief,” was a pioneer in the fusion of blues and rock ’n’ roll. Born Edward Harrington in Macon, Mississippi, in 1935, he moved to Chicago in 1950. Within a few years, he was gigging around the south-side blues-club circuit and had developed a hybrid sound that had heavy Chuck Berry influences but was steeped in deep blues feeling. By 1960 or so, playing in styles already recognizable as “rock ’n’ roll” instead of just “blues,” he was appearing in predominantly white clubs on the north side and in the suburbs, often in integrated bands—one of the very first African-American artists to do so. Though his recordings from those early years are now prized by collectors, he didn’t gain wider recognition until the mid-70s, when white aficionados began to pick up on him. Clearwater has remained busy on the international circuit ever since, and his latter-day recordings—most recently, Soul Funky, released on his own Cleartone label in 2014—demonstrate that he’s lost none of his energy or musical acumen. Meanwhile, onstage—where he often wears a Native American headdress inspired, he claims, by the culture of his Cherokee grandmother, who raised him—Clearwater remains one of the most flamboyant and celebratory characters in all of blues.   v

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