John Primer | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Music » Critic's Choice

John Primer


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe



Guitarist John Primer's list of musical influences reads like a Who's Who of postwar Chicago blues: he cut his teeth at Theresa's under the tutelage of Sammy Lawhorn, one of the finest fretmen the Memphis-Chicago blues connection ever produced; he played in Muddy Waters's last touring band; and since the early 80s he's provided an anchor for Magic Slim's house-rocking ebullience. From Lawhorn he inherited a lithe mellifluousness and sophisticated taste and restraint; from Muddy a keening slide technique and a feel for traditional blues expression; from Slim a treble-intense solo style and a flamboyance modern audiences demand. To this mix Primer brings his own improvisational imagination and impish sense of humor. Yet for all his talent he often seems strangely restrained, as if hesitant to test his limits and succeed--or fail--at meeting the standards set by his mentors. Nonetheless, few contemporary bluesmen can match him for repertoire or chops, and the atmosphere at his shows is always charged with the possibility that he'll finally dare to realize the greatness predicted for years. Friday, 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 427-0333 or 427-1190. Primer will give a free performance Friday, 5 PM, Chicago Music Mart, Crow's Nest Music, 333 S. State; 341-9196. DAVID WHITEIS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Paul Natkin.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →