Johnny Sayles | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Texas-born Johnny Sayles is one of that generation of Chicago singers--including Tyrone Davis, Otis Clay, and the late McKinley Mitchell--who, during the 60s, carried on the southern soul tradition of gospel-drenched fervor while the local soul scene drifted toward light, danceable pop tunes. Sayles cut his teeth in the south with the rough-and-ready Ike Turner outfits of the late 50s, worked at Chuck Berry's nightclub in Saint Louis, and finally landed in Chicago in 1963. His early Chicago sides--"Don't Turn Your Back," "You Told a Lie," "You Did Me Wrong"--established him as a muscular shouter with a surprisingly tender way with a ballad, attributes he's carried into the present day. After those early hits Sayles found it difficult to sustain a recording career, but he's continued on as one of our town's most dependable live soul entertainers. His vocal prowess is virtually undiminished, and after all these years he's approaching the kind of elder statesman status usually reserved in Chicago for aging bluesmen. Tonight, River West, 1860 N. Elston; 276-4846.

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