Mad Dog Lester Davenport | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Mad Dog Lester Davenport


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Harmonica player Lester Davenport's first big break occurred in 1956 when he joined Bo Diddley's touring band and cut a few sides with Bo on the Chess label. Despite that auspicious beginning, this master of the sweet-toned, emotionally rich Chicago harp style remained little more than a neighborhood celebrity on the west side until a few years ago when he signed on with Big Daddy Kinsey and the Kinsey Report. That job gained Davenport worldwide recognition and prepared him for his long-overdue ascension as a bandleader. Davenport's style incorporates diverse elements from the glory days of Chicago harmonica blues--the tonal eloquence of Big Walter Horton, the linear elasticity of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Little Walter's fleet melodicism--but he seasons everything with his own relaxed sense of improvisational fun. His lack of flamboyance may be what held Davenport back for so long, but with a hot new CD out on Earwig and a tight band of Chicago stalwarts backing him up, he's finally reaching the ears of listeners who've grown tired of the overwrought histrionics that characterize so much contemporary blues. Wednesday, 9:30 PM, Rosa's, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.

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

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  →