Mighty Joe Young | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Mighty Joe Young




Mighty Joe Young made his name in the 50s and 60s as one of Chicago's premier blues and R & B session guitarists. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, he joined Howlin' Wolf's rowdy Chicago-based aggregation in 1956. Steady work with the likes of Jimmy Rogers, Billy Boy Arnold, and Otis Rush followed, as did recording dates with Magic Sam and soul and R & B luminaries like McKinley Mitchell and Tyrone Davis. (Young's riff on Davis's "Can I Change My Mind" is one of soul's best-known signatures.) Young also recorded under his own name for labels such as Fire, Webco, and Celtex, and by the 1970s he'd become one of the most popular blues artists on the college and club circuit. Eventually his fiery precision and raw passion catapulted him to international recognition. But in 1986, at the height of his popularity, Young underwent surgery for a pinched nerve in his neck, and never fully regained his dexterity on the guitar. Undaunted, he reinvented himself as a vocalist in the contemporary soul-blues mold. The honeyed grit of his voice compensates for his somewhat limited range, and his courage in pushing past his physical setback remains a source of inspiration throughout the blues community. Saturday, 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333. DAVID WHITEIS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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