Nolan Struck | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Nolan Struck's upper-register moan is one of the eeriest and most riveting sounds in contemporary soul blues: it stunned a beer-soaked crowd into silence at the 1993 Chicago Blues Festival, but it gets just the opposite reaction from the women at the chitlin'-circuit clubs he usually plays. Born Nolton Antoine in Duson, Louisiana, in 1940, Struck started out as a professional dancer. His flamboyant stagecraft caught the eye of Lonnie Brooks, who taught him to play bass and put him in his band. After Brooks brought the group to Chicago in 1959, Struck went out on his own, playing with artists like Tyrone Davis and Denise LaSalle and on sessions for the One-derful! label. He began to record as a vocalist (initially as "Little Nolan") in the late 60s; early-70s sides on ICT showcased his blend of aching vulnerability and erotic heat, and as recently as 1994 his gasping, pleading "How Do You Want Your Thrill," by Chicago-based songwriter Bob Jones, saw some action on soul-blues radio playlists in the south and midwest. Struck's most recent disc, 2000's Rollin' With Nolan (Top Star), is hampered by thin production, but there's plenty of room for his voice to work its magic: it ranges from a silken croon ("Bad Habits") to a wail of stark desperation ("Lean on Me"), his lugubrious ascents and milky slurred warbles often overwhelming the lyrics entirely and dissolving into pure sound. On the jazz-tinged "Willie Mae" he carries the voice-as-instrument idea further, his hornlike phrasing and intonation offering a tantalizing glimpse of what he might accomplish were he to explore this direction more fully. Bobby Rush headlines this show, which also features vocalists U.V. Hayes, Bobby "Slim" James, and Johnny Laws. Saturday, August 16, 9 PM, Gilbert Hall, 99th and Throop; 773-846-6471.

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  →