This gathering of Chicago blues masters-slide guitarist Johnny Littlejohn, bassist Dave Meyers, drummer Sam Lay, young harp traditionalist Harmonica Hinds--would be noteworthy anytime. The presence of lead guitarist Willie Johnson, however, elevates it to the ranks of the unmissable. Johnson is one of the architects of postwar blues guitar. He was Howlin' Wolf's original lead man in Memphis; his piercing, dangerously amplified leads and thunderous chording helped define the raucous Memphis style that evolved into the primal rock and roll of Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner. Melded with Wolf's tumultuous emotionalism, it made classics like "Moaning at Midnight" and "How Many More Years" among the most enduring and powerful in the Wolfian canon. Johnson has long been inactive; a few weeks ago, at a benefit for the late Kansas City Red, he gave what amounted to his first public performance in well over a decade. Whether his reemergence will result in a full-fledged comeback can't be predicted, but it's safe to say that a musical resurrection of this magnitude hasn't happened in Chicago for many years. Tonight and Saturday, Rosa's, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.