BIG CITY RHYTHM & BLUES article
Chicago Acoustic Blues is alive and well in the Home of the Blues
by Dave Katzman, June/July 2008
As the soundman at Buddy Guy’s Legends I get to see many musicians come through, and I also get to witness trends in live blues. A very grassroots trend that has been kind of underground, or better described as not mainstream, has all of a sudden become very popular and is growing quickly. The trend I speak of is acoustic blues. In this city of Chicago, we have every flavor of electric blues: South Side, West Side, Rock Blues, Jump Blues, Big Band Blues, etc. etc.etc. These are all amplified and are all an important part of Chicago’s blues diversity. But with this quickly expanding old but new genre, there is an alternative. I have the luck to be working with a wealth of different players so I felt compelled to start spreading the word about our city’s great acoustic players. This is the first in a series of articles interviewing Chicago’s acoustic blues musicians.
Diamond Jim Greene
Dave: What was your first exposure to Acoustic Blues?
Jim: I was born right here in Chicago back in the 50’s. My first exposure to it was when I lived at 63rd and Ellis. I was about 8 years old and I saw this blind guy (Arvella Gray) playing on the street. I was blown away by what he played. After that I would listen to him and other street players as often as I could. Ten years later I bought a guitar after hearing Hendrix play. I then tried to form and electric band here and there. That never quite worked out. Then in the 80’s I meet John Cephas & Phil Wiggins, John Jackson, Archie Edwards, Paul Jeremiah and Roy Bookbinder. Well, I put down the flat pick and picked up finger picks a thumb pick and a slide. I’ve been playing Acoustic Blues steady for the last 24 or 25 years.
Dave: Who were your influences?
Jim: Well, Blind Willie McTell and Blind Boy Fuller. After that John Cephas & Phil Wiggins. And I can’t leave out Son House and Robert Johnson.
Dave: What do you think about the Chicago Acoustic Blues scene?
Jim: Hey you know, I’m working. Someone asked me that question not long ago and I started to complain but it dawned me out, I’m playing at two of the best blues clubs in the country, if not the world: Buddy Guy’s Legends on a regular basis, and at the Back Porch Stage at the House of Blues. I play five to ten times a month. I can’t complain. Of course I would like to play more.
Diamond Jim Greene will be playing at the Chicago Bluesfest on June 5th on the Maxwell Street stage