Eddy Clearwater

dukeofthediscs@hotmail.com - Posted October 26, 2003

           Once dismissed by purists as a Chuck Berry imitator (and an accurate one at that), tall, lean, and lanky Chicago southpaw Eddy Clearwater is now recognized as a prime progenitor of West Side-style blues guitar. That's not to say he won't liven up a gig with a little duck-walking or a frat party rendition of "Shout"; after all, Clearwater brings a wide array of influences to the party. Gospel, country, '50s rock, and deep-down blues are all incorporated into his slashing guitar attack. But when he puts his mind to it, "The Chief" (a nickname accrued from his penchant for donning Native American headdresses on-stage) is one of the Windy City's finest bluesmen. Eddy Harrington split Birmingham, AL, for Chicago in 1950, initially billing himself on the city's South and West sides as Guitar Eddy. His uncle, Rev. Houston H. Harrington, handed his nephew his initial recording opportunity; the good reverend operated a small label, Atomic-H. Eddy made the most of it, laying down a shimmering minor-key instrumental, "A-Minor Cha Cha," and the Berry-derived "Hillbilly Blues" (both on Delmark's Chicago Ain't Nothin' but a Blues Band anthology).
           Drummer Jump Jackson invented Eddy's stage moniker as a takeoff on the name of Muddy Waters. As Clear Waters, he waxed another terrific Berry knock-off, "Cool Water," for Jackson's LaSalle logo. By the time he journeyed to Cincinnati in 1961 to cut the glorious auto rocker "I Was Gone," a joyous "A Real Good Time," and the timely "Twist Like This" for Federal Records producer Sonny Thompson, he was officially Eddy Clearwater. Things were sparse for quite a while after that; Clearwater occasionally secured a live gig dishing out rock and country ditties when blues jobs dried up.
           But Rooster Blues' 1980 release of The Chief, an extraordinarily strong album by any standards, announced to the world that Eddy Clearwater's ascendancy to Chicago blues stardom was officially underway. Two encores for Rooster Blues, a set for Blind Pig (1992's Help Yourself), and Mean Case of the Blues, released in 1996 on his reactivated Cleartone Records, along with consistently exciting live performances, cemented Clearwater's reputation. He became known as a masterful blues showman whose principal goal is to provide his fans with a real good time. Cool Blues Walk followed in 1998, followed by Chicago Daily Blues the next year, and Reservation Blues in mid-2000.
1979 - Black Night [live] MCM
1980 - The Chief Rooster Blues
1981 - Two Times Nine New Rose
1986 - Flimdoozie Rooster Blues
1989 - Blues Hang Out Evidence
1990 - Real Good Time: Live! Rooster Blues
1992 - Help Yourself Blind Pig
1992 - Live at the Kingston Mines, Chicago, 1978 ROIR
1995 - Boogie My Blues Away Delmark
1996 - Mean Case of the Blues Bullseye Blues
1998 - Cool Blues Walk Bullseye Blues
1999 - Chicago Daily Blues Wolf
2000 - Reservation Blues Bullseye Blues
2003 - Rock 'N' Roll City Rounder

Chicago Blues Session, Vol. 23 [live] Wolf
At first glace the association seems unusual, but Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater's roots rock and blues backed by Los Straitjackets' twangy surf, results in a potent combination. Other than the participant's colorful choice of headgear, this joint venture urges Clearwater to his most rocking and uninhibited studio performances, while expanding his stylistic boundaries. Never a straight bluesman, the Chief's Chuck Berry tendencies are well established. But even though he tosses off another in a long line of Berry-esque rockers with a "Johnny B. Goode" heavy "Hillbilly Blues," this album explores his non-blues roots more thoroughly. The opening cover of "You're Humbuggin' Me" kicks things off with a blast of 50s Little Richard abandon. Elsewhere he moves into spaghetti Western, reverbed instrumental/rockabilly waters- no doubt provoked by the Straitjackets- on "Monkey Paw." Clearwater also tosses in a few Ray Charles' styled, R&B 50s nuggets in "I Love You" and "Before This the Song is Over," both originals that sounds like authentic lost gems due partially to Dennis Taylor's tough tenor sax. New Orleans rhythms rule on Clearwater's cover of Fats Dominos' "Let the Four Winds Blow" and he hits an easygoing rockabilly vibe on "Midnight Groove," another horn and guitar driven burner. "Back Down to Earth" also mixes swamp soul with country blues in an intoxicating blend. Closing with a six minute, gospel tinged slow blues "Good Times are Coming" with only a lonely organ as accompaniment, brings Clearwater full circle and ends the album on its mellowest note. The guitarist sounds jovial and inspired throughout, trading licks with Los Straitjackets' Eddie Angel and Danny Amis and singing with an upbeat affability that makes it sound as if he's in your living room. With its diverse menu and crackling performances, Rock 'N' Roll City demonstrates that Eddy Clearwater excels at far more than his existing catalog indicates. - Hal Horowitz

1. You're Humbuggin' Me performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 2:49
2. Ding Dong Daddy performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 2:34
3. Lonesome Town performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 3:32
4. Hillbilly Blues performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 3:50
5. Monkey Paw performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 2:36
6. Back Down to Earth performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 2:52
7. Before This Song Is Over performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 4:00
8. Old Time Rocker performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 3:22
9. Midnight Groove performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 2:21
10. I Love You performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 3:36
11. Let the Four Winds Blow performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 3:25
12. Peggy Sue performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 2:48
13. Good Times Are Coming performed by Clearwater / Los Straitjackets / Straightjackets - 6:19

Eddy Clearwater - Guitar, Vocals, Soloist
George Bradfute - Banjo, Bass, Engineer, Standup Bass, Guitar (Baritone)
Steve Conn - Organ, Piano
Chris George - Tray Photo
Jimmy Lester - Drums
Dennis Taylor - Sax (Baritone), Sax (Tenor)
Danny Amis - Guitar, Soloist
Peter Curry - Bass, Engineer
Eddie Angel - Guitar, Soloist

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