On Thursday January 31, 2013 rock/blues guitarist Tinsley Ellis and super harpist James Cotton will perform along with an all-star cast of performers for the Blues at the Crossroads II: Muddy and the Wolf show. It will be held in Downers Grove, IL at the Tivoli Theatre. Show time is 8:00 p.m. Admission is $46.00 for adults, $44.00 for seniors and $36.00 for youth. It’s a bit steep, but with the number of performers appearing, you can understand. Phone number is (630) 942-4000.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds will be the core band. The T-birds are still fronted by harp/vocalist Kim Wilson. Tinsley and James will also be joined by blues all-stars, Jody Williams and Bob Margolin.
All these artists are coming together to pay tribute to the two fathers of Chicago blues. Muddy and the Wolf were rivals for the crown of Chicago blues. The musicians will be playing blues classics such as ‘Smokestack Lightning’, ‘Spoonful’, ‘Mannish Boy’ and ‘Rolling Stone’.
James Cotton played with both Muddy and the Wolf. James met Howlin’ Wolf while a teenager and they played many juke joints together in the South. Muddy Waters walked into one of James’ regular gigs in West Memphis in 1954 and asked him to join him for a show in Memphis. He needed a harmonica player after Junior Wells abruptly quit. That association lasted twelve years.
Jody Williams met Howlin’ Wolf at Chess Records and was his first Chicago guitarist. A year later, Hubert Sumlin joined them. Both were featured on Howlin Wolf singles. In 1954 they played on ‘Evil Is Going On’ and ‘Forty Four’. In 1955, they were featured on ‘Who Will Be Next’ and ‘Come To Me Baby’.
Muddy Waters hired Bob Margolin as his guitarist in 1973. Bob performed alongside Muddy in the The Band’s ‘The Last Waltz’ film. He also recorded several albums with Muddy, including all four on Blues Sky Records that were produced by Johnny Winter. Three of those records won Grammy Awards.
Kim Wilson was born in Detroit, raised in California. He did not play with the Wolf or Muddy, but he was tutored by Muddy along with others in the 1960’s. Muddy said that Kim was the greatest harmonica player since Little Walter.
Tinsley Ellis didn’t play with either legend. He is a southern reared guitarist born in Atlanta in 1957. He has the intensity and raw power of rock combined with the blues. He was influenced more by the rock/blues influences of Cream, The Yardbirds, The Animals and The Rolling Stones. We all know who influenced those guys. B.B. King was also a huge influence after Tinsley witnessed a live performance of his.
Warm up the winter with a hot blues show. Downers Grove is only about 23 miles west of Chicago. On a good traffic day you can make it there in a half hour.