PUBLISHED IN THE KITCHENER-WATERLOO RECORD ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 01, 1997 to advance a concert at Mrs. Robinson's in Kitchener on April 02.

 

HAIL TO THE CHIEF

By Nick Krewen

 

 

Hail to the Chief!

EDDY "THE CHIEF" CLEARWATER has been spreading the gospel of the West Side Chicago blues for over 40 years and through a dozen albums, and feels he's improving by the minute.

"The blues is like a good ol' antique," declared Eddy Harrington, A.K.A. Clearwater, 63, with a chuckle yesterday from The Windy City.

"The older it gets, the more valuable it becomes. Like MUDDY WATERS in his later years. He was in really good shape!"

Clearwater's value is clearly on the rise, considering he's competing for a coveted W.C. Handy Award for Blues Song Of The Year for "Don't Take My Blues" off his latest Bullseye/Rounder album, Mean Case Of The Blues.

The awards are to be handed out April 30 in Memphis.

"It's a high honor to be nominated," says Clearwater, who was born EDDIE HARRINGTON in Macon, Mississippi. "I feel very good about it. I had no idea I was even being considered."

One of the ironies is that Clearwater will be pitted against his late friend LUTHER ALLISON, who died suddenly last August of cancer.

"That was a shock," says Clearwater. "One moment I heard he was sick, and the next thing I heard he was in a real bad way. It happened so fast. But as long as I'm alive I will carry on his name. Just about every place I appear I mention the name of Luther Allison."

Although he's renown as a Chicago blues ambassador, Clearwater didn't relocate to Oprahland until he was in his mid-teens, after a stint of playing gospel and backing up THE FIVE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA in Birmingham.

Clearwater agrees that his gospel background was essential in giving him an edge when it came to play the blues.

"Blues and gospel are closely related," recalls Clearwater. "They're both musics about feelings. The first time I heard the blues I was working in the cotton fields of Mississippi. I used to hear my uncle sing songs like `Catfish Blues.' He'd be singing it while we were working in the fields, and it stuck with me."

Because he was too young to get into the clubs, Clearwater says he didn't get the opportunity to play the blues until he got to Chicago.

"I had it in my head to do it all the time," he confirms, striking up a mentor-student friendship with guitarist MAGIC SAM MAGHETT -- who died in 1991 -- and another late great bluesman, FREDDIE KING.

And yes, Clearwater still wears that Native headdress on stage given to him by a friend back in 1980.

"It's sort of a good luck charm," Clearwater said yesterday. "A friend of mine had it in her living room, and I really liked it. I asked her if I could buy it, but she just gave it to me on the condition that I'd never part with it. When I did The Chief  album I wore the headdress and rode a horse.

"But I'm still wearing it. When I come to Kitchener, it'll be on my head."

Clearwater says that the headdress is so popular in Europe that it's written into his contract as one of the conditions of his performance.

Eddy Clearwater says he hopes to rekindle a couple of friendships when he plays here tomorrow (Thursday) night, with former Pop The Gator club owner GLENN SMITH and legendary guitarist MEL BROWN.

"Glenn is a barrel of laughs," says Clearwater, who'll record a new album with guitarist DUKE ROBILLARD as his producer in May. "He was the first person who brought me to Kitchener. And Mel Smith, if he's reading this. It would be a pleasure to bring him onstage for a little jamming!"

 

-30-

DISCOGRAPHY

1976 -- 001. -- Black Night

1977 -- 002. -- I Don't Give a Damn if Whites Buy It

1978 -- 003. -- Live At Kingston Mines

1979 -- 004. -- 2 x 9  -- Charly

1980 -- 005. -- The Chief

1980 -- 006. -- Eddy Clearwater & Carey Bell

1989 -- 007. -- Flimdoozie

1990 -- 008. -- Blues Hangout

1991 -- 009. -- A Real Good Time Live

1992 -- 010. -- Help Yourself -- Blind Pig

1992 -- 011. -- Fan Club

1997 -- 012. -- Boogie My Blues Away -- Delmark

1997 -- 013. -- Mean Case Of The Blues -- Bullseye

1998 -- 014. -- Cool Blues Walk

 

AS COLLABORATOR

1990 -- Various Artists, Chicago Blues Session Vol. 23 -- Wolf

1992 -- Various Artists, Evidence Blues Sampler -- Evidence

1996 -- Various Artists, Sweet Home Blue Chicago -- Blue Chicago

1997 -- Various Artists, New Blues Hits - Bullseye Blues

1997 -- Various Artists, Essential Chicago Blues -- House Of Blues

FAST FACTS

 

THANKS: PHILIP BAST

 

©1997, 1999 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink

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