Monthly Archives: January 2012

Big Bill Broonzy: In the Words of Riesman and Walz

Interview with Bob Riesman

 Bob Riesman is co-editor of Chicago Folk: Images of the Sixties Music Scene: The Photographs of Raeburn Flerlage (2009). He produced and co-wrote the television documentary American Roots Music: Chicago and was a contributor to Routledge’s Encyclopedia of the Blues. I sat down with him to talk about the upcoming presentation “Big Bill Broonzy: Words and Music”.

FOB: What got you started on this book?

BOB: I was looking for a blues or folk music project. I started looking at leading figures like Leadbelly and came across Broonzy. I started listening to his recordings. What peaked my interest was reading his autobiography, Big Bill Blues (1955) and noting his storytelling abilities and creativity.

FOB: You’ve done other research on folk music. How does this compare?

BOB: I started this research a decade ago. The other folk book was an outgrowth from the Broonzy research. I worked with Ron Cohen on that one [Chicago Folk: Images of the Sixties Music Scene (2009)].

Broonzy, Win Stracke, Studs Terkel, and Ray Flerlage started the Folk Revival. “I Come For to Sing” was a folk song review that debut at Mandel Hall on the University of Chicago’s campus in 1947. Terkel moderated. The format was intriguing – Terkel would name a topic then one of the players would play a song that addressed that topic. The group was able to illustrate the range of folk music and its relevancy.

Their group played every Monday at The Blue Note, a well-known jazz club. They brought recognition to folk music as a viable commercial offering. The Gate of Horn opened in 1956. By 1957, Old Town School of Folk Music opened.

FOB: You describe Broonzy as somewhat of an enigma. Is that what drew you to him?

BOB: My admiration grew in Broonzy’s power of imagination and creativity. The song “Just A Dream”, which he played at Carnegie Hall in 1938, showed his ability to write a story or song using that imagination. His fearlessness in speaking out against racial prejudice is illustrated in “Black, Brown, and White Blues”. And the way he was often mentioned as a mentor to others, like Muddy Waters, drew me to him. Even my interview with Eric Clapton came out of Clapton’s desire for people to know of his admiration for Broonzy.

Friends of Blackstone Library present Chris Walz and Bob Riesman Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 in “Big Bill Broonzy: Words and Music”, 6-7:30pm. Blackstone Library is located at 4904 S. Lake Park Ave. Blackstone Public Library is a branch of the Chicago Public Library.

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Big Bill Broonzy: In the Words of Riesman and Walz

Interview with Chris Walz

Musician Chris Walz is the Program Manager for Bluegrass, Old Time, and Americana music and an instructor at Old Town School of Folk Music. I sat down to talk with him about his part in the upcoming presentation “Big Bill Broonzy: Words and Music”.

FOB: How did you first learn about Bill Broonzy?

CHRIS: I started with guitar in the late 70’s. I was listening to acoustic guitar on Saturday nights on NPR in upstate NY as a teenager. They played a live recording of Broonzy and Pete Seeger playing “Willie Mae”. I keep a copy of that song to this day. I was really interested in Broonzy’s style of playing which I learned how to play.

FOB: What drew you to the guitar?

CHRIS: Listening to the NPR program and hearing Broonzy, I was really interested in his style of playing. I did learn how to play his style. I also play mandolin and banjo.

FOB: How does Broonzy stand out to you in the blues and folk music arena?

CHRIS: His style of playing and singing stood out. His singing has a range and a “listenability”. He easily relates to people. He had a wonderful exchange on Stud Terkel’s radio program about what blues means. He said, ”Blues comes from an actual life.”

Broonzy was a very political writer as in his song “Just A Dream”. He was ahead of his time.

FOB: What do you think are his greatest contributions to music and society?

CHRIS: The wealth of songs he left, from the 1920’s -1957. He brought experiences to light. He put the equality message out. He was never in-your-face but he got his message across. He used his voice to bring light to issues in the way that he could. He used the platform he had [music] to bring light to issues. He was a shrewd character; he always found a way to get to where he wanted to go despite the obstacles.

His contributions to music include a full and complete sound. He used the space in his music to make a very infectious sound. You are invited to come along in Bill’s music, as if he was saving you a seat in his music. His accessibility in his music is important. When he went to Europe, he really influenced the British rockers like Eric Clapton. So the British invasion [of America] “brings” Bill with them.

FOB: What do you hope people walk away with from your presentation at Blackstone Library on Wednesday?

CHRIS: [A] desire to discover Bill and [to] do their own exploration through youtube.com, etc. [I hope] they use it as a jumping off point to spark interest.

Friends of Blackstone Library present Chris Walz and Bob Riesman Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 in “Big Bill Broonzy: Words and Music”, 6-7:30pm. Blackstone Library is located at 4904 S. Lake Park Ave. Blackstone Public Library is a branch of the Chicago Public Library.

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Big Bill Broonzy: The Music, part 2

Broonzy recorded “Hey Hey” in 1951. Listen to him and then Eric Clapton, one of many artists Broonzy influenced. This is just some of the music you may hear at Blackstone Library on Jan. 25.

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Big Bill Broonzy: Words and Music

Big Bill Broonzy – “House Rent Stomp”. Just some of the music you may hear at Blackstone Library Jan. 25.

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Library Hours Reduced for 2012

Chicago Public Library has announced new hours for 2012. All branches will be closed on Mondays.

Blackstone Library hours are:

Sun & Mon: CLOSED
Tues & Thurs: 10am – 6pm
Wed: 12 – 8pm
Fri & Sat: 9am – 5pm

Staggered hours which began in 2010 will continue at all branches. Visit www.chipublib.org to view hours of operation of other branches. These hours will remain in force until further notice.

Also, due to reductions in staff, toddler and preschool story times at Blackstone are cancelled until further notice.

The regional libraries, Sulzer on the north side, and Woodson on the south side, along with Harold Washington Library downtown, will continue to be open 9am -9pm, Monday – Thursday; 9am – 5pm, Friday and Saturday; 1pm – 5pm, Sunday.

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Big Bill Broonzy: Words and Music

Big Bill Broonzy: Words and Music

Author Bob Riesman (I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy) and guitarist/singer Chris Walz present the life and music of this artistic giant. Enjoy live and recorded music, commentaries and anecdotes, as we explore Broonzy’s influence on blues greats like Muddy Waters and the rise of the folk music scene in Chicago. Listen to the power of his words and music to spark social change.

on

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 6-7:30 p.m.

 Admission is FREE

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