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.