AUDITORIUM THEATRE - CHIGAGO
The work shirt era. One of Justin Kestenbaum's shots. With the Hohner Electric. Less maintenance than a Rhodes or Wurlitzer, but not much of a keyboard. Bee, Boog, Zocko & Jeff. The ever present dual showman. Somehow Bee was buried stage right instead of stage center. We went with the flow.
On this night we backed up Bo Diddley, Gary U.S. Bonds and John Lee Hooker. The MC was Dick Biondi. It was the night Chess was sold to GRT. I remember Charles and Bo in the dressing room when we found out. Reading it in a Billboard article. Somewhat stunned. "What are you going to do now Chuck?" "I don't know Bo. What are you going to do?" It was the end of an era, to coin a phrase. A significant era. The development of the rhythm & blues, backbeat rock and roll Chicago sound that was the natural evolution of Elmore James and Muddy into these two rock pioneers was over. These artists created a music that was shaped significantly by the Chess brothers both as producers and entrepreneurs. The "sound" of Charles and Bo was the natural development of Sonny Boy, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore and Muddy. Many of the same musicians backed them up. I played a session for Charles at Chess with Lafayette Leak and Phil Upchurch. Many of the old discographies list Lafayette on piano and Willie Dixon on bass. What a lineup! Charles flew me in from Detroit with the Wurlitzer. I felt a little silly setting up next to Lafayette at the grand piano. All I wanted to do was sit and listen to him play. Esmond Edwards was the so-called producer. It didn't quite work out, although the album, BACK HOME, ended up with some nice cuts on it.
Esmond was patronizing and condescending. He commented to me in the control room while Charles was doing some overdubs, that Charles was like James Brown - "the same thing over and over". This man was a fool. That's what ignorant people say about opera. It all sounds the same. Ironic that he put Charles in the same league with James, as if they both were minor players. As it turns out they are both in the same league. Classics.
After the show, leaving the theater we pulled off Michigan Avenue under the El. There was Gary hanging on to a lamp post sucking on a whiskey bottle in a brown paper bag. Images that stick.
Rod Stewart was in town that night and we got stuck on the same floor of the Lake Shore Holiday in with him and a bunch of short musicians who were great at making a lot of noise. The highlight of the evening was Justin pounding on their door and telling them "people are trying to sleep" around here. Or maybe it was Justin referring to his evening with Bo Diddler...