chicago Blues Primer
BY kid AnderSen
Currently the guitarist for Rick Estrin & the
Nightcats, Kid Andersen has recorded and
performed with Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin
Bishop, and many other blues legends.
Originally from Norway, Andersen is now based
in San Jose, California, with the immigration
status of “Alien of Extraordinary Ability.” For
more information, visit rickestrin.com.
soloing over any of his shuffles and you’ll
find traces of all this stuff.
The ensemble playing of the bands I’m
talking about was very much a team sport.
The guitar parts, harp parts, and piano
parts could often be solos in their own
right, but the players knew how to blend
together to make one sound. Therefore, the
first step is to turn;down;your;rhythm.
You may say, “Hey, I do turn my rhythm
guitar down.” No, you don’t. Not enough!
Blast your solo as loud as you want,
but keep your rhythm guitar volume to a
Fig.;2 we do the same for A. Now we have
the I and IV chords for a blues in the key of
E. For the V chord just take any of the “A”
shapes and move it up two frets. It’s magic!
Let’s start with a dirty shuffle rhythm
using our basic open E chord and an inversion of a E6/9 chord in Fig.;3. We can use
our new superpowers to simply move this
shape up to the 5th and 7th frets for the IV
and V chords, respectively.
Robert Jr. Lockwood was really the originator of most of this stuff I’m showing you.
Both Lockwood and the sadly under-doc-
• Understand the essential elements of Chicago blues.
• Learn how to properly back
up a harmonica player.
• Create “looping” phrases that
build tension in your solos.
I know how much you all like licks, but
bear in mind the words of the great American
bluesman Sonny Lane, “F**k a lick!”
to hear sound clips
of these examples.
I’m back to help you expand your blues vocabulary further, this time with some
chords, partial chords, and chord voicings
that you have to know if you’re going to
play lowdown Chicago-style blues right.
In the classic Chicago blues styles of the
’50s and ’60s, rhythm guitar and lead guitar
melded together in a unique and intricate
way. So in these examples, we’ll expand
your lead playing as well as your rhythm
chops. In the classic bands of the era, such
as the groups led by Muddy Waters, Little
Walter, and Sonny Boy Williamson II, the
harmonica was as much—or even more—of
a dominant lead instrument as the guitar.
Many bands featured two guitars, like
Robert Jr. Lockwood and Luther Tucker
with Sonny Boy, Dave and Louis Myers
with Little Walter, and Jimmy Rogers or
Pat Hare together with Muddy in his band.
Here’s what’s neat about everything I’m
about to show you: When you turn up for
your solo, all these chords and licks are
great lead tools as well. Just listen to SRV
minimum. Always keep in mind that play-
ing accompaniment too loud will not have
the effect you may think, no one will be
impressed, they’ll just want to hurt you and
for you to go away. That’s enough philoso-
phy—let’s get down to some nuts and bolts,
tricks and licks.
umented guitarist Reggie Boyd were pretty
much the most well-rounded, virtuosic, and
most knowledgeable players of the era, and
many bluesmen of the time got a lesson,
directly or indirectly, from these two guys.
Now that you have the basic chord
shapes, it’s time for some licks. I know how
much you all like licks, but bear in mind
the words of the great American bluesman
Sonny Lane, “F**k a lick!” What I choose