YouTube video

A West Side blues giant, Eddie Shaw, has left us. He brought his saxophone to Chicago from Arkansas in 1957, traveled the world and never stopped playing. He died Tuesday Jan. 30 at age 80, leaving the blues to his son and a whole younger generation. 


Before leading his own band beginning in the late 1970s, he played with Howlin’ Wolf and once ran the 1815 Club at Roosevelt and Wood during in the late 1970s and early 1980s, after which it became a church.  In later years he lived on the South Side.


In the Tribune on Feb. 1, music critic Howard Reich pays tribute to this great bluesman. Reich’s choice to repeat a Shaw quote from his 2011 blues series, though, is a bit curious—”You haven’t got too many clubs with the blues…You don’t find many black kids interested in the blues. They want hip-hop. I can’t blame them, because there aren’t many guys around teaching them what the blues is about.”


Glaringly, Reich’s music obituary fails to name one of the possible teachers— Eddie Shaw’s son, guitarist Vaan Shaw, who has been the bulwark of the Wolf Gang band during several years of his father’s declining health. 


Many younger blues players surrounded Shaw, including his bass playing nephew Michael “Sleepy” Riley, talented fellow saxophonist  Michael Peavey, and members of the Eddie Taylor family—drummers Larry and Tim Taylor, guitarist Eddie Taylor Jr., singer Demetria. Let’s not forget many other Chicagoland baby-boom generation musicians and singers who are inheritors of the blues—Shirley King, daughter of B.B.; Wayne Baker Brooks and Ronnie Brooks, Lonnie’s sons; Lurie and Steve Bell, sons of Carey Bell, and many more that space does not allow to list here.


So how could there be no one around to teach the blues?  


Perhaps if the city would support these talented African-American musicians by encouraging more neighborhood blues clubs and educational spaces, interested youth will be able to seek out masters to learn from. 


You can watch a video of Eddie Shaw’s last Chicago Blues Festival set, featuring Vaan Shaw and Michael Peavey, 2016, Here and above.


"Barrelhouse Bonni" McKeown, the author of "West Side Blues Blog," has played piano and written about blues music for over 15 years.  She has led classes for young and old on...