Black Business and the Band: Crystal Dyer of Gone Again Travel and Tours; Valerie F. Leonard, Nonprofit Utopia; Bonni McKeown, West Side Blues blogger and keyboard player.

A letter from West Side bluesman LARRY TAYLOR:  Feb. 8, 2019

It’s Black History month and I ask for your support for myself and my fellow musicians.

Join us at my Black History Month Blue Monday show at the Water Hole, 1400 S. Western,  each Monday— February 11, 18 and 25— from 7 p.m. til midnight.  Over 21. No cover charge; 2 drink minimum.  

Each week we’ll honor Black businesses from our area. Showcasing her consulting firm, Nonprofit Utopia, was Valerie Leonard on Feb. 4.  West Side storefront travel agent Crystal Dyer will tell us about her Gone Again Travel and Tours on Feb. 11.

To survive and entertain you,  African American musicians need to be recognized and paid fairly. Most of us live in the roughest parts of the city, and we live the blues we sing about.  Rents are high, wages are low, and crooked politics puts up obstacles for Black people.  Through our history, blues music has made us feel better and helped us survive.

I have a long standing practice of paying musicians fairly. The West Side is my home and I’m honored to have you help me keep the blues traditions going here.  Tips this week will go toward more money for the Black Musicians in my band, and if enough, will allow me to hire a horn and a female singer for the final February show.

In case you don’t know me—I’ve been singing, bandleading and drumming around Chicago for over 40 years. My parents Eddie and Vera Taylor were musicians too.  My band, the Soul Blues Healers, plays our community’s favorite blues and soul music. I am the master of 5000 songs— from Howlin’ Wolf to James Brown and Johnnie Taylor. Some of them are in videos:

Blues is the root of American popular music. Now my generation, in our 60s,  are the blues masters. In the past two years, some of most talented and soulful brothers I used to play with, like Sleepy Riley and Killer Ray Allison, have passed, also famous elders, like Eddie Shaw, Eddy Clearwater and Eddie C. Campbell.  Just this week we lost one of our great West Side singers, Willie D. We want to remember them when we play, and we encourage younger musicians. At my first show Feb. 4,  Stephen J Hull, great young Milwaukee guitarist showed up. So did drummer Chris Alexander, son of bass player Dancin Perkins.

Guest entertainers are welcome on stage at our shows. It’s a West Side tradition. So are people from all sides of town, at the historic Water Hole, Chicago’s juke joint, where North and South and West Sides meet.  See you there! Blue Mondays.
                      –Larry Taylor

"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...