Chicago, Mississippi

More African Americans migrated to Chicago from Mississippi than any other state, according to Mike Rowe's 1972 book Chicago Blues.  These are the people who brought southern blues music to the big city, and added the electricity that made it world renown. Without Mississippi and its neighbors Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee, there would be no "Chicago blues."  Mississippi has chosen to document and celebrate this heritage with a "blues trail" marking the birthplaces, gravestones, and key sites of its native musicians.  Eddie Taylor and Jimmy Reed, whose stories are featured in the movie The Rhythm and the Blues, are among those honored with blues trail markers.

Eddie Taylor Sr. on PRX podcast 2014

Steve Franz on his Blues Unlimited podcast put together an outstanding PRX three part radio show of Eddie Taylor's early, middle and late recordings, including his accompanying of other legendary artists like Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Snooky Pryor, John and Grace Brim, Sunnyland Slim.  Hear the music of the era of The Rhythm and the Blues

Neighborhood Sounds of the 1960s So Good They Persist Today

Like Sweet Potatoes and Greens

What does Chicago blues and music sound like? Soulful singing. Sweet notes from guitars, keyboards, harmonicas and horns. Drum and bass rhythms that make you pat your hands and stomp your feet. This music feels down-home, like catfish, sweet potatoes and greens. Here's a tasty sample, sung by Larry Taylor, the real life West Side bluesman on whose life The Rhythm and The Blues movie is based: 

Blues, said the late Willie Dixon, one of its great composers and arrangers, is the root of America's popular music. It was created by poor and oppressed people just trying to get through the day.  

Blues and soul music still work that way in today's strange and troubled world. Blues is the everyday side of the same sounds you might hear in the Black church. Blues tells people's stories.  Blues says says we may not be perfect, or in a good situation, but we can survive and even enjoy life if we stick together.  Soul music says, We're gonna make it. 

Even subjected to slavery, Africans kept the rhythms of their native lands. On southern plantations they picked up European words, melodies and  instruments. During the Great Migration of the 20th century, thousands of African-Americans fled Jim Crow oppression, looking for a better life in areas like Chicago's West and South Side as jobs and housing opened up in the 1950s and 60s. They brought their cooking and music with them from Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana,  Alabama and many other places.  

Musicians like Jimmy Reed and Eddie Taylor (key characters in the film The Rhythm and the Blues) would meet at the outdoor market on Maxwell Street of the pivotal settings in the movie. They'd form bands and play in dozens of small clubs, up and down State Street on the South Side, and along Roosevelt and Madison and other main streets of the West Side. Only a handful of these clubs, plus a few downtown tourist clubs, remain. Today's musicians, including Eddie Taylor's son Larry Taylor and his brothers and sisters, persist. Because playing the blues is what they do.