Chess records icon Bobby Rush takes part in Chi-Town Blues Fest

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Bobby Rush | NWI Times | tc047

“I been playin’ the blues for a long time now. I started playin’ the blues in the early 1950s,” said Bobby Rush, a performer on the Star Plaza all-star bill and one of the cornerstones of the vintage Chess Records sound in Chicago. Rush is one of last living musicians who recorded for the groundbreaking Chess label, the musical home to the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and others.

Rush came to Chicago by way of Arkansas and Mississippi in the 1950s for three reasons. He had family in the city, he was looking for work and he wanted to play the blues in the same town where Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Willie Dixon were playing it. “I got here and I couldn’t believe I could actually make some money doing something I would have done for free,” he said. “I got paid to play the blues. There was nothing better than that for me.”

As part of the Chess Records dynasty, Rush has many stories to share with his fans. Ones he shared during his chat with The Times included how he picked up a young singer named Etta James when she came to Chicago and drove her to the Chess offices to meet owners Leonard and Phil Chess and begin her career. He also told how Freddy King and Luther Allison were both guitar players in his early band, how he and King came to accidentally “steal” a song from iconic Chicago bluesman Magic Sam for King Records. Then there are stories about Elmore James, Pinetop Perkins and other giants of the blues’ old-guard.

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