2018 Waukesha BluesFest Band Bios
Saturday, August 11


During the 1950s, Chicago's West Side was a breeding ground for some of the world's greatest bluesmen. Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Freddie King and others ruled the clubs. With his fierce guitar playing, soulful and emotive vocals and wild stage shows, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater easily belongs on this list. A Chicago legend, Clearwater is an intense, flamboyant blues-rocking showman. He's equally comfortable playing the deepest, most heartfelt blues or rocking, good-time party music.

Born Edward Harrington (a cousin of late harpist Carey Bell Harrington) on January 10, 1935 in Macon, Mississippi, Eddy and his family moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1948. With music from blues to gospel to country & western surrounding him from an early age, Eddy taught himself to play guitar (left-handed and upside down), and began performing with various gospel groups, including the legendary Five Blind Boys of Alabama. After moving to Chicago in 1950, Eddy stayed with an uncle and took a job as a dishwasher, saving as much as he could from his $37 a week salary. His first music jobs were with gospel groups playing in local churches. Quickly though, through his uncle's contacts, he met many of Chicago's blues stars. Eddy fell deeper under the spell of the blues, and under the wing of blues star Magic Sam, who would become one of Eddy's closest friends and teacher.

By 1953, he was making a strong name for himself, working the South and West Side bars regularly. He met and befriended everyone from Sunnyland Slim to Earl Hooker, picking up licks and lessons along the way. After hearing Chuck Berry in 1957, Eddy added that rock and roll element to his already searing blues style, creating a unique sound that defines him to this day.

With successful appearances on television, increasing radio airplay, and a steady stream of singles being released on multiple labels, including his own Cleartone, Eddy was rarely in need of a place to play. He worked the local circuit steadily throughout the 1950s, 1960s and into the 1970s, finding success among the North Side college crowd who responded to his individual brand of blues, his rock and roll spirit and his high energy stage show.

Debuting his music to an international audience, Eddy twice toured Europe during in 1970s (the first time with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells) and appeared on BBC television in England. His first full-length LP, 1980's “The Chief”, was the initial release on Chicago's Rooster Blues label. Wearing a full Indian headdress on the cover (an homage to his Cherokee blood), The Chief, as he was now known, reached the largest audience of his career. Recording numerous albums for various labels during the 1980s and 1990s, Eddy's star continued to rise. He received piles of positive press and was nominated for seven Blues Music Awards, wining “Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year” in 2001.

His 2003 CD “Rock 'N' Roll City” paired him up with the surf-rocking Mexican wrestling-masked group, Los Straitjackets. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award and earned Eddy a multitude of new fans.

Eddy’s first Alligator Records release, “West Side Strut”, was produced by Ronnie Baker Brooks, son of the late legendary bluesman Lonnie Brooks. It is an energized mix of West Side blues and old school rock injected with a tough, up-to-the-minute contemporary edge. Featuring some of Eddy's hottest playing ever recorded, the CD burns with his stinging guitar and rough-and-ready vocals. Guests include Eddy's old friends Lonnie Brooks, Jimmy Johnson, Billy Branch and Otis Clay as well as Ronnie Baker Brooks himself, playing some scintillating guitar parts. The 12 songs (including seven songs either written or co-written by Eddy) lean from straight-ahead blues and humorous rockers to plaintive, emotion-packed ballads. All are brought to vivid life by Eddy's ferocious and unflinching guitar playing, his power-packed vocals and unlimited energy, hard-earned by his years of experience.

2014’s “Soul Funky” released on the Cleartone label, was cut live at SPACE in Evanston, IL during January of 2014 with Eddy’s cooking band plus special guests Ronnie Baker Brooks and Billy Branch. The capture once again underscores why Eddy has long been hailed as one of Chicago’s top blues guitarists. Clearwater loves to perform and has graced stages everywhere from Alaska to Argentina, Rochester to Romania. One of the few octogenarians still representing Chicago blues at its finest, Eddy ‘The Chief’ Clearwater continues to strut the globe showing off his slicing guitar licks and uninhibited live show with a gumbo of rock-fueled blues, rockabilly, country and gospel, all served up by a living legend and a master of his craft.

In 2016 Eddy ‘The Chief’ Clearwater was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame as part of the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards held annually in Memphis, TN. Eddy was also inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in 2013 as a Master Blues Artist.

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