In 1966, Vanguard Records issued the three LP set, Chicago/The Blues/Today! To say it sent shock waves through the music world would be an understatement. While all of the artists on these recordings had previously recorded over the past ten to fifteen years, their exposure was limited mainly to black audiences who bought their singles on labels like Chess, Veejay, Duke/Peacock, or others, plus a few white kids who happened to hear their songs on the radio and became interested in the blues from there.
With the release of this set, all of these artists became exposed to a wider audience....those people who bought albums instead of singles, who were, at the time predominantly white and predominantly rock & roll fans who had heard whatever blues they had previously heard through the efforts of British performers like the Rolling Stones, John Mayall, and others, along with American artists Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield. Now, they were hearing the music from the original sources, which had to be exciting for these new blues fans.
In 1966, the blues was losing a lot of its original core audience as many black listeners were gravitating to the new sounds of soul music from Memphis, Philadelphia, Detroit, and other locales, so all of the artists on this collection suddenly found their services in demand by a whole new set of fans that they probably never expected to have. More than any other recording of it's time, Chicago/The Blues/Today! played a pivotal road in expanding the audience for blues throughout the country, and eventually the world. It's impact is still being felt nearly fifty years later.
The artists represented on Chicago/The Blues/Today! were Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, J.B. Hutto, Otis Spann, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Homesick James Williamson, Johnny Young, Johnny Shines, and Big Walter Horton. They truly did represent the music of the Windy City at that time, but most of these artists (with the possible exception of Guy, Wells, and Spann) were probably not widely known outside of their core audiences in Chicago.
|Buddy Guy & Junior Wells|
|Homesick James (far left) with Elmore James|
|Big Walter Horton|
Even though it was originally released as three separate volumes, Chicago/The Blues/Today! is now available as a three-volume package, relatively inexpensive, with improved sound, added liner notes, and some fantastic pictures taken by Charters' wife, Ann. There's also a picture of Jimi Hendrix that many might find interesting. In the picture, Hendrix is listening to records and is holding several album jackets under his arm.....one of which is Volume 3 of Chicago/The Blues/Today! If that's not a ringing endorsement for blues fans that this is an essential recording, then I don't know what is.