Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater
Born: January 10, 1935, Macon, Mississippi
Photo credit: Francoise Digel firstname.lastname@example.org
In 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. Between his slashing left-handed guitar work, his room-filling vocals, his self-defined “rock-a-blues” style (a forceful mix of blues, rock, rockabilly, country and gospel), his boundless energy and even his signature Indian headdress, Clearwater is among the very finest practitioners of the West Side blues working today. 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. 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. 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. He recorded his first single, Hill Billy Blues, in 1958 for his uncle’s Atomic H label under the name Clear Waters. His manager at the time, drummer Jump Jackson, came up with the name as a play on Muddy Waters. Recording numerous albums for various labels during the 1980s and 1990s, Eddy’s star continued to rise. He was nominated for seven Blues Music Awards.