Big Llou and the Chicago Blues Band
Gave LA a Blues History Lesson
Chicago native son Big Llou Johnson looks like he hails from the same tribe as Barry White–tall robust, good-looking, keen features and possesses a voice that can mesmerize. Critics have often compared Big Llou with Barry White and Issac Hayes because of his deep heavy manly sound–sultry, sexy bass voice. While both Mr. White and Mr.Hayes were award winning composers, songwriters, arrangers and vocalists. They were categorized as R&B, soul, funk and disco while Big Llou is a Blues man tempered in the streets of Chicago.
Chi-Town, the gangster town–home of Al Capone and Mayor ‘Rich Daley’ is known for the Italian and Irish mobs’ bloody shenanigans and later Jeff Fort’s Blackstone Rangers, which he later renamed the Black P Stone Nation. In the late 60s the Black P Stone Nation grew into incredible power and made the streets of Chicago dangerous for kids like Big Lou. The Blues is all about life and Big Lou has embraced life to the fullest breathing all the deep violet-indigo hues into the songs that he exhales landing and resonating with audiences across the country.
But when he stepped on stage at the 39th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz festival closing out the summer before thousands he joined the likes master musicians who had come before him. He stepped into big shoes of those like Randy Weston, , Wah Wah Watson, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Dwight Tribble, Patrice Rushen, Phil Upchurch, Horace Tapscott, Billy Higgins, Buddy Collette, Ysaye Maria Barnwell, Karen Briggs, Ndugu Chancler, Eric Dolphy, Ray Brown, Ernie Andrews, Les McCann, Harmonica Fats, Tootie Heath, Linda Hopkins, Billy Preston, Billy Higgins, Bo Diddley, George Bohannon, Papa John Creach, James Newton, Bennie Maupin, Nellie Lutcher, amongst hundreds of others.
Big Llou stood on stage and put his foot in song and verse as he blew the curtains off the stage. But not before he gave Los Angeles a history lesson. He spoke about Blacks moving from the south to the north taking the Blues with them changing the Blues from southern influenced to touched by the north bringing with urban rhythms of the city and stories from the inner city. Then he took them to school and the gig was over! People danced in the isles, on the grass under the tent and out in the sun. It was a beautiful way to end the summer.
Big Llou & the Chicago Blues Band featuring AACM musician, composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Maia Sonjia Harper lent her mastery as a flautist and skills on the vibes to blend with the bands brand of the Blues. Her soulful approach to the Blues in an avant-garde context gives her music an earthy brand of edgy that distinguishes her from the average Blues woman touching audiences grounded in tradition. Her syncopation and nuance was in complement with Big Llou and the Chicago Blues Band making for a full Blues sound just traditional enough but current.
About the Watts Towers Festival Weekend:
The 34th Annual Watts Towers day of the Drum and the 39th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festivals continue to present the best of music, art and culture. Established as the oldest festival of it’s kind in Los Angeles presented before the backdrop of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus the festivals weekend transforms the campus into a wonderful festive landscape of cultural ambience. The music speaks for itself but the audience is testimony to the quality of the festivity. Packed, the people fold in filling spaces creating a comfortable crowd that enjoys the arts, community and food vendors. The children’s area offers art projects where children create art. The Garden Studio is a wonderful space where eco-sustainibility meets art. The galleries house exhibitions of political, social and cultural significance. The current exhibit in the Noah Purifoy Gallery is titled “50 Years and I still Can’t Breathe,” Remembering the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Watts Rebellion and Now.
For more than 50 years the arts center campus has been a pillar in the community providing cultural programming and arts classes to the community. Under the leadership of Rosie Lee Hooks, Director the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus has grown to include the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center, the Watts Tower Arts Center Garden Studio and a myriad of programs.