50 years of the independent Chicago blues label

American Masters: Buddy Guy-Blues chases the blues Another Chicago blues flagship will premiere and air Tuesday, July 27 at 9 p.m. on WTTW and wttw.com/live.

In 1971, a 23-year-old white hippie took a six-fingered bluesman with a cheap Japanese guitar and his two sidemen to a Chicago studio, making the album as simple and intimate as it could get. Has been cut. “We try to capture the music like it’s the best gig everyone has ever played,” says self-proclaimed former hippie Bruce Iglauer.

Born during a recording session in 1971, Iglauer spent 50 years trying to bottle his raw energy at the helm of blues label Alligator Records, which released later that year. Hunting dog Taylor & The House Rockers..Mayor Lori Lightfoot to commemorate the label’s 50th anniversary Declares June 18 “Alligator Records Day” to be held in Chicago and Alligator to be released Alligator Records – 50 Years of Real House Rock Music, A compilation of 58 songs from over 350 releases. The first track is, of course, by Hound Dog Taylor.

It makes sense that Iglauer regularly produces and releases an album that recreates the violent live experience of the concert. That’s why he got to know Bruce and was struck by lightning. He first heard the Mississippi blues played by Fred McDowell at the University of Chicago Folk Festival in 1966. “I thought it was the most honest music I have ever heard,” he said. -he declares. Mentionned Chicago tonight In 2019.

The meeting changed the trajectory of his life. “I was supposed to teach theater history and I was crazy about the blues,” he said. Chicago tonight.. He eventually moved to Chicago and worked for blues and jazz labels. Delmark Records He began to enter and leave the South Side and West Side Blue Scrubs frequently with Bob Koester of Delmark. He calls him a “mentor and hero”. (Koester died in May of this year at the age of 88.)

Bruce Iglauer and his first alligator artist, Hound Dog Taylor Photo: Alligator Records / Nicole Fanelli

By then, Chicago had been an electrified blues hub for decades. Musicians such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’Wolf came from the south of the city. Big move I brought the African-American blues north. In Chicago, they played electric guitar and began to experiment with distortion. It influenced the early genres of rock and roll. A band that will soon become famous like the Rolling Stones in England … And I found a home with Chess Records and Bruce Club in town.

At one of those clubs, the Florence Living Room, Iglauer encountered loud music from Hound Dog Taylor and decided he needed to record it. Koester wasn’t interested, so Iglauer decided to start his own label for $ 2,500, which he inherited from his grandfather. “When I approached Hound Dog for the recording, he had already seen me 50 times on his concert,” Iglauer recalls. “He knew who I was, he knew I love music.

“He was recording two 45s many years ago. It was in his recording career. He said I had never run a record company before and distributed to me. He expressed no concern that I was the whole company. He had no other chance, so he just said, “I’m with you, baby, I’m with you.” mentionned. And we shook hands. “

The resulting album performed well enough that Iglauer continued to run the label on his own from his apartment. He released about one record per year until the introduction of “The Queen of the Blues” in 1975. Koko Taylor recorded his first album with Alligator. This allowed the label to be nominated for the first Grammy Award and Iglauer to hire the first employee. Taylor will be a regular at the label. In 1978, Alligator signed the first non-Chicago artist, guitar hero Albert Collins. Four years later, he won the first Grammy Award for artist Zydeco Clifton Chenier. I’m here!

The label only released 22 LPs in the 1970s, but released 60 in the 1980s, with legendary New Orleans-based Professor Longhair and influential guitarist Lonnie Mack (Stevie) living The album produced by Ray Vaughan) is now included. .. In the 1980s, the best-selling record in Alligator history was also released. Strong test!, Collins, young startup Robert Cray and Texan Johnny Copeland attended the three-person guitar theater.

“It was kind of a miracle that happened in front of me,” Iglauer recalls. Strong test! Recording session. “I remember [the producer] Turn to me and say, “Is this as good as I think it is?” “

Bruce Iglauer co-starred with Koko Taylor, one of Alligator’s strongest performers. Koko Taylor was nominated for the label’s first Grammy Award Photo: Alligator Records / Mark Norberg

Iglauer has co-produced around 120 Alligator releases and directed almost everything else on the label, but has also played a variety of non-traditional roles. “When an artist is open to it, I try to be more than just a record company,” he says. “A lot of times we’re friends, and in some cases we’re good friends. Lil ed [who records with The Blues Imperials] Growing up without a father, I say he was the closest to his father. I think that’s an incredible compliment. “

The musician stayed at Iglauer’s for a few weeks and tried to clean it up. His dining room Tronzo Cannon .. “He gave a writing session and I challenged him. Give me another chord, give me another beat, or rhyme better, ”says Igrauer.

“I don’t see us as a label,” he says. “We see ourselves as family.

Canon is an example of young alligator artists, many of whom update modern blues. Teens Christone “Kingfish” Ingram Everyone but Buddy Guy is greeted as “the next blues explosion”. Cannon wrote a song about health insurance and the undocumented, Selwyn Birchwood wrote a song about police atrocities, and Shemekia Copeland sang everything from gun control to gay rights. “Part of my mission now is to launch the careers of those who drive the blues forward for the next 50 years,” Iglauer explains.

Still, all artists and alligator records need to share one thing. It’s the ability to engage listeners with immediacy and energy, just as Hound Dog Taylor first heard him play at a small club over 50 years ago. He had to save it and the lack of money and experience was terrible.


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