Blues Blast Magazine Lifetime Achievement Awards
Blues Blast Magazine is proud to have the honor of recognizing Henry Gray, Barrelhouse Chuck and Bruce Gluer with our Lifetime Achievement Award. Our Lifetime Achievement Awards recognize an individual's lifetime of contribution to blues music.
Henry Gray and Bruce Gluer will receive their awards at the Blues Blast Music Awards Ceremonies on September 23rd at the Fluid Events Center in Champaign, Illinois.
Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient - Henry Gray
Henry Gray is one of the last standing artists linking the rural blues of the Deep South with the electric blues of Chicago.
The 91-year-old Gray was born in the small town of Kenner, Louisiana in 1925, but it was in Chicago where he left an indelible mark on the modern blues. He started playing the piano at the age of eight and was already under the spell of blues music at that point.
As a teen, Gray played in the Baton Rouge area with several different combos, sharpening his skills with bigger and better things on his mind. He got his first taste of Chicago on a brief trip up north in 1939. In 1943, with World War II in full rage, he was drafted to the South Pacific and served in the tropics until discharged in 1946.
Soon Gray gravitated back to Chicago, a town he would call home for the next two-plus decades. Guitarists Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red was a couple of Gray's initial contacts in Chicago and he struck up a friendship with legendary piano player - Sunnyland Slim.
Sunnyland introduced Gray to one of the most renowned pianist in Chicago in the late 1940s - Big Maceo Merriweather. After meeting Merriweather, Gray's style changed considerably and his left-hand technique improved immensely. Merriweather and Gray become inseparable friends and after Big Maceo was sidelined with a stroke, rendering his left hand useless; Gray didn't hesitate to help out on the bandstand. He simply played the left side of the piano, while Merriweather played the right.
In the early 1950s, Gray backed up Jimmy Rogers at Chess Records, cutting "Out On The Road Again" and '"The Last Time." He befriended harmonica ace Little Walter Jacobs (who like Gray, was born in Louisiana), and soon they were playing the blues together all around Chicagoland. Chess Records was the preeminent blues label in Chicago - if not the world - in the mid-50s. Gary became Leonard Chess' go-to piano player for the label's impressive roster of blues artists. The Red Devil Trio (Little Hudson Showers - guitar; James Bannister - drums; Gray - piano) was Gray's steady performing outfit at the time, but he found the time to work with Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam and Howlin' Wolf, as well.
It was Gray's association with Wolf that turned out to be the longest tenure, with the two playing periodically from 1956 until 1968. Gray was a key part of what many consider to be the Wolf's penultimate group, along with guitarist Hubert Sumlin and drummer SP Leary. While he was still in the Wolf's employ, Gray also managed to often work with other artists around Chicago including slide guitar king Elmore James. In the late 1960s, tired of life on the road with Howlin' Wolf, Gray headed back down south to the familiar confines of Baton Rouge.
Back home, Gray hooked up with Slim Harpo and played with him until his death in early 1970. In 1977, Gray recorded his very first solo album, They Call Me Little Henry in Germany on the Blue Beat label. In the late 1980s, Gray's career as a bluesman picked up a second head of steam, when he cut Lucky Man - his first solo album released in the United States on Blind Pig Records.
In the early '90s, Gray met harmonica player, producer and club owner Bob Corritore. The pair struck up a fast friendship and beautiful working relationship that remains strong to this day.
Corritore and Gray's latest release - Blues Won't Let Me Take My Rest - is nominated in the Historical or Vintage Recording category in the 2016 Blues Blast Awards. (Both Henry and Bob are performing at the awards this year!)
So, just how revered is Henry Gray and his piano playing? Well, in 1998 Gray was invited to fly over to Paris and play at Rolling Stones' singer Mick Jagger's birthday party. Gray played piano, while Jagger strapped on a guitar and blew the harp on a few choice songs.
Unfortunately, a lot of Gray's peers and fellow piano players from the golden age of the Chicago blues - Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, Sunnyland Slim and Big Maceo - are no longer with us. Henry is as vital a part of the blues scene today as he was back in 1956.
In recognition of his individual style and vibrant career spanning eight decades, Blues Blast Magazine is proud to present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Henry Gray.
Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient - Barrelhouse Chuck
Harvey Charles Goering - better known in the blues world as Barrelhouse Chuck - is being honored for his lifetime service to all things blues related for the past five decades.
There are those who currently play - and have played - Chicago piano blues, but few have lived it, breathed it, tasted it, experienced it and flat-out loved it like Chuck has. He rubbed elbows with Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Lafayette Leake, Willie Dixon, Big Walter Horton and Jay McShann, to name just a few. He's shared the stage with luminaries and Rock-N-Roll Hall of Famers like Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Billy Gibbons, to name just a few. He also calls James Cotton, Kim Wilson, Little Joe Berson, Billy Flynn and Erwin Helfer friends. He regularly finds his name on the roll call of nominees for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year Award at the annual Blues Music Awards.
Chuck learned his craft first-hand by spending countless nights hanging out in the smallest of clubs in Chicago to watch and learn up close and personal. Chuck's integration came from watching the hands and the fingers of the masters - cats like Pinetop, Detroit Junior, Sunnyland Slim and Little Brother Montgomery - up on the bandstand, stealing every little lick that he possibly could.
But one of the things that set Chuck apart from many of his peers - his incredibly-active left hand aside - was the manner he treated and interacted with the legends he learned from. Big Moose, Blind John Davis, Detroit Junior and Little Brother were more than just mentors to Chuck; they became his close friends. So in close, in fact, that they morphed into devoted members of Chuck's extended family.
They talked, laughed, swapped stories and reminisced, sometimes all night long, purely because they enjoyed each other's company. His ability to tickle the ivories with the best of them is just one small part of the reason that Chuck has been a vital and integral part of the Chicago blues scene since the 1970s. Almost as important to him as playing the blues is making sure that the forefathers of the genre are never forgotten.
In addition to being something akin to a walking Encyclopedia Britannica, with an amazing recall of dates, people and events, Chuck also has quite a physical collection of the history of the blues – a veritable blues museum full of exquisite memorabilia. He’s got the electric Wurlitzer that Sunnyland Slim played on Maxwell Street; he’s got the microphone that Big Walter Horton blew through on Maxwell Street; he’s got Little Brother Montgomery’s PA, along with autographs, pictures, posters, articles of clothing, 78s, 45s … well, you get the picture.
For his tireless work at helping to promote the Chicago blues and his lifetime of performing music, Blues Blast Magazine is proud to present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Barrelhouse Chuck.
Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient - Bruce Gluer
As the CEO of Alligator Records for 45 years, Bruce Gluer has expanded the definition of blues.
Gluer was first bitten by the blues bug in 1966 after seeing Mississippi Fred McDowell live. Gluer agreed to guarantee the costs of concerts by Luther Allison and Howlin’ Wolf at Lawrence College in exchange for complete control of their publicity. Both shows sold out.
He co-founded Living Blues Magazine in 1970 at a time when the only English language blues magazines were Blues World and Blues Unlimited published in England.
While still a shipping clerk at Delmark Records in 1971, Gluer turned $2500 of inheritance money into his first Alligator Records release, Hound Dog Taylor and The Houserockers. He personally delivered copies to college DJs around the country planting the seed for good rockin’ boogie to became color blind among rock hounds who figured out that blues didn’t start – or end – with the Rolling Stones doing “Little Red Rooster.”
Bruce heard blues as art and later signed many other legendary artists like Johnny Winter, James Cotton, Luther Allison and Otis Rush to the Alligator label.
In 1975 he’d signed "The Queen of The Blues" Koko Taylor and released her I Got What It Takes album. The former Chess Records artist would go on to record a total of nine Alligator records, eight of which were nominated for Grammy Awards. By the time of her death in 2009, she had won 25 W. C. Handy Awards, more than any other artist.
Alligator took home its first Grammy in 1982 for Clifton Chenier’s I’m Here and cracked Billboard’s Top 200 two years later with Johnny Winter’s Guitar Slinger, a return-to-the-roots album that became the label’s 14th Grammy nomination. Gluer teamed Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland for Showdown, the 1985 Grammy winner for Best Blues Recording.
Alligator went on to become the world’s largest independent contemporary blues label. It was the first blues label to transfer from vinyl to CDs and was among the first labels to market its catalog over the internet. Today, the Alligator catalog includes almost 300 albums, 125 produced or co-produced by Gluer.
A half a century into this game, Gluer continues his uncanny ability of presenting vital new artists like Toronzo Cannon, Selwin Birchwood and Moreland & Arbuckle.
In recognition of an amazing career that has helped to elevate blues to its true place as a proud example of American culture, Blues Blast Magazine is proud to present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Bruce Gluer.
SAVE THE DATE FOR THE 33rd ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL BLUES CHALLENGE – January 31 – February 4, 2017
2016 Living Blues Awards Recipients:
The Blues Foundation extends hearty congratulations to the 2016 Living Blues Awards Recipients: