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Legendary artist brings the Blues to UIC

January 26, 2012|By Joseph Delisi, RedEye special contributor

Esteemed blues guitarist Eddie C. Campbell played at the University of Illinois Chicago's open concert Jan. 24, Tuesday's at One. The 72-year-old blues veteran jammed out in a lecture space with a house band composed of UIC students and faculty.

Campbell, raised in the Windy City, came out of Chicago's West Side blues scene, playing with legendary figures such as Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam, Willie Dixon Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry, James Brown and even Jimmy Hendrix.

The Chicago icon was a band director for the late, great Jimmy Reed, a member of the Chicago Blues All-Stars, released the blues classic King of the Jungle, toured Europe and still continues to redefine his music till this day as he releases another album this March.

"It's a great opportunity to have such a legendary guitarist here, Tuesday's at One is UIC's only free music series and we're happy to have it open to one and all for this event," said Peter Stoltzman, music history teacher at UIC.

In between his 12-bar blues composed of laidback shuffling, Campbell enlightened the crowd with some stories of blues and his past. With a missing front tooth, Campbell grinned widely and recalled the story how he got real close to the microphone during a show and the electricity of the mic 'zapped' his tooth out.

Campbell also recalls offhand some house guests of his friend, "I remember when the Rolling Stones came to Chicago they stayed over at Willie Dixon's house, we all slept on the floor together, they didn't have a lot of money then."

With the Rolling Stones, borrowing their name from a song by Muddy Waters, Campbell wanted to trace back the history of blues for the young, eager students, "The music first began with acoustic guitars in the south, but once it came to Chicago it turned into electric guitars because of the clubs and how many people would be there--I think everybody knows what the blues is but a lot of people don't understand what the blues is."

This electric guitar' sound--which greatly contributed to the style of rock-and-roll, was developed on the Chicago's west side, namely at the Maxwell Street Market in its prime.

Half the performance involved Campbell laying down the blues structure while students and faculty members improvised and joined in.

At one point he invited singers out of the crowd to join in and improvise with vocals.

With drums, upright bass, electric guitar, and a set of horns, the legend and students grooved together in the dimly lit lecture hall.

Daisy Fellers, a UIC student comments, "This is great, there aren't too many guys like him around anymore. Blues artists that came from the beginning of the genre."

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