Eddy Clearwater
@ The Fine Line Music Cafe, November 14, 1996

Eddy Clearwater
Photo © 1996 by Chuck Winans
The Indian drum beat resonated throughout the room...on stage walked "The Chief" Eddy Clearwater...in full Native American headdress...doing a little strut around the stage…to the surprised delight of the packed audience at The Fine Line. The spectacular headdress was replaced after the first song with a more familiar black hat and a rousing Messin' With The Kid number. When Eddy Clearwater steps on stage he is there for one purpose - to entertain his audience! He is famous for his showmanship, colorful stage presence, and one-of-a-kind shows. Eddy towers above his band at over 6 feet tall, and is an electrifying southpaw guitar player -- reeling off rock 'n' roll, blues and country riffs as easily as taking a breath.

Clearwater's guitar style has often been compared to Chuck Berry and yes he has that famous guitar riff down pat (and even an occasional "duck-walk" J). But there is much more to Eddy Clearwater. His playing combines delta blues, rock 'n' roll, gospel, and country into a unique blend of Chicago blues. His song Little Bit of Blues from his Blind Pig album Help Yourself probably describes Eddy the best. The lyrics go, "just a little bit of blues, a little bit of rock and roll, I gotta hear something will satisfy my soul."

Eddy moved to Chicago in 1950 when he was 15 years old and was quickly integrated into the blues community, being the nephew of Houston Harrington who had a small record label at the time. He was born Eddie Harrington on January 10, 1935, in Macon, Mississippi. His cousin is Carey Bell, although he didn't know that until the late 70's. He has some American Indian blood and considers the headdress a good luck charm (originally given to him by a friend). Concerning his name "Clearwater" - in the early 50's Eddy idolized Muddy Waters, so some of the older musicians in town (drummer Jump Jackson being one of them) gave him the nick-name "Cool Clear Waters as an affectionate take-off on Muddy's name. Eddy recorded the song Cool Water in 1961 which solidified his new identity. He played with many of the west side players at that time including Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Luther Allison and Buddy Guy (calling himself Guitar Eddy then).

Eddy's band at the Fine Line was Tom Susala on bass, Jerry Porter (formerly with Buddy Guy) on drums, and Mark Wydra on guitar. These guys provided some solid playing. After a few Chicago blues standards like Hoochie Coochie Man and a super Jimmy Reed number Eddy did a few songs from his new album Mean Case of the Blues. The title cut was a nice slow blues song that featured Clearwater's sometimes gritty, but always enjoyable sounding voice. Another favorite of his off the new album was It's A Hard Way To Make An Easy Living. This was followed by another slow, bluesy Chicago Weather Woman from his Help Yourself album and he finished off the too short set with Sweet Home Chicago and a John Lee Hooker boogie. For an excellent listening idea of what his show was like check out his Live album A Real Good Time (1990, Bedrock Records).

On January 8th of this year Eddy Clearwater underwent successful triple heart bypass surgery. His recuperation has gone very well and he is rapidly improving with his physical therapy. Renee Greenman, Eddy's manager, said they are already booking shows. His first engagement will be at Blue Chicago (736 N. Clark) on March 28 & 29, 1997. He will be back at the Fine Line in Minneapolis on June 12, 1997, so mark your calendar! This will be a show you will definitely want to see. I know you all join me in wishing Eddy a speedy recovery!

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at: mnblues@aol.com

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Copyright © 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
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