John Primer
@ Brew Bakers, November 30, 1996

Photo of John Primer and Steve Bell, Copyright 1996 by Chuck Winans.

John Primer's return engagement to the Twin Cities was a real treat. The band arrived late because of poor driving conditions from Chicago, so the first set was a little slow getting going. They got to the club shortly before 10:15, plugged in and started playing...just like they have been doing all their lives. At the break, Brew Bakers had a big steak dinner waiting and that must have fueled their engines, because they started off the final set with a full stomach, loads of energy and couldn't have sounded better...right on target ... powerful ... Chicago blues..!

John moved to Chicago from Mississippi in the early 60's and one of the first things he did was put together a band. In the late 60's he got a gig playing lead guitar with the house band at Theresa's where he backed up the likes of Junior Wells, Louis Myers, Jimmy Johnson, Lonnie Brooks, Paul Butterfield, Johnny Winter, Bonnie Raitt and many others. From there he joined Willie Dixon's band The Chicago Blues All Stars in 1979. Six months later he was asked to join Muddy Water's band after being referred by Mojo Buford. This turned out to be Muddy's last band (with Lovie Lee on piano) and it was a shock to Primer when Muddy died. Primer says Muddy was a great guy and he was ready to play with him as long as he wanted him to. After that great experience he played for the next 13 years with Magic Slim & The Teardrops saying he really enjoyed all those years, "We were like a family, like brothers." It was this past spring 1996 that John finally broke out on his own with his own band and his new solo album.

The Real Deal Blues band (the name taken from John's recent Atlantic/Warner album The Real Deal) playing with John that night consisted of George Baze on second guitar. George is a long time playing partner of Primer's and has played with Jr. Wells, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and the late Buddy Scott's spouse whom he just played with that same week in Chicago. A young bass player, Lawrence Bunville, added solid backing and long time Chicago veteran Otis Wright was on drums. On harmonica was Steve Bell, yes, from the Carey Bell family, who added some outstanding harp work. There is a lot of Chicago blues history in this band and John Primer is considered one of the better guitar players on the blues scene today.

Some of the highlights of the night were Hideaway with John and George trading licks; Party Girl from his soon to be released new CD; Got My Mojo Working, with John walking around the audience "without" his guitar; The Sky Is Crying with a great guitar solo by Baze and an intimate harp solo played, it seemed, just for our table; a fun Shake Rattle and Roll; some great slide work by John on A Good Understanding where I just got lost in the music; and the show finished off with a medley of Sweet Home Chicago and The Blues Is All Right...hey, hey...! This was a fun evening of solid Chicago Blues.

You can hear more of John Primer on his albums: John Primer, 1987 on Wolf; Stuff You Got To Watch, 1991 on Earwig; Blues Behind Closed Doors, 1994; and The Real Deal, 1995 Atlantic/Warner.
Keep The Blues Alive!

Copyright 1997 by Ray M. Stiles. All rights reserved. All reviews are copyright protected. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.