Letter from the editor- My name is Paul Natkin. I have been a professional photographer for about 40 years in Chicago. I started out as a sports photographer, working with my father as the team photographer for the Chicago Bulls. But I always had an interest in music, especially Blues and folk. Growing up in my house, the radio was always tuned to WFMT, Chicago’s classical station- EXCEPT for 3 hours or so starting at 10:30 on Saturday night, and rebroadcast at 1PM on Wednesday afternoon. The show was called the Midnight Special, named after a Big Bill Broonzy song of the same name. It was a wonderous show of folk music, with a little bit of blues mixed in. Soon blues became a bigger part of it, as the Newport Folk Festival started bringing in more blues programming. As I listened to this great music, I realized that I had to meet and photograph these artists!
The first concert I ever shot was by an barely know blues slide guitar player named Bonnie Raitt.(1976) After that I was hooked. I started bringing my camera to blues clubs and concerts, meeting managers and agents, who introduced me to record companies, and I was soon photographing my heros!! Two people helped me along this path, more than any one else:
- Scott Cameron- a manager in town who managed Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon and later Buddy Guy. He liked my work and started inviting me to Muddy shows.
- Bruce Iglauer, owner of Alligator Records- I cold called him one day and he agreed to see me. He liked my work also, and soon I was shooting album covers for him
I soon became very interested in the history aspect, through man=y conversations with Buddy Guy, one of the great storytellers of all time. I met him by accident while working with the rock band Journey, and we became friends. There were many priceless nights before his shows, where we sat around and talked about everything from politics to how to cook a squirrel. He told me about his arrival in Chicago from Louisiana, when after driving a tow truck during the day, he would grab his guitar, get on the bus and go to any number of blues clubs on the south side and ask to sit in for a few songs. Then he would walk to the next club and repeat. One night he met Muddy Waters outside the 708 Club and Muddy told him he would give him enough money to buy a sandwich if he got up and played. Soon established artists, most notably Otis Rush, were asking him up and a legend was soon built,
As I heard these stories, I started wondering where all of these clubs had gone. The answer seems to be that the music started to be marketed to a white, north side audience who weren’t prepared to go to the south side to hear the music that they loved.
My hope with this website is to shine a light on the history of blues in Chicago, and also shine a light on the present and the future.
If you are reading this and love the blues, this space is open to you to write a blog post about your experiences in the blues, or a news post about an upcoming recording or show that you are involved with. Just send it to me. PAUL@NATKIN.NET And I will post it!