When did I first encounter the blues? 

July 14, 2021

It started years ago, towards the end of the 60’s, before I graduated from my high school. Our radio stations in – communist at that time – Poland never played the blues or any other music from the other side of the Iron Curtain.  However, we were somehow able to listen to the American radio station The Voice Of America. Its show „The Jazz Hour”  was the source of all the great music that I discovered back then. I’ll never forget hearing Julian “Cannonball ” Adderley playing “Why Am I Treated So Bad” at the DeLisa club in Chicago! The ambience was simply hypnotic… but I didn’t hear it in Chicago where I couldn’t go at the time — I first heard it on the radio!

This is also how I came across fashionable songs of the day by Chubby Checker, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many others. I immediately knew that I wanted more of this refreshing and appealing music so I actively looked for it. I investigated the people who inspired the bands that I was listening to, which is how I learned about Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, and many others. I bought my first foreign record at a black market (which was the only place to get them at the time) for a half of my month’s pay when I started working at a coal mine (I’m a mining engineer by education). It was “The Rolling Stones” — the band’s debut album. I still have it!

I first went to Chicago in 1998. I still vividly remember three extraordinary events I experienced then. They were: the fantastic show of Vance Kelly & The Backstreet Band at the Taste Of Chicago Festival in Grant Park; my first visit at the Blue Chicago Club where I saw John Primer with Pat Scott, and a Sunday morning walk through the legendary Maxwell Street that was soon to disappear. I returned to Chicago many more times, mostly to go to the Blues Fest, but I also remember well numerous other places connected where I encountered unforgettable music: Starlite Lounge, Lee’s Unleaded, Artis’s Lounge, Bossman Blues Center, Guess Who Water Hole, Highway 290 Sport And Juice Bar, Checkerboard Lounge at 43rd Street, Rosa’s Lounge, Mr Lee’s Pub, Katie’s Village Lounge, Wallace’s Catfish Corner, T-Zer’s Club, blues brunches at the Delmark Store or a jam session in Elmore James Junior’s garage. Chicago is one of my favorite places in the world. Going back to Chicago never gets old!

Andrzej Matysik Founder & Editor of „Twój Blues” Magazine (Poland) www.twojblues.com