Thursday, February 9, 2017

Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen

The Chess brothers liked music and wanted to record "race music".  When they started, it took a long time before northern radio stations would play the records.  Sometimes it took some cash to be sure it would have play time.  They eventually became known as a recording studio that would audition blacks.  If they liked their sound, they invested in them and acted like their agents.  Their music was taking off!

Berkley sent me an ARC of this book to read for review.  It has just been published so you can grab a copy now.

What was amazing was that the Chess brothers were white Jews.  They really liked the blues and worked with some well known artists from the past.  This is a fictional account but the history cited is real.

Leeba worked for the brothers and met Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry and Etta James.  She was also a Jew.  Her mother kept inviting single Jewish men over for a meal so her daughter could meet them.  Her daughter didn't appreciate it.  Then Leeba met Red Dupree.  She loved his guitar playing.  She fell in love with him.  He was black.  Her mother threw her out of the house.  So she moves in with Red and marries him.

When the record company has trouble transitioning in ownership and talent, Leeba is attacked as being a "nigger lover".  She gets a bit bruised, but her dog gets killed and her husband's hand has been slashed.  No more guitar playing from him.  What can he get a job doing, he knows nothing else.  He goes from being in a factory gluing shoes, to doing maintenance work around a radio station.  Eventually, he becomes a DJ but he loses that position because he talks about human rights issues.

With some of the best musicians in blues and jazz in their lives, a mixed marriage and more, it's hard life with few thankful moments.  But they do find things to be happy about and they do love each other.  This was a good read with enough going on to keep you reading and a fascinating look of musical history in Chicago.  I enjoyed it.  Why don't you try it? 

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