"Some things can only be felt in music... music with a blues feeling."
In the midst of the massive volumes of material documenting the history of blues music and its creators in Chicago, there is a small but very unique story concerning an artisan whose apprenticeship caused a revival of Chicago blues that boosted the careers of nearly every active seminal blues artist in Chicago during the 1960s to the 1980s.
In the 1940s, born the oldest of 10 children on a working dairy farm in northern Wisconsin, Bob Riedy grew up to become for a while, one of the most active blues promoters, entrepreneurs, and piano players in the city of Chicago. While attempting to fulfill his apprenticeship among the inventors and masters of Chicago Urban Blues, his efforts helped bring new life to the whole genre.
At one time or another, every seminal Chicago Urban Blues Master who was active during the late 1960s to the early 1980s (from Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf to the lesser known but integral Chicago Urban Blues Artists) was either a member of Bob's band or was backed by his band at one time or another. He created jobs where there were none, putting together bands for himself and others even when it was not financially feasible to do so. He made recordings of the Chicago blues artists when the established record companies would not. Chicago Urban Blues artists played on Bob's recording sessions and he played on theirs. Many times he came to recording sessions with arrangements, backup musicians from his band, and even spare musical instruments he had repaired to make sure the session and artist had everything needed.
By the early 80s, Bob found gigging and promotion increasingly difficult. Neighborhood bars he developed into successful blues clubs over many years were now in their prime and ripe for take over by corporations and individuals who had an agenda different than his own. The result was that clubs that took years to build and become popular were now being rapidly harvested by those who did not share Bob's views on presenting blues. He realized that after nearly 20 years, he did not have the means on a musician's pay to stop the takeovers of any of the blues clubs. Also, without the jobs he created, he could not continue maintaining a fulltime band on payroll. His philanthropic effort had run its course.
Bob simultaneously gave up live performance, behind the scenes promotions and booking, left the hustle of Chicago, and ironically returned to a pastoral life in the rural Midwest. Today, even though he does continue work through his foundation; he rarely performs in public. But most every evening as you pass his farmhouse you can still hear Bob working at his craft. His apprenticeship continues.
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