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Chicago Beau was born on the south-side of Chicago
on 13 February 1949, into a house of music. The recordings of
Dinah Washington, Coleman Hawkins,
Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Duke
Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and
others inundated his senses from the beginning.
Beau was becoming quite a tap-dancer (sometimes still used in his shows), but it was the Blues and Jazz elements of these shows that really held his interest. He became so interested in Blues that he began sneaking around to Blues clubs after school to listen to Blues bands rehearse. On famous 47th street, he would slip into the 708 Club that sizzled at night with artists like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Mama Thornton, Little Walter, and Billy Boy Arnold. Up the street from there was the Sutherland Lounge that featured Jazz and Blues acts such as Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, Esther Philips, Von Freeman, E Parker McDougal, Louis Armstrong, Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillispie, Chico Hamilton, Philly Joe Jones, and nearly everyone that had a name.
Little did Beau know at the time that some of these performers he watched and listened to would have a permanent impact on his life: Billy Boy Arnold gave him harmonica lessons (they later recorded together), and Muddy Waters gave him his name, ‘Chicago Beau.’
After spending three years from the age of 17 playing harmonica and singing in small clubs, mining and logging camps, and on street corners from Chicago, to Boston, to Nova Scotia, to Amsterdam, he moved to Paris where he met, performed and recorded with Archie Shepp in August, 1969, at age 20. Beau considers the first recording with Shepp to be the beginning of his professional career.
For over 40 years Chicago Beau has recorded and performed with some of the most respected names in music including Archie Shepp, Memphis Slim, Billy Cobham, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cal Massey, Anthony Braxton, Sunny Maurry, Pinetop Perkins, Jimmy Dawkins, Johnny Shines, Billy Boy Arnold, Fontella Bass, Habib Koite, James Carter, Lester Bowie, Philly Joe Jones, Famoudou Don Moye, Jeanne Lee, Deitra Farr, Willie Kent, E. Parker McDougal, Amina Claudine Meyers, Amakhono We Sinto Choir of South Africa, Frank Zappa, Sunnyland Slim, and others.
As a record producer Beau has recorded some of Chicago's finest Blues artists including Valerie Wellington, Billy Branch, Junior Wells, Willie Kent, Deitra Farr, Shun Kikuta, Tommy McCracken, and Katherine Davis.
Chicago Beau received the CLIO award, the American advertising industry’s highest honor, for his music that was used in the 1991-92 National Basketball Association Champions, Chicago Bulls, cable television campaign.
Chicago Beau is committed to the literary side of Blues culture. In 1988 he founded Literati Internazionale, a publishing company dedicated to Blues writing and multi-culturalism. To date he has published over fifteen journals, books, and magazines that have included contributions from nearly one-hundred writers and artists including Gwendolyn Brooks, Eugene B. Redmond, Quincy Troupe, Alejo Carpentier, Hart Leroy Bibbs, and Henry Miller. As a writer, Chicago Beau has written numerous articles and three books: Great Black Music-The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Blues Stories, and BluesSpeak: Best of the Original Chicago Blues Annual, published in March 2010 by the University of Illinois Press. He was working with trumpeter Lester Bowie on his Autobiography at the time of his death. Excerpts from this work will be published soon.