An integral part of the long-thriving Houston, Texas blues
scene for almost 60 years, Earl Gilliam was a self-taught pianist. Gilliam
grew up in New Waverly, Texas. A naturally gifted musician, Gilliam could
hear a song a couple of times and nail it, a quality that led to an offer to
tour with Texas blues legend Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown when Gilliam was
just 19, an offer his mother denied due to his young age.
Over the years, Gilliam would become known as Houston's premiere blues
pianist, and he performed alongside such greats as Lightnin' Hopkins,
King, Albert Collins, and Joe "Guitar" Hughes, among many others. Gilliam
also lead his own band, performing frequently in Houston clubs throughout
the 1990s and 2000s, and he was still performing after suffering a collapsed
lung in 2008. Sadly, Gilliam only released one album under his own name,
2005's Texas Doghouse Blues.
In Houston, Gilliam is best known for the blues jams he hosted at his home
every other week, which the pianist dubbed the "Dog House." The event would
feature blues music and food, and cooking would start on Saturday night to
provide for Sunday night's guests. Donations were accepted so that those who
couldn't afford it could still eat. "It's a different crowd every time, some
I know, some I don't," Gilliam is quoted as saying in the Chronicle.
"Somebody's gotta eat all that food: ribs, chicken, mustard greens. If you
don't cook enough, you get a crowd problem. So I make sure everybody's full
before they leave."
Gilliam is survived by his wife and ten children, and will be missed by
blues fans in Houston and around the world as one of the city's foremost