9:00am

Sat July 5, 2014
marc on the blues

More Than A Sideman, Bob Stroger Has Played Bass With Many Blues Greats

Bass player and singer/songwriter Bob Stroger has played with some pretty impressive talent: Eddie King, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rogers, Eddie Taylor, Eddy Clearwater, Sunnyland Slim, Louisiana Red, Homesick James, Mississippi Heat, Snooky Pryor, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith.

Yes, I do often list artists’ associates, but I feel it is a valid way to access a player’s respect among the artists themselves and that’s not a bad criterion.

Bass carries the farthest of all Blues instruments, at least when there are walls in between you and the band. It was the bass that jumped out at 16-year-old new Chicago resident Bob Stroger as he lay in bed in his room in the rear of Silvio's nightclub where they booked the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. That was in 1951. Stroger set out to teach himself guitar and also drove his brother to gigs with J. B. Hutto. From there he became enchanted by the world surrounding playing music for a living.

Soon after he formed his own band, Stroger went on to play Jazz with Rufus Foreman before turning to the Blues when he joined Eddie King as bass player. After 15 years of playing with King, Bob suspended his music career for several years until he was recommended to Otis Rush and joined him through the 1970s and 1980s. A period as session musician followed when he recorded with Sunnyland Slim who encouraged Stroger to write and sing his own songs.

Stroger didn’t record his first solo album till 1998, but several more have followed. His latest, Keepin’ It Together, is a very fine collaboration with the son of Bob’s long time friend and associate, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, an album I do recommend. Included on the recording is Muddy Waters' great guitarist Bob Margolin.

The Blues Foundation presented Bob Stroger the 2011 Blues Music Award in the Best Blues Bassist category. He won it again in 2013. I first heard Stroger playing with Pinetop Perkins in 2007 at the Greeley Blues Jam and I hope to see him many more times.

Excuse the cliché, but he is the real deal.

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