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Nine O'clock Blues: Fats, Toni & The Chief

Jeff Ziff
Flickr - Creative Commons

A triple shot of some blues greats with Eddy ‘The Chief’ Clearwater, Toni Lynn Washington, and Hollywood Fats.

The 1950s’ Chicago West Side club scene trained and launched a number of great Blues artists. One of the most flamboyant is ‘The Chief.’

Like his West Side contemporaries, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, and Freddy King, Eddy ‘The Chief’ Clearwater is a powerful vocalist and top quality guitarist. What the southpaw is best known for is his showmanship.

A Clearwater show is not to be missed. He personifies energy on stage and dresses flamboyantly with a signature headdress that spawned his nickname.

He calls his discernibly West Side musical style “rock-a-blues” which mixes blues, rock, rockabilly, country, and gospel. That makes him one of the leading exponents of West Side heritage. The leading lights of the Blues world have recognized his talent by presenting him The Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues – Male Artist of the Year in 2001.

Also on this week’s show we’ll hear Toni Lynn Washington who was born Dorothy Kearns in 1937 in Southern Pines, North Carolina. After a youth that drew her into music both in school and church, Toni sang with Sam and Dave and Jackie Wilson before moving to Boston where she has been a feature of that cities’ Blues club scene for many years now.

Toni Lynn took a hiatus from performing and recording from the early 1970s through the early 1990s. Fortunately for all of us, she returned to her music career in 1992, fronting her own 10 piece band and recording 3 excellent albums since.


One more feature of this week’s Nine O’clock Blues will be a piece from the late Hollywood Fats, who passed away in 1986 after a career that centered on the clubs of South Central Los Angeles. Born Michael Leonard Mann, he was the son of a Doctor father and brother of several siblings who also became Doctors. Fats’ mother recognized his guitar playing talent early on and used to drive the underage Fats to clubs to jam with most any Blues big name artist who came into town.

When he came of age Fats became a sideman for Muddy Waters, later played with Canned Heat and then replaced Dave Alvin in The Blasters.

Sadly Hollywood Fats died at the age of 32 from a heroin overdose. At the time of his death he was playing with four bands, The Hollywood Fats Band, The Blasters, James Harmon Band, and Dino’s Revenge. Members of the Hollywood Fats Band have since added a new guitarist and now play under the name The Hollywood Blue Flames.

This week on The Nine O’clock Blues we’ll hear a track from the 2006 album Larger Than Life which is a collection of previously un-released Hollywood Fats Band  live recordings.