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Nine O'clock Blues: The Cash Box Kings And Janiva Magness

David & Delphine Brake
Flickr - Creative Commons

Mix 1920s and 30s Delta Blues with the late 1940s and 50s Chicago sound and what do you get? The Cash Box Kings.

The Cash Box Kings are often seen in club settings like Buddy Guy's, Rosa's Lounge, Nick's or the Smoke Daddy. They tour Europe frequently and are a festival staple at events like the Lucerne Blues Festival or the Chicago Blues Festival.

Despite reflecting a lot of the raw, pared down ensemble sound of 1940s and 50s Chicago, a strong inclusion of originality makes The Cash Box Kings pertinent to the 21st Century as well as a tribute to the Blues’ rich past.


Their sound owes a lot to the past including Chess and Sun Records. Though that style is a vital part of their show, the band fuses dashes of Memphis and the deep Delta to come up with a distinctive and powerful sound.

Sometimes guitar driven, sometimes piano, sometimes electric, and sometimes acoustic – you might think they spread themselves too thin, but their new CD, Black Toppin’ belies that accusation.

Credit Karen / Flickr - Creative Commons
Flickr - Creative Commons
Joe Nosek of The Cash Box Kings on the harmonic in Madison, WI 2007

Joining original members Joe Nosek, Oscar Wilson, and Kenny 'Beedy Eyes' Smith (son of the legendary Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Muddy Waters' drummer from 1968-1981), the lineup for the new CD adds Billy Flynn (guitar, mandolin, vocals, harmonica), Joel Paterson (guitar and vocals), Jimmy Sutton (upright bass and vocals), Beau Sample (upright bass and vocals), Chris "CB" Boeger (bass) and Mark Haines (drums). Barrelhouse Chuck, piano and vocals, also joins the group on the road from time to time.

Without reservation, I can recommend that you catch The Cash Box Kings if you get the chance.

Another artist to keep an eye out for is Janiva Magness. They say hard-times are a boon to a Blues artist, if so Janiva is well qualified to sing the Blues. Born in 1957 in Detroit, she lost both of her parents to suicide before her mid-teens. Pregnant at 17, Magness gave up her daughter for adoption.

Happily, they reconnected just recently.

While her father’s record collection launched Janiva’s appreciation of music, it was an Otis Rush concert she attended in her teens that set her artistic course. As Magness said, "Otis played as if his life depended on it. There was a completely desperate, absolute intensity. I knew, whatever it was, I needed more of it."


Janiva started her career working at a Detroit recording studio, and did some backing vocal work with a number of artists including Kid Ramos and R.L. Burnside. She moved to Phoenix and soon after that relocated again, this time to Los Angeles. Three independently released albums led to contracts with NorthernBlues and later, Alligator Records.

She has released nine albums to date and received a number of major accolades including being nominated in five categories for this year’s Blues Music Awards.

Janiva Magness reminds me of a cross between Nina Simone and Bonnie Raitt with a little touch of Marcia Ball. Not a bad combo, and one well worth your time.

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