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The Siegel-Schwall Band Helped Drive The 1960s Blues Revival

Wounded Bird
The album art from Siegel-Schwall's 1971 self-titled release.

In the early 1960s many considered the Blues passé and turned to more "mod" music styles. Then along came the two-pronged attack of British bands like The Rolling Stones, The Animals and John Mayall teamed with two mostly white Chicago bands; The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and The Siegel-Schwall Band.

While the other groups drove their sound with an electric hard edge, Siegel-Schwall took a softer route with strong overtones of Folk music that made them a good entry point to the Blues for a less Rock oriented audience.


Corky Siegel met Jim Schwall when both studied at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Siegel was a saxophone player who had just discovered the Blues, while Schwall was already dedicated to the guitar and leaned toward Folk and Country. The two soon began playing as a duo with Siegel on Wurlitzer piano and harmonica, plus playing some percussion with his feet and Schwall took very good care of the guitar.

Working as the house band at Pepper’s Lounge on the south side of Chicago they hosted a string of Blues greats sitting in pretty much every night. Among the people who joined the duo were Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Billy Boy Arnold, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam, Otis Spann, Bo Diddley, Sam Lay (part of the band’s current lineup) and many more.


The band soon included Shelly Plotkin on drums and Rollo Radford on bass (Radford was a past sideman for people like Dinah Washington, Chuck Berry, Martha and the Vandellas and Sun Ra). After expanding to a quartet, the band began a recording career that has garnered many accolades and awards over 10 albums in their first 10 years and two more after reuniting following a 1974 split.

The early years, 1960s and 1970s, found the band exposing a wide variety of listeners to the Blues as they shared stages with The Allman Brothers, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane. At the same time they joined The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra to debut William Russo’s epic "Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony Orchestra."


While their concert schedule is much lighter these days (Jim Schwall is a professor of music whose school years are quite full) the band does still make the rounds and still are hard to match for "…the sheer joy of their music."

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