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Billy Branch Learned From The Best, Now He Teaches The World

Sam/Denny Lawton
Flickr - Creative Commons
Carl Weathersby and Billy Branch (pictured to the right) at the King Biscuit Blues Festival, October 2005.

When it comes to the Blues, Billy Branch brings it. He has ever since he joined the Willie Dixon Chicago All-Stars in the early 1970s. He's still brining it with his current band Sons of Blues. He has even brought the Blues to new generations with his work for the Blues in the Schools program.

Born in Chicago and raised in California, Billy Branch returned to Chicago in 1969 at the age of 18 to attend college, but the Blues haven of Maxwell Street turned out to be the harmonica player's most important school. Well, second most important, because after he was discovered by Willie Dixon, Branch joined Willie Dixon and the Chicago Blues All-Stars, learning his craft from Carey Bell as heir apparent to Bell who was soon to move on.


After touring for 6 years with Dixon, Billy set off to play with even more of Chicago's Blues elite including recording with Johnny Winter, Lou Rawls, Koko Taylor, Eddy Clearwater, Honeyboy Edwards, Syl Johnson, Lurrie Bell, Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks, John Primer, and Taj Mahal, among others. Branch's discography runs past 150 recordings including a dozen under his own name and with the Sons of Blues.


The Sons of Blues began in the 1980s and released their first album in 1984. Original members of the band included Freddie Dixon, son of Willie, on bass and Lurie Bell, son of Carey, although the lineup had changed by the time of the first album. The membership has changed over the years but the quality has been consistently high.

Kudos to Branch for many years of bringing the Blues to young people though his Blues in the Schools program that has inspired not only many new young fans and players, but similar programs initiated throughout the US and in other countries.


Billy Branch has been nominated for three Grammy and two W. C. Handy awards and after a 10 year hiatus from recording has released the 2014 album Blues Shock with the Sons of Blues.

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