2018-06-02 04:04:24 UTC
Veteran blues guitarist Eddy 'The Chief' Clearwater, who played area festivals, dead at 83
By John J. Moser•Contact Reporter
Of The Morning Call
June 1, 2018, 6:45 PM
Grammy Award-nominated Chicago blues legend Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, who over the years headlined blues festivals in the Lehigh Valley area, died of heart failure on Friday, his publicist said.
Clearwater, 83, died in his hometown of Skokie, Ill., according to an email from his label, Alligator Records.
Born Edward Harrington in Macon, Miss., Clearwater was known for his blues-rocking guitar playing, his original songs and his flamboyant showmanship. He was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 2016, and also won two Blues Music Awards, including Contemporary Male Blues Artist Of The Year in 2001.
Along the way, he played with the Five Blind Boys of Alabama and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Clearwater played the Pocono Blues Festival (later the Pennsylvania Blues Festival) in 1998, in 2009 with The James Cotton Band and in 2016 with The Ronnie Baker Brooks Band, festival curator Michael Cloeren said. Cloeren said that for the 1998 show, Clearwater rode in on a white stallion.
“It’s a real bad day for the blues,” Cloeren said in a Facebook post. “I Had so much respect for this man. We just lost one of the greats.”
Clearwater also headlined the Lehigh River Blues Jam in 2015. The festival presented him with its first Lifetime Achievement Award that year.
During a career of more than 60 years, Clearwater released more than 15 albums, including his latest, 2014’s “Soul Funky.” He came out of the same Chicago clubs as Magic Sam, Otis Rush and Freddie King. In the 1970s, he toured Europe with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells.
He won the Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year in 2001, and his 2003 album "Rock 'N' Roll City" with Los Straitjackets was nominated for a Grammy.
Clearwater was equally comfortable playing the deepest, most intense blues or his own brand of rocking, good-time party music – a style he called “rock-a-blues,” mixing blues, rock, rockabilly, country and gospel.
According to his label, Clearwater's musical talent became clear early on. Clearwater taught himself to play guitar (left-handed and upside down), and began performing with various gospel groups, including the legendary Five Blind Boys of Alabama.
After moving to Chicago in 1950, he first music jobs were with gospel groups playing in local churches. Through his uncle’s contacts, Clearwater met many of Chicago’s blues stars.
By 1953, as Guitar Eddy, he was making a strong name for himself. He recorded his first single, “Hill Billy Blues,” for his uncle’s Atomic H label in 1958 under the name Clear Waters, which morphed into Eddy Clearwater.
He worked the Chicago club circuit steadily throughout the 1950s, 1960s and into the 1970s. He found bigger success in the 1970s among the city's college crowd, who responded to his individual brand of blues, his rock and roll spirit and his high energy stage show.
Clearwater is survived by his wife, Renee Greenman Harrington Clearwater, children Heather Greenman, Alyssa Jacquelyn, David Knopf, Randy Greenman, Jason Harrington and Edgar Harrington and grandchildren Gabriella Knopf and Graham Knopf.
Services will be Tuesday in Chicago.