Go, Eddy, go
If it walks like a duck and it plays guitar like a ring in a bell, it must be Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater. The flamboyant Chicago blues rock and roller has been known to give audiences the impression that they're seeing Chuck Berry duckwalking across a stage while playing his signature stinging leads on guitar.
But Clearwater's not some cheap knockoff of the true king of rock. Clearwater's party music stands and shouts on its own - and it shuts down at times in order to allow azure melancholy to slowly come to a bubbling boil.
The 70-year-old is originally from Alabama, but he moved to Chicago back in 1950, where he played on the city's west and south sides as Guitar Eddy. (His real name, Eddy Harrington, didn't have that star-sparkle-pop the young guitarist yearned for.) Clearwater's current stage name - given him by drummer Jump Jackson - is a tribute to Chicago's greatest blues man, Muddy Waters (originally Morgan McKinleyfield from the Mississippi delta).
Clearwater spent the 1960s and '70s toiling in the requisite relative obscurity that blues demands, playing rock, country and blues gigs whenever gigs could be had. But the left-handed guitarist's 1980 album, “The Chief,” changed all that (Clearwater has an inexplicable propensity to wear headdresses on stage). Berry's influences could definitely be heard on the rockers, while Clearwater's West Side blues and gospel-derived tunes showcased musical sides Chuck has never really explored.
Clearwater's most recent CD, 2003's “Rock ‘n' Roll City,” has him backed by the big-twang surf rock of Los Straitjackets. On it, he does a prototypical Berry riff-romp called “Hillbilly Blues,” and covers Little Richard (“You're Humbuggin' Me”) and Fats Domino (“Let the Four Winds Blow”), too.
He also gets down with the slow gospel-blues burn of “Good Times Are Coming.”
Clearwater plays Famous Dave's, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., on Saturday, Dec. 17. Admission to this 8 p.m. show is only $5. Call 882-9900 or go to www.famousdaves.com for more information.
More migratory blues
Gritty blues guitarist Joanna Connor is also coming to Famous Dave's. Connor also understands how to fuse rock and blues, though she's not as inclined to do a duckwalk as Clearwater.
Like Eddy, she's making her way north from Chicago, where she's sat in with the likes of local blues legends such as James Cotton, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy.
Connor will be there with West Side singer-guitarist Jimmy Burns, who opens the show. Burns, who operates a barbeque stand in his day job, is the brother of Detroit's Eddie Burns.
Admission to this 8 p.m. show is also just $5.
Big bang bang
Their rsum is impressive: Two Oscars, three Grammys, 24 gold and platinum albums and one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Yet their name is only a household name in their own household. They're the Sherman brothers, writers for some of Walt Disney's biggest movies, including “Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book” and “Winnie the Pooh.” They also contributed to “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “Tom Sawyer,” among others.
The music of Richard B. and Robert M. will be performed by the cast of Jungle Mary Bang Bang on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 5 and 6 at Patrick's Cabaret, 3010 Minnehaha Ave. S. at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for adults; $7 for children. Call 721-3595 or go to www.patrickscabaret.org for more information.
Holiday of the Beast
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre is a bit outside the borders of Southwest, but it's importing a trio of Kingfield performers who will help bring a semiregular holiday delight back to life, so we're forgiving them their geographical transgressions.
Nancy Olesen, who is probably best known for her MOMbo radio show, is reprising her role as the narrator of the puppet show “La Befana” at Heart of the Beast, 1500 E. Lake St.
“The show is an old Italian folk tale,” Olesen said. “Befana is an old Italian woman living in a little town; just living her life, sweeping her house, living all by herself. And these three kings come by and tell her that they're looking for the holy child and she should come with. She says, ‘You know, I really can't come with right now because I am so busy. I have to sweep, I have to do my laundry.'”
After the three wise men leave without her, Befana regrets letting them go without her. She sets off after them, alone, traveling around the world in search of the holy child they spoke of.
Befana travels through some beautiful parts of the world, going over mountains and by oceans and rivers and other natural wonders.
“Then she also goes through some situations that our world is in any particular year we do ‘La Befana,'” Olesen said. This year, Befana wanders through grieving people who appear to be homeless. It turns out that they're victims of a hurricane.
“She has all these little encounters throughout the story,” Olesen said. “And the story is told with language and music. Music is a really important part of the show. The three musicians underscore the whole play.”
The play features three musicians and six puppeteers. The puppets include hand puppets and Japanese Bunraku puppets. The Bunraku puppets have their heads and one hand manipulated by a puppeteer in black (including the face), so that the audience sees as little of the puppeteer as possible.
Olesen is one of those three musicians, playing her flute, harmonica, and alto and tenor saxophones. Her two daughters, Nora Epp, 12, and Lene Epp, 10, will walk in and help Befana “understand what she's going to understand at the very end of the play,” Olesen said.
“I just think that in terms of holiday shows, this is a really sweet one,” she said. “It's got something for everyone in it. It's also got a beautiful gentleness to it. It's the antithesis of bigger, flashier.”
This is the 15th year that In the Heart of the Beast has staged this play, beginning back in 1974. “La Befana” runs through Dec. 31.
Tickets are $24 for adults; $16 for kids, students, seniors and groups of 10 and more. For more show times and other information, call 721-2535 or go to www.hobt.org.