Musicians Get To Play A Piece Of Blues History – Big Bill Broonzy’s Guitar
Phil and Dave Alvin, who founded the influential group the Blasters in the late ’70s and who have been an integral part of the American music scene ever since, made a special stop when they passed through Chicago earlier this week. They arrived at Chicago’s Union Station Monday afternoon, then performed at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn that evening along with trainmates Jon Langford, John Doe, Rick Shea, David Olney and Christy McWilson.
But first, they slipped off to the Old Town School of Folk Music to get a look at a piece of history. It was a 1946-era guitar that belonged to the late Big Bill Broonzy, the folk and blues legend who lived in Chicago and who was a major musical influence on the Alvins. (In fact, the brothers’ first studio collaboration in 30 years, “Common Ground,” is an album of 12 Broonzy songs; it comes out in June and can be ordered at davealvin.net/home). After Broonzy’s 1958 death, the guitar was donated to the Old Town School. And Tuesday, it was brought out for the brothers to enjoy. “History aside, it’s an amazing guitar,” Dave Alvin said, relaxing in a chair in the building’s lower level, alternately picking out tunes, studying the instrument and asking questions about Broonzy’s Chicago days. He passed it to Phil, who played and sang a little.
“Gee, I wish I could have played this when I could play,” he said with a laugh.
And back and forth it went for almost 45 minutes, one brother playing, then handing the guitar off to the other. As he played, Dave would frequently stop, mutter “Wow,” then resume. At one point Phil handed it back to Dave and he repeated. “Wow.”
“I know,” Dave said. “Wow’s the word.” As their visit was winding down, Phil passed the guitar back to his little brother one last time. “I am not worthy,” he said. Dave then handed the guitar back to Tim Joyce, an instructor at the school. “It’s like holding Big Joe Turner’s voice,” he said. “Thank you. Thank you, thank you.”
Source: Chicago Tribune