Blues Meanie | Letters | Chicago Reader

Blues Meanie 

Dear Ms. Levine:

I have read and enjoyed your paper since moving to Chicago five years ago. While part of the charm of your paper has to do with the controversial subject matter and "on the edge" writing style, there was something in the June 4 issue that deeply disturbed me. One of your writers wrote a small piece on a performer who was going to be the opening act at the Petrillo Music Shell the first night of the Chicago Blues Festival. Her name is Lynne Jordan. While she is good enough for the city of Chicago Blues Festival, good enough for the House of Blues, and good enough for every other blues venue in Chicago, she apparently is lacking in Mr. Dahl's opinion of what blues should sound like.

I have been a fan of Lynne Jordan and the Shivers since seeing them perform for the first time in June of 1995. I have gone out of my way to find out where she and the band have performed at every opportunity. Every performance has been stellar. Every time I have seen them perform before a crowd they completely rocked the house. The applause and enthusiasm for them is always huge no matter what the venue. I have yet to meet someone at one of their performances who has had anything negative to say about any part of their show. Where has Mr. Dahl been that he observed anything else?

Mr. Dahl wrote, "The ongoing degeneration of Chicago's north-side blues circuit into a tourist-and-conventioneer-driven cash cow is eloquently personified by this popular act." Degeneration? What the hell is he talking about? Yes, this woman and her band have played at venues that tourists and conventioneers attend, especially early on in their career together. Musicians have to eat, don't they? They also have to get their music out to the public, and believe it or not, Ms. Jordan and the Shivers do that quite well. As a matter of fact, as far as I know there is not a single blues venue in Chicago where they have not played. I am particularly offended at Mr. Dahl's assumption that Ms. Jordan's fans are fans of a "degenerated" form of the blues. She and each member of her band are consummate musicians and deserve nothing but the praise and adoration that they receive everywhere they play. She is a talented singer and does blues quite well. Admittedly, she has her own style, which obviously conflicts with Mr. Dahl's narrow view of blues. Ms. Jordan does sometimes do tunes that could also be classified as jazz, but who says that she cannot sing blues? Who died and made Mr. Dahl the king of blues purists? Blues are in this woman's soul and emanate from her being in song and feeling.

Furthermore, I have an excellent source who has informed me Mr. Dahl has a personal vendetta against a former member of the band and has exposed his personal bias. According to this source, Mr. Dahl has never even been to see the band play! In addition to that, he has lowered himself to plagiarism. Part of his review was not only inaccurate, but taken from another story done about Ms. Jordan. He stated that "the music in her overworked repertoire seems to emanate from no place deeper than her campy [sic] vintage costumes." I have been to over 100 performances of Ms. Jordan's. I have never seen her in a costume. She has on a few occasions used a boa as a prop in a song or two, and I have seen her wear a beaded hat once, never a costume. Other than that, Ms. Jordan dresses in simple black dresses most of the time. He got this idea from a note that was made about her a few years ago in another publication, which went on to compliment her style and singing. This is further evidence that Mr. Dahl has not actually even sat through an entire set of Ms. Jordan's music.

I would very much like to know where a little white man gets off telling the world that a big, beautiful black woman with a resonant voice and talent oozing from her being is not genuine and earthy enough for real blues aficionados. It is my personal opinion that this writer of yours should be replaced with someone who actually goes to performances, can recognize real talent, and does not allow his personal problems to interfere with his reviews.

Devany Vickery


Bill Dahl replies:

I've seen Jordan's act several times, at Blue Chicago (when it was still on State Street), Buddy Guy's Legends, and Taste of Chicago. As for your perplexing accusation of plagiarism, I have witnessed with my own eyes Jordan wearing campy costumes--certainly no sin, just my observation. Furthermore, her own press biography giddily confirms her use of such vintage stage gear. It's true I once knew a member of Jordan's band, but he passed away about a year and a half ago. After 21 years of covering the local blues scene you get to know everyone at least a little, and I try to be careful about not letting personal feelings factor into my reviews.

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