Chick Willis | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Chick Willis 

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Chick Willis

Georgia-born Chick Willis is known best for bawdy up-tempo numbers like "Stoop Down Baby," "Mother Fuyer," and "I Want a Big Fat Woman," but lurking behind that R-rated mouth is a first-rate bluesman. Willis's guitar style is sparse and somewhat elemental, but the intensity of his keening tone and the precision of his attack pack every punch with fire. His voice, though occasionally brittle, is gritty and expressive; on ballads like Ernie Johnson's "You're Gonna Miss Me," he turns heartbreak into smoldering aggression in a way that evokes classic Bobby "Blue" Bland. Live, Willis cuts one of the most charismatic figures on the contemporary blues scene, keeping up a steady banter with his audience and sometimes even engaging them in playful "dozens" sessions ("See that woman, she's big and fat / Betcha her stoop-down ain't no bigger'n that....See that man, he's long and tall / Betcha he ain't got no stoop-down at all"). He won't stop until everyone's standing and laughing with him. Blues showmanship like this is a mainstay of the south's still-thriving chitlin' circuit, but it doesn't often find its way to the South Loop. Saturday, 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333. DAVID WHITEIS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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