Having just seen Joe Barr perform with Joe Pratt and SourceOne Band at the 2nd Annual Blues Festival at Fitzgerald’s, I am reminded of his powerhouse vocal artistry. Here is Joe Barr’s bio below. He is a must-see and must-hear entertainer. Catch him with Joe Pratt at Odyssey East on weekends.
 

STARTING OUT 

I DISCOVERED THAT I HAD MUSICAL TALENT AT AGE 12.  I USED TO LOOK AT THE PIANO IN CHURCH ON SUNDAYS AND IMAGINE MYSELF PLAYING TO THE CONGREGATION.  SO, WHEN I COMPLETED MY WORK OF CLEANING THE CHURCH ON SATURDAYS, I WOULD PLAY AROUND ON THE PIANO UNTIL I LEARNED TO PLAY, ALMOST TO MY SATISFACTION.  ONE DAY WHEN THE PASTOR RETURNED TO LOCK UP THE CHURCH, HE WAS PLEASANTLY SURPRISED THAT I COULD PLAY. ACTUALLY, I INHERITED THE CURRENT MUSICIAN’S POSITION AT THAT TIME, BECAUSE HE WAS ALWAYS NOT SHOWING UP OR WAS LATE. 

I KNEW I COULD SING BEFORE I LEARNED TO PLAY THE PIANO; SINGING CAME AS NATURAL AS BREATHING.  IN FACT, MY WHOLE FAMILY CAN SING.  MY YOUNGEST SISTER AND I APPEARED IN MANY TALENT SHOWS IN OUR COMMUNITY. I ALSO WAS A LONG TIME PARTICIPANT IN CHICAGO’S NYC PROGRAM, A CHICAGO CITY FUNDED PROGRAM FOR YOUTH THAT ALLOWED THEM TO DISPLAY THEIR TALENTS THROUGHOUT THE CITY.

ON MY WAY

WHEN I WAS TOO YOUNG TO GO IN LOUNGES, I WOULD SNEAK IN WALTON’S CORNER, WHICH AT THE TIME WAS ONE OF THE HOTTEST AND WELL KNOWN NIGHT CLUBS IN CHICAGO’S AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES. THE OWNERS KNEW ME BECAUSE I LIVED IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. ONCE THEY LEARNED I COULD SING, THEY ALLOWED ME TO COME IN THE CLUB, BUT MADE ME SIT OVER IN A DARK CORNER UNTIL I WAS CALLED UP TO SING.

I AM FROM THE SAME ERA AND NEIGHBORHOOD OF THE GUITARIST AND VOCALIST VANCE KELLY. WE DID SOME THINGS TOGETHER WHEN WE WERE YOUNG .IT WAS DURING THIS TIME, AT AGE 18, I HAD MY FIRST BRAKE WITH SECURING A CHANCE TO BELONG TO A BAND.  A FORMER OWNER OF WALTON’S CORNER, PERVIS SCOTT, WHO ALSO WAS A BASS PLAYER ASK ME TO JOIN HIS BAND, THE OASIS.  AT THE TIME THE OASIS BAND WAS HOT.   THIS WAS THE FIRST BAND I HAD ANY LONGEVITY WITH; ACTUALLY, IT WAS MY FIRST EXPERIENCE OF BELONGING TO ANY GROUP.  IT WAS A GREAT EXPERIENCE.  WE PLAYED TOGETHER FOR OVER FIVE YEARS.  THE FIRST TWO YEARS WE PLAYED BEHIND A LOCAL ARTIST, LEE SHOT WILLIAMS.  AT THE TIME, LEE HAD SOME HIT RECORDINGS AND WAS POPULAR.  MY LAST THREE YEARS WITH THE BAND WAS SPENT PERFORMING GIGS IN LOCAL CLUBS, PLAYING MOSTLY R&B.   

THROUGH PLAYING AT CLUBS SUCH AS JOHNNY PEPPERS, BOOTSIE’S, THE KEYMANS AND OTHER LOCAL CLUBS, WORD GOT AROUND TO RECORDING ARTISTS ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE ON THE KEYBOARD.  I’VE BACKED HOWLING WOLF, LUTHER ALLLISON, ZZ HILL, FREDDY KING AND OTHER LEGENDS. AT THE TIME, SOME OF THESE STARS WERE KNOWN AS  “CROSS OVERS”; WHICH MEANT THEIR TALENTS WERE ENJOYED BY A WIDER AUDIENCE. NATE TURNER, A LOCAL BLUES ICON FELL INTO THIS RANK OF “CROSS OVER” ENTERTAINERS.  I WAS A PART OF NATE’S BAND FOR OVER 7 YEARS.  PLAYING WITH NATE ALLOWED ME THE OPPORTUNITY OF TRAVELING THROUGHOUT THE STATES AND CANADA.

HERE AND NOW

AS MUCH AS I ENJOYED TRAVELING AND PLAYING WITH OTHERS, I EVENTUALLY REALIZED TWO THINGS: I HAD FAMILY OBLIGATIONS, AND I NEEDED TO PUT DOWN ROOTS, SO THAT I COULD DEVELOP MY OWN MUSICAL CAREER.  IT WAS AROUND THIS TIME THAT THREE OTHER MUSICIANS AND I FORMED WHAT IS KNOWN NOW AS, “THE SOUL PURPOSE BAND”.  NOT TOO LONG AFTER FORMING THE BAND, WE BECAME PRIMARILY, KOKO TAYLOR’S HOUSE BAND AT HER BLUES CLUB ON WABASH AVENUE.  COOKIE TAYLOR, KOKO ‘S DAUGHTER, BECAME MY BOOKING AGENT.  WHEN WE WERE NOT PLAYING AT THE CLUB, SHE BOOKED US AT OTHER CLUBS. 

JOE BARR AND THE SOUL PURPOSE BAND HAS PERFORMED AT FAMOUS DAVE’S, KINGSTON MINES, ARTIST’S, CRAW DADDY’S CLUB (WHEELING), BUDDY GUY’S, THE HARLEM’S BAR (LA GRANGE) AND AT NUMEROUS OUT DOOR CONCERTS IN THE CHICAGO METROPOLITAN AREA.  OUR BAND IS ALSO ONE OF THE BANDS USED FOR FUNDRAISERS TO BENEFIT KOKO TAYLOR’S CELEBRITY AID FOUNDATION.  
 

WHAT’S GOING ON 

WHEN THE CLUB CLOSED, COOKIE CONTINUED TO BE MY BOOKING AGENT.  CURRENTLY, I AM BOOKED AT THE TRUMP/MAJESTIC CASINOS IN KOKO TAYLOR’S BLUES CAFÉ, PERFORMING AS A SOLOIST.  JOE BARR AND THE SOUL PURPOSE BAND HOLD THREE STEADY GIGS PERFORMING WEEKLY AT ARTIS’ LOUNGE IN CHICAGO, AT LARRY’S LOUNGE, IN HARVEY. YOU CAN ALSO CATCH US AT BLUES ON HALSTED IN CHICAGO, TWICE A MONTH ONE ONLY HAS TO HEAR ME PERFORM TO RECOGNIZE WHO MY INFLUENCES ARE.  JOHNNY TAYLOR, TEDDY PENDERGRASS, TYRONE DAVIS AND ALBERT KING ARE JUST A FEW TO MENTION.   

ALTHOUGH I DO WELL COVERING SONGS OF OTHERS, I HAVE A COUPLE OF PROJECTS OF MY OWN IN PROGRESS. LOOK FOR MY NEW CD RELEASE. ENTITLED “WAITING FOR LOVE,” LATE FALL OR EARLY WINTER. IT WILL INCLUDE SEVEN (7) ORIGINAL CUTS AND SEVERAL STANDARDS.  I CAN HARDLY WAIT FOR THE FINISHED PRODUCT IT ‘S GOING TO BE “HOT.”  ALSO, I HAVE APPEARED IN TWO LIVE STAGE PRODUCTIONS: ONE PRODUCTION IS ENTITLED, “BACK IN THE DAY WHEN MUSIC WAS MUSIC” THIS PRODUCTION IS ABOUT ALLOWING ENTERTAINERS TO COVER “FAVORITES” WHICH WERE POPULAR IN THE 60S AND 70S. THE OTHER PRODUCTION IS STAGED IN A BAR PORTRAYING MALES WHO ARE SWAMPING ADVICE ON HOW TO KEEP RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEIR FEMALE PARTNERS. THE NAME OF THIS PRODUCTION IS ENTITLED “FOR LADIES ONLY BUT MEN ARE WELCOME”  THEATER IS A NEW AND EXCITING CONCEPT FOR ME; I PLAN TO INCLUDE MORE STAGE APPEARANCES IN MY FUTURE REPERTOIRE.


ON A PERSONAL NOTE 

FAMILY INSTITUTIONS ARE IMPORTANT TO ME.  THIS INCLUDES BOTH MY BIOLOGICAL FAMILY AND MY CHURCH FAMILY.  I AM LOYAL TO BOTH, AS BOTH ARE THE ROCKS FOR MY FOUNDATION. IT IS FROM THIS FOUNDATION THAT I LEARNED TO CARE AND RESPECT OTHERS.  

ASIDE FROM MY MUSICAL CAREER, I AM AN ENTREPRENEUR. I DELIVER FOOD TO SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCIES SUCH AS SHELTERS AND SOUP KITCHENS. THERE’S LITTLE MONETARY REWARD INVOLVED, HOWEVER, I FEEL HONORED TO BE ABLE TO CONTRIBUTE IN SOME SMALL WAY.  


NEW NOTE 

MY BAND THE SOUL PURPOSE BAND RECEIVED FROM THE AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTS ALLIANCE THE OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD IN MUSIC FOR BLUES 2005- 2006. 

Learn more on Joe Barr’s website: HTTPS://JOEBARR.WEBS.COM

Photo © Peter M. Hurley

Mr. Hurley is a contributing photographer and writer for Living Blues Magazine and the staff photographer for Chicago Blues Network. His recent book Blues Legacy: Tradition and Innovation in Chicago, in collaboration with Blues historian and author David Whiteis, showcases his work in the field. His passion for blues music began with a 6th grade dance party discovery of Bo Diddley which led to Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and so on. It continues to this day. VISIT PETER’S WEBSITE HERE.