“One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.” – Lou Reed

July 7, 2021  Volume 2, Issue 31
Pete’s Pics “Blues in Action”
by Peter M. Hurley


           Chicago Blues Hall-Of-Famers MAURICE JOHN VAUGHN, FREDDIE DIXON and JOHN WATKINS have not been idle these past months. When gigs dried up from the pandemic, the 3 veteran bluesmen put their heads and musicianship together to record a cd titled “3 by 3” on Vaughn’s Reecy Records label, released on July 2nd, 2021.

            “We’d meet for a session in masks, the studio would be disinfected afterwards, and we’d kick it back in the following day” said Vaughn. “Painstaking at first, we managed to get in a groove in short order. I’m proud of it and it’s kept us in good spirits during this tough time.” Sessions took place in the Beecher, IL studio known as On The Moon utilizing the highly sensitized hearing and empathetic soul of blind proprietor/engineer Byron Harden. “Byron’s got a great ear,” says Dixon. “He can hear things no one else can and he communicates from a deep place.”

          The three principal musicians have been friends since their days as Blues journeymen. Vaughn first crossed paths with Watkins during the latter’s Kingston Mines club period and later during John’s stints with James Cotton and his uncle Jimmy Johnson. Freddie met Maurice as bassist with A.C. Reed and Vaughn played guitar. Freddie and John were co-members of Willie Dixon’s touring band known as the Chicago Blues All Stars in the last decade of the elder Dixon’s life. Since then, they have often worked together under each other’s leadership in Chicago clubs, and festivals both in the US and Canada.

            “This cd is both a collaboration and a way for each of us to fulfill separate purposes. And everyone’s got something to contribute that a solo project would not have had,” says Vaughn. “It’s a 21 song double cd, 7 cuts for each of us. We play on some of each other’s tracks and John and I brought some cuts together from various sessions with other friends from recent years.”

            Dixon’s aim is to “pay tribute to the artistry of my dad, so my cuts are Willie Dixon songs” he says. “I’ve wanted to do this for some time and this was the perfect opportunity. In the future I’ll include originals of mine but this is a way to honor my father. We’re reaching out to young people with the blues. It’s time to mentor and to pass this music on to the next generation. Willie Dixon was all about that, that was his legacy. He felt Blues music was the most powerful thing on earth. And it is.”              

           John Watkins has been looking forward to recording again since he rejoined the re-formed All Stars (who have now gone their own way) in 2017. This rekindled a performing spark that he continued to pursue in his adopted town of Detroit. “This is like a new lease on life, man. Maurice and Freddie made the call and I was there. We all brought so much to this combination. It’s been a gathering of kindred spirits.” Maurice enthusiastically echoes his bandmate’s sentiments that creating this cd has been a successful joint effort: “I’ve enjoyed the independent production aspect and the teamwork of “3 by 3.” The sound and the end product are on me and my partners. And it’s brought us closer since we’re all positive and motivated to do this.”

           The beauty of the 3-Star lineup is in the varying sensibilities of each. Vaughn’s “The Spy” has one foot in a Southern Blues style reminiscent of Bobby Rush, Dixon’s treatments of Willie Dixon’s tried-and-true Blues standards like “Little Red Rooster” are given new life with horn arrangements combined with a wry vocal delivery, and Watkins brings his gutbucket blues funk back up from the days of his classic original “Here I Am” to “Traveling Man” (written by Vaughn) and his own “Stealing Love is a Crime.”

           Given the results under the duress of COVID 19, Vaughn, Dixon and Watkins might have created a new paradigm for an independent recording project that features three leads. With its equal numbers of songs per artist, shared sit-ins on many tracks, and a brilliant mix of originals and covers, “3 by 3” is both an economic and creatively brilliant venture of fantastic results. 

– Peter M. Hurley
Photos © Peter M. Hurley
To purchase the CD, click the button below:
Purchase the 3×3 CD Here
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.
Summertime Blues! Upcoming Shows
Featuring More Chicago Blues Masters
Dave Specter:

July 15: Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL Gallagher Way Concert Series, 4:00 PM 

July 16: Untitled, Chicago, IL, 8:00 PM

July 17: House of Blues, Chicago, IL, 9:00 PM

July 21: Austin Community Tavern, Steger, IL, 7:30 PM 

July 29: Ravinia Food Truck Thursdays Concert Series, Highland Park, IL, 5:00 PM

Photo by Peter M. Hurley
Joanna Connor

July 8  / July 9 / July 10: Kingston Mines, Chicago, IL

July 15 / July 16: Kingston Mines, Chicago, IL

July 17: Six Strings Music Festival (Headliner) Valpraiso, IN

Brother John Kattke

In addition to appearances with Dave Specter:
August 21: Navy Pier Beer Garden, Chicago, IL 2:00 PM

Johnny Burgin

July 8: Dragon’s Den, New Orleans, LA, 6:00 PM
July 8: dba, New Orleans, LA, 9:00 PM

To learn with these Chicago Blues Masters, as well as with Billy Flynn and Harlan Terson, sign up for “At Home Chicago Blues” lessons. For $23.95/month you will have access to 40+ video lessons, plus weekly LIVE Zoom meetings with your Instructor and fellow Blues players.
Sign Up for Lessons Here
Chicago Blues Video Lesson with Johnny Burgin

Blues in the B7th Position with Johnny Burgin

When you sign up for lessons, get the 4th month of lessons FREE…the first four months are just $71.85. Sign up, get geared up!
Learn Blues Here
Wander with the Blues…Worldwide
“No Border Blues” with Johnny Burgin and Stephanie Tice
Take this opportunity to discover Blues scenes around the world with “No Border Blues” podcast; introducing you to new artists. Click the video below for an episode featuring Blues Guitarist Arinjoy Sarker.

No Border Blues #15: Blues Guitarist Arinjoy Sarker from Kolkata, India

Arinjoy Sarkar is a up-and-coming guitarist and singer from Kolkata, India. The Arinjoy Trio features Sounak Roy on drums and Aakash Ganguly on bass; they self-released “The Arinjoy Trio” in 2019, won an all-India band hunt contest in 2018, and on the strength of that they were invited to perform at the Mahindra Blues Festival in 2018 and 2019. In 2020 Arinjoy performed at Mahindra in a pan-Indian all-star group–“The Homegrown Blues Collective”.

Arinjoy is endorsed by Fender India and was recently featured in Rolling Stone India. Currently [as of April 2021] the trio is working on a second release and their goal is to tour in Europe and the US. Arinjoy and his trio approach the blues seriously–with very few local peers or mentors, and in a country with very few blues performances and venues, they have managed to both educate themselves about the blues and to perform the blues with soul.

Take a blues journey with No Border Blues, the only blues podcast focused on international blues artists and hidden blues scenes around the world. Delmark recording artist Johnny Burgin and producer Stephanie Tice shine a spotlight on notable international blues performers, discuss the blues scenes in their home countries, and present intimate and exclusive musical performances. Sponsored by Chicago Blues Network, bringing Chicago Blues to the world.
“Blues from the Inside Out” Podcast
Host Dave Specter Interviews Rick Estrin–Featuring Music from the Contemporary Album on Alligator Records

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats – Contemporary (Official Video)

One of the premier harp players, singers and songwriters on today’s blues scene, Rick Estrin shares great stories and memories from his early days growing up in San Francisco and his move to Chicago in the 1960s. Music from his latest album, Contemporary on Alligator Records is featured in the podcast.
Listen to the Podcast Here!
Want more music? Get the Contemporary album HERE.
Keep the Music Spinning…
Until next time!
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