I was honored to provide the cover photo and design for WIN NOLL & THE ROCKIN’ SOUL’S self-titled new ep. The following is excerpted from a current BIG CITY RHYTHM & BLUES magazine article on Win by radio dj, label owner, promoter, publicist and all-round blues activist LYNN ORMAN WEISS.



From Opera to the Blues

“Blues Rock chose me. I was meant to cover these songs and reinterpret them,” says Win Noll of the songs covered on her debut recording, Win Noll & the Rockin’ Souls.

Win and her band’s five track EP rallies the rock gods. One original was written as an homage to her sister that nurtured her through a tough time, “Drinkin’ Buddy,” and four more (inspired by Shero’s). Included also are Etta James’s signature song “I’d Rather Go Blind,” Janis Joplin’s powerful cover “Piece of My Heart,” Win’s slaying of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” and Bo Diddley’s masterpiece “Who Do You Love.” All songs were recorded with her band The Rockin’ Souls at Chicago’s premiere blues recording studio, JoyRide. The band includes the legendary Eddy Clearwater’s drummer, Stephen Bass (nephew of famed Chess producer Ralph Bass who co-produced the CD), and guitar and bass player Shoji Naito (co-producer). 

“Welcome to the Blues, Win,” are the last words she remembers Eddy Clearwater saying when guesting at his last on-stage performance at Buddy Guy’s Legends. “When he said that to me, it opened my eyes to the Blues. It was my master class,” said Win. “It was nirvana. The Chief gave me courage.” 

Expanding on Eddy’s importance to her and her bandmates, she continues: “When Eddy passed, Stephen and Shoji were devastated at the loss of their longtime friend and band leader. But I’m so grateful to have them in The Rockin’ Souls.” The first time Win recorded in a studio was on Shoji Naito’s album Westmont to Chicago – A Tribute To Eddy Clearwater. The song “Find Yourself”, written by Eddy, fused 50s rock ‘n’ roll with old-school Chicago Blues—a perfect match for Win’s vocals.  

Win’s freshman single was recorded in the middle of the pandemic. “Drinkin’ Buddy” had a test run in a Nashville studio when she recorded it with a country guitarist who had more grits than barbecue. “It’s a very emotional and personal song. Stephen and my band made it more bluesy and funky. This song is the Blues, it is an absolute part of my truth,” she said. 

Win is classically trained in opera and in Broadway repertoire. It’s where her career was headed until she was derailed by divorce and raising two children as a single mom. “A few years into my divorce I really started singing the Blues. I started living the Blues. I had always listened to R&B and Blues while growing up in my grandmother’s home. So I guess it must have seeped in. I started going to Blues Jams, but it was difficult to get a performing slot.” Her band Buddha Blue (Stephen was the drummer) broke up so Win & Stephen put together an A-list of Chicago musicians: Shoji Naito, Minoru Maruyama, Wabi Ugucci, Mike Flynn and Stephen himself. Billy Branch and Linsey Alexander invited her to come up on stage and sing. Win was a guest on Linsey’s show at Buddy Guy’s Legends where booking manager, Marc Maddox, took notice and booked her. 

Blues clubs are now her home and she doesn’t have to wait for a slot at Blues Jams whether at Buddy Guy’s Legends or Rosa’s Lounge or Johnny Blitz or Austin Community Tavern. She also is a guest on many of the veteran Blues star Mary Lane’s shows. Win said, “She validated me when she said, ‘I don’t know who that little girl is but she just sang the shit out of that song.’”

Win continues, “In October 2020 my daughters, Stephen and I flew to California to visit my father who was having serious health issues. Our family gathered for a few dinners and we played him the song, “Drinkin’ Buddy.” My father loved my Blues Rock voice. He had not heard me sing like that before. He validated my music. I didn’t even know that this voice lived inside me like this.”

Win’s father died two weeks later contracting Covid in the hospital. Win’s emotion poured through her words: “I had to say goodbye and come back to Chicago. If I ever knew that divine grace was working in my life it was in that moment. My last days with him were precious; my dad heard my music. It’s like the universe staged a final meeting.”

A year later the CD was released independently. Because of the pandemic the planned release parties have all been postponed, including the one at Buddy Guy’s Legends, which has been closed from breakthrough cases. The 5-song EP is now available on CD Baby and on all music platforms. The popular live performance of Win Noll and the Rockin’ Souls is available at WWW.ROSASLOUNGE.COM and on YouTube. “I want to see a global audience. I want to share our music everywhere. Our band and our music is universal,” said Win. 

– Lynn Orman Weiss  

Photo and cd cover design by Peter M. Hurley; photo taken at Rosa’s Lounge / 2021.

Lynn Orman Weiss

Win Noll

Photo © Peter M. Hurley

– 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.