If the Academy Awards and all the borrowed bling isn’t your thing, then a trip to see some lowdown, dirty and thoroughly traditional Chicago blues might be in order. That’s because the legendary Tail Dragger will be performing at the West Side Soul Showcase at B.L.U.E.S on Sunday, February 24.
While many of the stars on the red carpet might trumpet their colorful past or street credibility, Tail Dragger is the real deal. Born James Yancy Jones in Altheimer, Arkansas, the boy who would become Tail Dragger saw blues greats like Sonny Boy Williamson and Boyd Gilmore perform at nearby house parties and country suppers. Like so many other African-American southerners of that era, he migrated north to Chicago, where he had the opportunity to see and hear heroes like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and other blues luminaries.
Tail Dragger started shadowing Howlin’ Wolf in and around the west and south side clubs. He picked up pointers and actually got his “Tail Dragger” moniker from a Howlin’ Wolf song by the same name. Soon he was filling in for “the Wolf” on stage when the big man took his breaks. Tail Dragger even received high praise from his idol when Howlin’ Wolf predicted that, “one day this boy will take my place!”
When Howlin’ Wolf passed away, Tail Dragger teamed up on the Chicago Blues circuit with legends like Hubert Sumlin, Carey Bell, Eddie Shaw and others. He released a few singles and was becoming a blues star on his own merits. But his career took a downward turn when he did time for second-degree murder in 1993. That was after he shot and killed a fellow bluesman named Boston Blackie allegedly over disputed profits from a gig.
But Tail Dragger wouldn’t drag his proverbial tail for long. When he was released from prison 17 months later, he released his first CD entitled, “Crawlin’ Kingsnake.” He later signed on and recorded with the legendary Chicago record label, Delmark, where he remains to this day and which is presenting his Sunday show.
Delmark Director of Promotions, Kevin Johnson noted that the West Side Soul showcase will feature “more tasteful, less is more style of playing, which is becoming more and more difficult to find these days on the flashy contemporary blues/blues rock scene in Chicago.”
So forget the awards season flash and dash off to B.L.U.E.S on Sunday, February 24 for a true blues artist, who has lived the life in every sense of the world. You’ll even get access to a free “after party” on that night. Simply pay the $8 cover charge and B.L.U.E.S and you can get into Kingston Mines for free—or vice versa.
B.L.U.E.S is located at 2519 N. Halsted in Chicago. Doors open at 8pm, with the Tail Dragger show beginning at 9:30 pm. Tail Dragger’s special guests will include West Side blues/soul singer, Willie D.