Blues Pioneer Eddy ‘The Chief’ Clearwater Dies Age 83

At age 83, Chicago blues guitarist Eddy ‘The Chief’ Clearwater has passed away from heart failure.

Clearwater, who was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2016, also received two Blues Music Awards.

His record label Alligator, noted that he had been: “internationally lauded for his blues-rocking guitar playing, his original songs and his flamboyant showmanship.” Adding: “He was equally comfortable playing the deepest, most intense blues or his own
brand of rocking, good-time party music – a style he called ‘rock-a-blues,’ mixing blues, rock, rockabilly, country and gospel. Between his slashing guitar work and his room-filling vocals, Clearwater was among the very finest practitioners of the West Side style of Chicago blues.”

Clearwater, real name, Edward Harrington, was originally from Mississippi, but his family moved to Birmingham, AL when he was 13, where he began playing guitar with a left-handed, upside-down approach. He worked on his guitar chops with the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, and eventually moved to Chicago and hooked up with blues man, Magic Sam.

After hearing Chuck Berry, Clearwater changed musical direction and released his first single “Hill Billy Blues,” in 1958. His debut album The Chief, didn’t arrive until 1980, but was followed by 12 more studio albums followed, with the most recent release being 2014’s Soul Funky.

The president of Alligator records said of his passing: “Eddy was one of the premier West Side Chicago blues musicians of his generation, along with people like Magic Sam, Otis Rush and Freddie King,” adding: “He was really the last of the generation of West Side guitar players who modernized the blues in the ‘50s and very much carried on their legacy … He never got quite as much acclaim as the others, but he was definitely in the same league.”

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