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Following Dreams 夢を追うこと 


The other day I read an article about Junko Yazawa, the first Japanese female physical trainer in the Major League Baseball (with Diamondbacks). I had the pleasure of meeting her in Austin TX when I was living there over 10 years ago. 



The inspiring part of her story was that she is following her dream of pursuing her career in the US after she paid her due to go over the obstacles. Doing something unprecedented would be like walking a long dark road at night alone feeling solitude and anxiety, and finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. 



For those who desire to immigrate to this country, so called Green Card (permit for permanent residency) is a must have. The value of it could be heavier than the weight of earth to them because their life will be denied without one. I have been through the process of obtaining one myself a few decades ago. 



In my case, the pursuit of my dream still continues as well. Last Fall, I moved the base of my music activities to Chicago, the home of blues. The first six months were intensively spent for networking, which fortunately resulted in my current position as the lead guitarist with an established blues band. For the following 6 months, I have proven that I can regularly play with them at Chicago’s premier night clubs. 



My next phase is ultimately to be known as a frontman for my own band. Going into the next year, it would be a long and winding road for me to get there. But I have to keep dreaming in order to make my dream come true. 



(Here is the link for the article quoted above): 


Good Old Westside Chicago Blues 

In my younger days, my blues guitar influence top 5 were: Otis Rush being the most influence, followed by Magic Sam and Buddy Guy for so called Chicago Westside's “squeeze guitar” style, and Eddie Taylor, Robert Lockwood Jr. for the down home Chicago Blues style. 

昔、ブルース・ギターにハマリ始めた頃、最も影響を受けたプレーヤーのトップ5をあげる。いわゆる“スクィーズ・ギター”系ではオーティス・ラッシュがダントツで、マジック・サム、バディ・ガイ。ダウンホームなシカゴブルース系では、エディー・テイラーとロバート・ロックウッドJr  の5人だ。 


The ES-335 in the pic I bought in the late 70’s back in Japan has been indispensable to play the traditional Chicago Blues. It has a naturally gritty tone that the recent models do not have. 

1970年代末から使っているES-335  (写真) は、伝統的なシカゴブルースを演るには欠かせない。最近のモデルも持っているが、古い方がよりそれらしい自然なトーンが出る。 


When I used a few other guitars some years ago, they widened my guitar sound. However, playing the late greatest Otis Rush’s songs a lot lately reminded me what strikes my heart strings most. I am set to continue pursuing the Westside Chicago Blues sound from the 60s. 



I hope my recent addition of Riviera (see the previous entry) will deepen the sound that I have been pursuing since my school days. 


My dream guitar 

I have recently become a proud owner of 1960’s Epiphone Riviera (pic), my dream guitar for many years. 



The sound I can associate with this guitar is Magic Sam, who is one of the major influences on my guitar style. 



In particular, I used to listen to his Westside Soul and Black Magic albums till they were worn out. 

特に、彼の“ウェストサイド・ソウル” と “ブラック・マジック” の二枚のアルバムは、擦り切れるほどよく聴いたものだ。 


I can not wait to bring the good old Westside Chicago Blues sound to the stage using this guitar. 


Move to the city of Chicago シカゴ市内に引っ越し 

I have recently moved to the city of Chicago from the suburbs to be closer to the action of its blues scene. It is important for me to stay within a short drive distance to the forefront of its music activities. 



This town has incredible quality and quantity of talented blues musicians, and yet, the number of venues where they can perform is very limited. 



Before I moved here from the West Coast, I had visited this city several times. The old school blues sound that I dig most is a rare find even in Chicago nowadays. As a resident in this town since last year, I confirmed what I knew before. 



I am now located about 10min drive to Halsted and 20min to downtown of Chicago. This is my determined attempt to be seen more in public to make things happen. 

今回の引越しで、(キングストン・マインズやB.L.U.E.S.のある) Halsted 通りに10分、シカゴの街中まで20分で行けるようになった。露出も兼ねて、ブルース・クラブにより足しげく通おうというモクロミだ。


"Stone Crazy" album by Mr. Buddy Guy 


In the previous entry of this blog, I mentioned about J.W. Williams, the legendary bluesman in Chicago. Notably he was on the album of Buddy Guy entitled Stone Crazy as a bassist. It was released in the early 1980s when I was still in school in Japan. 

前回のブログでシカゴの伝説的ブルースマン、J.W. ウィリアムスについて書いた。知られたところでは、氏はバディ・ガイのアルバム ”ストーン・クレイジー“ でベースを弾いている。それは1980年代始めにリリースされたが、僕はその頃まだ学生だった。 


A few years prior to that, I started digging the Chicago Blues very deep. The style of the blues I liked, and I still like most, was so called Westside Chicago Blues, the unique guitar blues sound developed in the 1950s through 60s by the greats such as Otis Rush, Magic Sam, and Buddy Guy. 

その数年前に僕はシカゴブルースに深くハマり始めた。特にウェストサイド・シカゴブルースと呼ばれるスタイルのギター・ブルースが一番気に入っていたし、今もそうだ。それは、1950年代から 60 年代にかけて、偉大なオーティス・ラッシュ、マジック・サム、バディ・ガイらによって創られたサウンドだ。 


I remember when Buddy Guy’s Stone Crazy album came out, I and my blues buddies in Japan back then were stunned by the bold direction that Mr. Guy took, namely, the contemporary blues sound where his guitar was fiercely screaming. In my humble opinion, the album may be considered an epic turning point for the Chicago Blues to target bigger audience. 



I recognized that J.W. Williams was on that album as the bassist when I started playing guitar for his band The Chi-Town Hustlers last Spring. I did not have the slightest idea that I would end up playing with J.W. in Chicago more than a few decades after I heard, for the first time, the work he participated in recording in the 1980s. 

僕はこの春にシカゴで、JW ウィリアムス氏のブルースバンド ”チャイタウン・ハスラーズ“ にギタリストとして入ったときに、彼がそのアルバムでベースを弾いていたことを認識した。日本で初めてそのアルバムを聴いてから、何十年もたってからのことだ。 


Life is full of chance meeting, but how rare the probability of this to happen in one’s life? Think about it. It is wild. 



Mr. J.W. Williams, the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame inductee JW ウィリアムス氏が殿堂入り 


Today J.W. Williams, the former bass player for Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, was inducted to the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in the “Legends” category.  It is the highest honor among the inductees.   

今日、JW ウィリアムス氏 (元バディ・ガイやジュニア・ウェルズのベーシスト) がシカゴブルース殿堂入りをした。最も権威のある“レジェンド”のカテゴリーで。 


It also includes the late greats Eddie Taylor Sr., Louis Myers, Fred Below Jr., Oddie Payne Sr. I grew up listening to the music of these big names while I was in Japan decades ago. 



In the picture, J.W. is making his acceptance speech during the award ceremony at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago. Standing aside is his wife Janet. 



It is my supreme honor to be currently in JW Williams’ band called the Chi-Town Hustlers as his guitar player. It is an once in lifetime opportunity for me. 



Congratulations Mr. J.W.!! 


Singing the Blues ブルースを歌う 

From the point of view of playing music, what was most beneficial for me after living in the US for decades? It is undoubtedly that I have become bold enough to SING the blues. Playing instruments can be learned anywhere. 



Blues is about the daily life. Playing instruments and singing can be synergetic in getting my emotion into songs. 



Blues was born in the US, and therefore, to me playing the blues in this country has been a challenge and also the most rewarding experience. 



In particular, when the audience grooves to my play and starts dancing, I often feel that I am even spiritually connected to them. 



Being accepted here as who I am as a blues player is most gratifying. 



My second Winter in Chicago is approaching シカゴでの2度目の冬が近い 

Five years ago I turned myself into a full time musician. It has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life, as my blues spirit needed to be set free. Being in control of my own music activities is the most rewarding experience, while it is also very stressful to take care of all the band business on my own. 



The summer in Chicago was hot and humid as compared to that of the West Coast where I came from. But now that we are in October, the temperatures in the evening and morning are dropping. It feels that the Winter is knocking on the door following the short Fall here. 



Entering my second year living in Chicago, my time in this town has been mostly fun but also takes a lot of endurance out of me. 



Namely, some days are good that I am invigorated and motivated to continue doing what I am doing. Other days are such that I feel like I am spinning my wheels and want to pack up and go home. 



In the long run, happiness is about making more good days than bad ones overall. 


The late greatest Mr. Otis Rush 

Yesterday, the Chicago Blues community was saddened by the news of Mr. Otis Rush’s passing. 



Among the Westside Chicago Blues guitar sound developed in the 1950s -1960s by those guitar greats, his guitar had the most influence on me when I started digging the blues. His deep bending and vibratos, combined with his soulful vocals, never failed to send a chill down my spine. 



In retrospect, my first encounter to Chicago’s “squeeze guitar” blues in my high school days were two of his albums - Cold Day In Hell and Live in Japan. In particular, the song called Three Times A Fool of his was the very first song that I learned what the shuffle groove was. 

振り返ると、僕が高校時代にシカゴの“スクィーズ・ギター”系のブルースに出くわしたのは、ラッシュ氏のアルバム2枚、Cold Day In Hell と Live In Japan だった。その中にあったThree Times A Fool と言う曲で、僕は初めてシャッフルのグルーヴを学んだ。 


It is not an exaggeration to say that Chicago had been my ultimate destination because of the legacy of music like his. 



Last night, I humbly had the honor to pay my own tribute to Mr. Rush by playing the song that defined my music direction in my younger days - that is Three Times A Fool, during my gig with J.W. Williams and the Chi-Town Hustlers at Blue Chicago. 

昨夜、ささやかながら僕はブルーシカゴでのライブ中に、追悼の意を込めてラッシュ氏のThree Times A Fool を演奏させて頂いた。僕が音楽を始めた頃に自分の方向を決定づけた曲だ。 


His legacy will live on. 


Playing the Blues in Chicago シカゴでブルースを演ること 


The purpose of my life in Chicago is one thing only – to play the Blues. I keep networking with the local musicians hoping that they will continue to support me in my own band activities. 



Many blues jams happening in town are great to meet the local musicians. In addition, they provide a stage to experiment. I have recently started attending blues jams to play drums and soon I will bring my bass guitar to jam sessions as well. 



Another means for me to connect with the local blues scene was to sit in with the featured bands at primary blues clubs where musicians also hang out. Indeed that was how I landed my current regular gigs. I was very lucky to be at the right place at the right time. 



Nowadays highly skilled blues musicians outnumber the venues in Chicago that book blues bands. Therefore, the competition for survival becomes fierce. 



It takes mental toughness to be a musician in this city. Bar gigs often require living a night life. As someone said, when you have to make a living, it is no fun to play music. I am playing the blues for living, and yet having fun for the love of it. That is a bonus.