Half Notes: Kent DuChaine and Johnny Shines, "Sweet Home Chicago" (1992)

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by Derrick Lord

I’ll never forget my first night at a “real bar” when I turned legal. There used to be this place called Daddy Rawshucks Oyster Bar, which was the typical cool joint so common then and so rare now. No corporate logo needed. I was legal anyway but my brother was not. No problem there: I bought, we both drank. Raw oysters and the blues might sound like a nasty combo but it was a night to remember. One of my best, to tell you the truth. This night was my introduction to Kent DuChaine. Kent was then and remains today a strange sort of fellow. Back in those days, he toured the country in a powder blue ’55 Caddy he named Marilyn (after Monroe of course) playing blues on his National steel guitar known as Leadbessie. Maybe that doesn’t sound particularly strange to you, but the guy is from Minnesota after all. Not Mississippi — Minnesota. Kent travels the world now; can’t say I know what happened to Marilyn, but Leadbessie is still at his side.

Over the years Kent has played music with the likes of Boogie Woogie Red, Luther Tucker, Big Walter Horton, Hubert Sumlin, Eddie Burns and Margie Evans, Lazy Bill Lucas, and Kim Wilson. He’s shared the bill with B.B. King, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Bukka White, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells — oh, and of course, Johnny Shines, who DuChaine worked with until Shines’ death in 1992 — right around the time Roots of Rhythm & Blues: A Tribute to the Robert Johnson Era appeared, featuring Shines and Duchaine at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival doing “Sweet Home Chicago.” Shines was done when DuChaine met him in 1990 but the two struck up a friendship that got the old blues man back in the game. He could be doing something else for more money, I would imagine, but he has dedicated his life to something he loves — the Delta blues. If we had more people like that, the world would be at least be a more interesting, if not better, place. You may have never heard of Kent DuChaine, but he had a big impact on me. A lot of my love for the blues comes from that first night out and seeing him play the music.

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Half Notes is a quick-take music feature on Something Else! Reviews, presented whenever the mood strikes us.

Derrick Lord

Derrick Lord

An Alabama-based blues- and roots-music lover, Derrick Lord was an original co-founder, with S. Victor Aaron and Nick DeRiso, of the music site that grew into Something Else! Reviews. One of Nick's all-time favorite meals happened with Derrick, at the legendary Dreamland BBQ. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Derrick Lord
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