Bob Levis talks Rockford Blues

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113036216732640.jpg’, ‘Photo by Carl Thompson’, ‘Ernie and the Po' Boys' Bob Levis (left) with blues legend Lonnie Brooks at On the Waterfront Sept. 4.’);

Bob Levis is an old school blues guitarist who honed his chops touring extensively across the U. S., Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan with Chicago blues legend Otis Rush. He also recorded and toured with another Chicago bluesman, and Rockford favorite, Lonnie Brooks. He spent an 18-year stint as a member of the house band at Kingston Mines, a popular Chicago blues club. A life- long Chicago native, Bob and his wife relocated to Rockford three and a half years ago. He is currently a guitarist in the Rockford area’s premier blues band, Ernie and the Po‘ Boys.

TRRT: I guess the most obvious question is, “Why Rockford?”

Bob: I was tired of the congestion and traffic in Chicago, but didn’t want to live in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t want to live in a town that closes down at 8 p.m. There is a lot going on in Rockford. There is a vibrant music scene and diverse culture here. It has many of the amenities of a large city without many of the headaches and hassles.

TRRT: You have been embraced by the local music community, as evidenced by your participation in the Blues Guitar Shootout held at the Sinnissippi Park Music Shell this past July. How was that experience?

Bob: It was fun playing with my old friends from Chicago, Steve Ditzell and Pistol Pete, and getting to know Dan Voll better. I was happy with the turnout, pleasantly surprised, you might say. The stands were packed. Very gratifying.

TRRT: It has been rumored that Ernie and the Po‘ Boys have a new CD in the works.

Bob: Yes, we are working on it. It is just a matter of getting the artwork and packaging finished. We hope to have it out real soon.

TRRT: Ernie and the Po‘ Boys played several festivals this summer, including On the Waterfront. Do you have any upcoming shows you would like your fans to be aware of?

Bob: We currently have dates booked at J. D.’s Sports Bar at the North Towne Mall, the Iron Horse Social Club in Savanna, Ill., and various private functions and weddings.

TRRT: I understand you are working on a side project to keep yourself busy during the week.

Bob: Yes, it is a project I have been wanting to do for a while. I approached Nino at Big Cities Lounge, and he said Wednesday nights were open. The opportunity was available, so I put together a band, and we’ll see how it works out. The working name of the group is The Barstool Bob Blues Band featuring Big Jim Johnson on vocals and harmonica. Link Leary will be playing drums, Dave Kay on bass, Ted Lawrence also on harmonica, and Steve Fierz on keyboards, and other surprise guests.

TRRT: When did you record with Lonnie Brooks?

Bob: I first recorded with Lonnie in 1977 on the album Let’s Talk it Over, Bayou Lightning in 1979, and several other albums up until 1981. Before that, I recorded with Otis Rush on Cold Day in Hell in 1976 and Live in Europe in 1977 plus Lost in the Blues, also in 1977. Altogether I have appeared on over 20 albums and CDs with various Chicago blues artists. Two of the albums I recorded with Lonnie were Grammy nominated. Recently I was informed that Delmark Records is going to release a CD of a live Otis Rush radio broadcast recorded in the mid-1970s at Wise Fool’s Pub in Chicago.

TRRT: Any parting thoughts?

Bob: I would just like to thank the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois for helping keep the blues alive in the stateline area.

From the Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 2005, issue

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