Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials at Sinnissippi Park Music Shell July 21

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118478066827710.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of‘, ‘Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials are on tour promoting their latest release, Rattleshake.‘);

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, touring in support of their latest release, Rattleshake, will perform at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 21, at the Sinnissippi Park Music Shell, 1401 N. Second St., as part of the Charlotte’s Web Summer Series. Admission is free.

From smoking slide guitar runs to raw-boned Chicago shuffles to the deepest blues, Lil’ Ed and his blistering, road-tested band, The Blues Imperials, get wild and crazy every time they pick up their instruments. Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials were crowned Blues Band of the Year at the 2007 Blues Music Awards.

Rattleshake features Lil’ Ed’s romping, sizzling guitar and his rough-hewn vocals, his half-brother James “Pookie” Young’s thumping bass, Mike Garrett’s feral rhythm guitar and Kelly Littleton’s unpredictable, yet bone-crunching drumming.

Produced by Alligator President Bruce Iglauer and Williams, Rattleshake features 13 songs, and captures all of Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials’ legendary live energy on disk. The variety on the CD, from stomping slide workouts to deep, slow blues to blues-ified country, makes this the most rewarding and soul-satisfying album the band has ever recorded.

Born in Chicago April 4, 1955, Ed Williams was playing guitar, then drums and bass, by the time he was 12. Along with his half-brother Pookie, Ed received lessons and support from their famous blues-playing uncle, J.B. Hutto.

Ed and Pookie spent their teen years making music together, and in 1975 formed the first incarnation of The Blues Imperials. Over the next few years, the group played every club in the neighborhood, but they still needed day jobs to pay the bills. Ed worked 10 hours a day as a buffer at the Red Carpet Car Wash. Pookie drove a school bus. Night after night, they played their roaring brand of blues in tiny clubs, and eventually the word reached Alligator President Bruce Iglauer, who chose to include the band on a compilation of local Chicago blues artists.

After recording just two songs, the Alligator staffers in the control room were on their feet begging for more. Two songs later, complete with Ed’s signature toe walking and back bends, even the engineer was dancing. Iglauer offered the band a full album contract on the spot. The end result of the session was 30 songs in three hours with no overdubs and no second takes. Twelve of those songs became the band’s debut album, Roughhousin’, released in September 1986.

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials’ next two releases, 1989’s Chicken, Gravy and Biscuits and 1992’s What You See Is What You Get, brought them to more people than ever before. Night after night, Ed’s live shows were bringing down the roof. The New York Times raved, “Raw-boned, old-fashioned Chicago blues has a new young master—Lil’ Ed Williams.”1999’s Get Wild! and 2002’s Heads Up! kept the blues fire burning, as critics and fans continued to heap praise and adulation on the band.

The Washington Post described Williams’ music as “contagious wildness.” The Philadelphia Inquirer expressed it as “raucous and hugely entertaining.” Adding to the legend is Ed’s storybook rise, taking him from working in a car wash to entertaining thousands of his fans all over the world, to an appearance on Late Night With Conan O’Brien (in a hilarious film with Lil’ Ed teaching Conan how to play the blues) culminating with Lil’ Ed on stage with O’Brien in front of a televised audience in the millions.

For more information about the July 21 concert, co-sponsored by the Crossroads Blues Society and WNIJ-FM, visit

from the July 18-24, 2007, issue

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