The first record I remember vividly was Louis Armstrong singing “Hello Dolly”… I can still remember trying to sing like him. It was a hit on the radio. The craziest thing is that I did the math and realized I was 2! The first two albums to grab me between the ages of 4 and 7 were Taj Mahal’s Giant Step/The Ole Folks at Home and Sgt. Peppers. I also loved Beethoven, Fiddler On The Roof, and James Brown. Later came Hendrix, Zep the Rolling Stones. I saw Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells when I was 10 in 1972… . It blew me away.
2.0 – What was the first record you ever bought and how did it make you feel?
I don’t remember the first record I bought. I was poor growing up. I remember the first one I stole… a 45 of Billy Preston… Nothing From Nothing… Ha! I loved the radio then. I loved soul and funk and Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell and jimmy Cliff and all kind of stuff. Music was my escape, my world. I spent hours every day dancing, singing, and playing air guitar in front of my parent’s Zenith stereo.
3.0 – What was your first guitar and do you still have it ?
My mom bought me a Sears classical guitar when I was 7. I asked for ballet lessons. She gave me guitar lessons. Lord knows what happened to it.
4.0 – What was the first actual blues lead lick you learned, from what song?
I took blues guitar lessons from an amazing guy in Worcester named Ron Johnson when I was 14. I played acoustic. He turned me on to the early delta, piedmont, ragtime and slide stuff. I think the first blues lick I learned was a Mississippi John Hurt tune.
5.0 – What’s the blues scene like today in Chicago versus when you originally moved here?
The blues scene now is still jamming in terms of the clubs being packed and bands performing but it is a pale 3rd string version of when I first moved here talent and skill wise.
6.0 – As a blue guitarist, are there still classic ‘showdowns’ that determine a pegging order among and between the players?
It’s a boys club. It’s like high school. The cool table in the cafe. They are all peacocks. The king in my opinion right now is Carl Weathersby. There are always battles here. Each guy thinks they are the champ!
7.0 – How do you retain vitality playing a form of music that is nearly a hundred years old, if not older?
I always played the blues in my own way when I went on my own, mixing all of my influences in what I did. I was never a purist. It always stays fresh for me that way.
9.0 – Do you enjoy writing lyrics and titles or is that ‘work’ part of the song writing equation?
I almost always hear the groove first. With Big Girl Blues I wrote the words first. My second love in life is literature. I have been a huge reader my whole life. I have written a lot of poetry. I find song writing a chore however and only write for projects… I don’t know why.
10.0 – What gets you off more live: when you know you are singing really well or playing guitar at your best?
Playing the guitar is my passion. It takes me out of myself and also drives me into my soul. Singing can be cathartic but I have to sing 4 to 5 hours a night and it is physically very taxing, and more of a chore.
See Joanna Connor’s 2013 tour schedule at SongKick