Making a Scene Presents an Interview of Liz Mandeville
Mandeville grew up in an arts-filled home in a musical family in Wisconsin. Her father sang folk songs and played the guitar, and her mother was a teacher and theater buff. Her father taught her to sing and paint, and she started playing the guitar at age 16. She first played professionally in coffee houses around Wisconsin. She moved to Chicago in 1979 to study theater and started going to Chicago clubs to observe and study singing, playing, and audience responses. During this time she met her future husband (and later ex-husband) Willie Greeson (known as Willie Phillips), who played in the Legendary Blues Band. He introduced her to the Chicago blues and R&B world. She learned from local artists Otis “Big Smokey” Smothers and Kansas City Red at the Chicago club B.L.U.E.S. on Halstead. After a bandleader in a Chicago jazz club tried to publicly humiliate her by accusing her of being a blues singer, she became determined to study music. She graduated with honors from Columbia College with a degree in music. She also studied voice for eight years with baritone Doug Susu-Mago, who taught her to use her voice as an instrument and to regard her presentation as an athletic performance.
Mandeville toured professionally for ten years across the upper Midwest and Canada with the R&B band the Supernaturals. She met bassist Aron Burton in 1994 and started “a longstanding performance relationship” with him that included her “label recording debut.” She began performing regularly at Chicago blues clubs and worked with blues artists such as Willie Kent, Maurice John Vaughn, and Michael Coleman. Her first European tour was in 1997, and she continues to tour internationally to critical acclaim, having performed for audiences in South Africa, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Latvia, and Canada. She has been an artist-in-residence at the Chicago blues clubs Kingston Mines, Blue Chicago on Clark, B.L.U.E., Blue Chicago, and Bill’s Blues. She formed her own record label, Blue Kitty Music, in 2011.
Blues reviewer Eric Schelkopf wrote that Mandeville is a “true renaissance woman and fervent promoter of the blues.” She is a songwriter, singer, guitarist, journalist, and painter. She has “written and produced hundreds of original songs,” including all of the songs on her CDs. She is a journalist for the Chicago Blues Guide. She considers visual arts as “food for the soul” and she paints, composes computer art, and makes jewelry.
Mandeville formed her first band in 1983. She has led her own band longer than any other female Chicago musician. She now leads the band Blue Points. She is the only white vocalist who performs regularly at internationally known Chicago blues clubs. She is a regular performer at the Chicago Blues Festival and a member of Chicago Women in the Blues.