Making a Scene presents an interview with Indie Blues artist Bob Corritore!
Bob Corritore is one of the most active and highly regarded blues harmonica players on the scene today. His style passionately carries forward the old school of playing that Corritore learned as a young man directly from many of original pioneers of Chicago Blues. His sympathetic, yet fiery harmonica playing is featured on over 50 releases to date, on labels such as HighTone, HMG, Blue Witch, Blind Pig, Earwig, Ruf, Putumayo, Random Chance, and the VizzTone Label Group and the great Delta Groove label, which he is currently signed to. Many of Bob’s acclaimed releases have been nominated or winners for various Handy, Grammy, and Blues Music Awards and Blues Blast Music Awards. Bob is also widely recognized for his many roles in the blues, as band leader, club owner, record producer, radio show host, arts foundation founder, and occasional writer. His amazing website www.bobcorritore.com and his weekly e-newsletter reflect a life thoroughly invested in the blues.
Born on September 27, 1956 in Chicago, Bob first heard Muddy Waters on the radio at age 12, an event which changed his life forever. Within a year, he was playing harmonica and collecting blues albums. He would see blues shows in his early teens, including attending a Muddy Waters performance at his high school gymnasium. He would cut his teeth sitting in with John Henry Davis on Maxwell Street until he was old enough to sneak into blues clubs. He hung around great harp players such as Big Walter Horton, Little Mack Simmons, Louis Myers, Junior Wells, Big John Wrencher, and Carey Bell, and received harmonica tips and encouragement from many of them. He would regularly see the Aces, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Billy Boy Arnold, John Brim, Sunnyland Slim, Smokey Smothers, Eddie Taylor, and in many cases became personal friends with these blues veterans. Corritore worked with Tail Dragger, Big Moose Walker, Willie Buck, Louis and Dave Myers, and Eddie Taylor in the late 70s and early 80s. He also produced his first recordings during that time, taking unheralded harmonica greats such as Little Willie Anderson and Big Leon Brooks into the studio to produce their now classic debut albums.
In 1981, Bob ventured southwest to live in Phoenix, Arizona. Within months, his Chicagoland friend Louisiana Red joined Bob, and the two played together around Phoenix for about a year until Red went to live in Germany. For the remainder of the1980s, Bob worked in Phoenix and throughout the Southwest with Big Pete Pearson, Buddy Reed, Tommy Dukes, Chief Schabuttie Gilliame, and an emerging Janiva Magness in one of her earliest bands. In 1984, Bob supplemented his performances with a blues radio show called Those Lowdown Blues on KJZZ, which is still going strong. In 1986, former Howlin’ Wolf drummer Chico Chism moved to Phoenix at Bob’s invitation to start a 20 year partnership that lasted until Chico’s passing in 2007. In 1991, Bob opened the now famous Blues and Roots Concert Club, The Rhythm Room. Having a club created yet another catalyst for Bob’s musical projects. He would often invite great artists to come to Phoenix, and Bob’s band, the Rhythm Room All-Stars would back these visiting artists on shows and in recording sessions. Bob’s archives of these sessions are now famous, and include sessions with Bo Diddley, Little Milton, John Brim, Jimmy Rogers, Henry Gray, Pinetop Perkins, Henry Townsend, Honeyboy Edwards, Big Jack Johnson, Ike Turner, Smokey Wilson. Lil’ Ed, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Nappy Brown, R.L. Burnside, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Sam Lay, Barbara Lynn, John Primer, Eddy Clearwater, and numerous others.
In 1999, Bob released his first CD as a national recording artist, combining some of the highlights of his vaults. The CD was called All-Star Blues Sessions, and was released on the HighTone record label to great fanfare. This momentum created a long series of CDs on HighTone with Bob in the harmonica player/producer role. Bob started breaking into the national circuit in festival appearances with Henry Gray and Louisiana Red. Bob co-produced harmonica ace Kim Wilson’s 2001 release of Smokin’ Joint which got a Grammy nomination the following year. In 2005, Bob brought the Rhythm Room All-Stars featuring Big Pete Pearson to The Marco Fiume Blues Passions Festival in Italy, which opened a whole new world of European interest in Bob’s harmonica artistry. This led to return visits to Europe for various festivals and performances, as well as an ever-growing world-wide fan base. In 2007, the Mayor of Phoenix officially proclaimed September 29, 2007 to be “Bob Corritore Day” in honor of Bob’s musical contributions to his community. Also that year, Bob received a “Keeping The Blues Alive” award from the Blues Foundation. Bob’s 2007 collaboration with Dave Riley, Travelin’ The Dirt Road, was nominated for a Blues Music Award. Bob also contributed harmonica work on the 2008 Grammy®-nominated CD/DVD by Pinetop Perkins, On The 88s. Bob‘s prolific activity with the Blue Witch record label as label producer/harmonica player garnered him additional notoriety.
Bob signed with the great Delta Groove record label for a 2010 release that solidified Bob’s strong standing as a major player in today’s blues world. In 2011 he was nominated for a BMA (Blues Music Award) and a Living Blues Award for best harmonica player and his CD Bob Corritore & Friends / Harmonica Blues won a BMA for Best Historical Blues Release. Also In 2011 the State of Arizona awarded Bob a Certificate Of Recognition for his work in blues music. 2012 brings about the release of Tail Dragger & Bob Corritore / Longtime Friends In The Blues, as well as the Corritore produced Mud Morganfield / Son Of The Seventh Son (the national debut CD of the eldest son of Muddy Waters!) and a guest appearance by Mud and Bob on the Mannish Boys release Double Dynamite. Both The Mud and the Mannish Boys CDs would be showered with awards and nominations. Also that year, Bob’s photo was featured on the packaging of Hohner’s Blues Harp model harmonica. 2013 saw 2 more highly-celebrated collaboration CDs with John Primer and with Dave Riley, with the Primer awarded “Best Blues Album of 2013” by Germany’s Blues News Magazine! 2014 saw the release of Bob’s all instrumental CD “Taboo” with Jimmie Vaughan, Junior Watson, Fred Kaplan and Doug James among the albums guests. Bob performs regularly across the country and around the world with numerous projects including Dave Riley & Bob Corritore, Tail Dragger, Mud Morganfield Blues Band, The Rhythm Room All-Stars, Henry Gray, Sam Lay, Bob Margolin, Diunna Greenleaf, The Bob Riedy Blues Band, and others. In 2014, Corritore was also awarded a Blues411 Jimi Award for Best Harpist. In 2015, Delta Groove released Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest Vol 1, a collection of songs recorded over the last 19 years with Corritore and frequent collaborator Henry Gray. 2016 saw the release of Bob’s BMA nominated collaboration with Big Jon Atkinson titled House Party at Big Jon’s. In 2017 Bob released a second partnering with John Primer called Ain’t Nothing You Can Do and in 2018 Bob’s Don’t Let The Devil Ride showcases an all-star revolving cast of amazing singers and players!
Bob has also become well known for organizing multi-artist showcase sets and events featuring traditional blues revues. Look for Bob to continue his active work in presenting traditional blues harmonica playing to the world stage.
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