A Conversation with Billy Branch

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Three-time Grammy nominated Bluesman Billy Branch is a worldwide Legend! Chicago is his home base where he plays regularly with his band The Sons of Blues. They will be playing live August 15 at Chicago State University’s Jazz in the Grass series and August 18 at Buddy Guys Legends.

Billy spoke exclusively with the Chicago Defender about his discovery of the blues and why it’s necessary to keep the music alive.

Angelique W: What attracted you to Blues music?
BB: It was a festival I attended…August 30, 1969 [in Chicago]. I never heard live blues before that day because I was raised in Los Angeles. I didn’t have any interest in it…a typical teenager. I wasn’t aware of the significance of the blues. But that was a life changing moment. That festival was produced by Willie Dixon, and there’s never been a festival of that magnitude – before or since. It was quite possibly the greatest blues festival ever produced.

AW: Who were your mentors in the beginning of your career?
BB: Willie Dixon is easily the most outstanding and most influential. I credit him with really putting me on the map. But prior to Willie, I was frequenting blues clubs…notably Teresa’s Lounge, The Checker Board, and Comfort’s Lounge. My first hang out was Teresa’s Lounge on 48th and Indiana, and that was the home of Junior Wells. So guys like Junior and Big Walter Horton.

AW: Why is important for you to keep Blues music relevant, especially in the African American community?
BB: You know some of [our] folk didn’t even want to be associated because the blues was considered low class… were as jazz was represented as more high society. But really the blues is arguably one of [our] greatest contributions to the world, and one of the most influential because all of America’s popular music evolves from the blues. There would be no rock in rock n’ roll. The British invasion was started by their discovery of the blues. They all started off listening to songs by Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker. The Rolling Stones named their band after a song by Muddy Waters. So, this great treasurer that we’ve given to America and the world is something that we’ve failed to embrace. Any musician will tell you that 90% of our audience is non-African American. But yet this incredible art form was created by African Americans.

AW: Can we expect any new music in the near future from Mr. Billy Branch?
BB: Definitely! I always record on special projects with other artists, but I’m working on some new material now with my band that will be coming out soon.

AW: Where can people find out more about you?
BB: On the Internet, we post all of our upcoming performances and other fun info and pictures about Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues on our Facebook fanpage – http://www.facebook.com/billy.branch

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