I've known Barrelhouse Chuck since he took $24.0O a week flop at the Tokyo Hotel just to be in Chicago where he might learn more about blues from the bluesmen themselves. He drove 24 hours straight through from Florida to see Sunnyland Slim play his Sunday night gig at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted where I was playing the Wedneday night gig with the Lee Jackson band. Chuck hung out and listened and learned and become tighter with many of the older guys than most of us on the scene born here.
Many a night I witnesses piano giants like Sunnyland, Little Brother Montgomery, Detroit Jr, Blind John Davis, Big Moose Walker, and Jimmy Walker beam when chuck came into a club. "We have Barrelhouse Chuck in the audience," Sunnyland Slim would say " Let's give my son a nice round of applause. I'm gonna call my son up".
He won their acceptance.
Some writer's and critics seem uncomfortable about praising the skills of white blues musicians. But what's a mere critic's opinion in light of the fact that original blues masters like Little Brother Mongomery, Sunnyland Slim, S.P.Leary and Big Smokey Smothers took this young aspiring musician into their homes and welcomed him into their lives and onto their bandstands, oninted him with their musical blessings and called him 'son? No endorsement in the world can top that. That means more than words can say.
Barrelhouse Chuck plays from the heart- like his mentors- and "Salute to Sunnyland Slim" give back to those who gave so generously to him. Very simple, this is great Chicago blues in the true spirit of the masters and handed down directly from them. They knew they were putting their music in capable hands. His playing is imbued with the Chicago fire of his masters. Chuck adds the brash exuberence of (relative) youth to his tasteful and deeply felt brand of tradition blues. As a keeper of the flame, he both nurtures and expands upon the heritage.
These recording's featuring Chicago masters
S. P. Leary, Calvin Jones, Willie "Big Eyes' Smith, Billy Flynn, Hash Brown , Harmonica Todd, Sam Lay, and others.
Justin O 'Brien