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Stage Buzz: Hey Nonny’s Winter Blues Summit [with added Photo Gallery]

| February 8, 2020

Jimmy and Syl Johnson headline Hey Nonny’s Winter Blues Summit


Winter has traditionally been a slow season for music festivals in Chicagoland while folks recover from their holiday hangovers. Other than the TNK Festival in Chicago, a sturdy and dependable showcase of emerging talent, there’s not been the equivalent in the suburbs.

The folks at Hey Nonny and Straight Arrow Productions are changing the indoor music festival landscape with the first annual Winter Blues Summit, which runs from January 31 through February 2 on four stages at both Hey Nonny and Metropolis in Arlington Heights. “Just about every Chicago blues great will be appearing at the Winter Blues Summit,”  Hey Nonny co-owner Chip Brooks told IE. Straight Arrow Productions president Dave Katzman added: “Hey Nonny has become the go-to destination for true Chicago blues in the northwest suburbs, so this seemed like a natural fit.”

Headlining the event will be the on-stage reunion of Chicago blues legends Jimmy and Syl Johnson. The Johnson brothers were born and grew up in Holly Springs, Mississippi, but moved to Chicago in the 1950s, where they quickly became part of the exploding Chicago electric blues scene with pioneers Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Little Walter. Through those early years, Jimmy Johnson played with Freddy King, Albert King, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, and Eddy Clearwater. Syl Johnson also played with Magic Sam (his neighbor), as well as Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, and Howlin’ Wolf. He went on to release the hit records Different Strokes and Is It Because I’m Black on Chicago’s Twinight Record label. He also recorded “Take Me To The River and “We Did It” for the Hi Records label.

In the ’90s, Syl Johnson became one of the most sampled artists in the hip-hop world by artists like the Wu-Tang Clan, the Geto Boys, and Public Enemy. Jimmy Johnson is 91, and Syl Johnson is 83, and the two eminent brothers have not appeared together in years. The Hey Nonny Winter Blues Summit reunites them, backed by Big Time Friends, one of the finest collections of blues players performing in Chicago.

Other featured bands at the Winter Blues Summit include Donald Kinsey and the Kinsey Report. Donald’s resume includes being the guitarist for Albert King and playing with Bob Marley’s band, The Wailers. The Blues Imperials have proven to be one of Chicago’s most talented blues bands, powered by Li’l Ed Williams. Li’l Ed and the Blues Imperials have twice been named the Blues Music Awards Band of the Year.

Toronzo Cannon was born and bred in Chicago in the shadow of Blues landmark Theresa’s Lounge. His 2016 album The Chicago Way was nominated for a Blues Music Award as 2017 Album of the Year, and The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp (Alligator) is one of Illinois Entertainer’s Albums of the year. Joanna Connor is one of the world’s leading female blues guitarists, making her a mainstay at Kingston Mines.

What makes The Winter Summit unique it also features all indoor access. “This will be the coolest indoor blues festival in the world – you park right next door, and then once you’re inside, you don’t have to go back outside all day. There is a large municipal parking garage with free parking just immediately south of Hey Nonny,” Chip Brooks told IE.

The event will also feature a panel discussion on Saturday, February 1, at 4:00 p.m. with some of Chicago’s most notable sidemen, including Bob Stroger, Rico McFarland, Donald Kinsey, Marty Sammon, and Billy Flynn. All of whom together have toured and recorded with every major blues star from Buddy Guy to Otis Rush to James Cotton to Albert King, Pinetop Perkins to Kim Wilson, and, in Kinsey’s case, Bob Marley. Joining the panelists will be filmmaker Scott D. Rosenbaum, who will follow the panel discussion with an exclusive screening of his award-winning film Sidemen: Long Road To Glory. “Like The Wrecking Crew and Standing in the Shadows music documentaries, this was a blues sideman story that needed to be told,” Straight Arrow’s Dave Katzman explained to IE.

Tickets for the full three-day Winter Blues Summit, including the panel discussion, screening of Long Road to Glory, and two Blues Brunches, are $175 each. One-day passes are also available starting at $60. For the full line-up, event schedule, and to purchase tickets, visit Wingate by Wyndham in Arlington Heights is the official hotel sponsor of the event, offering a special room rate of $79 for ticket holders. Attendees can call 847-434-0300 and ask for the Winter Blues Summit room rate.


Ed Spinelli captured Day Two of Hey Nonny’s Winter Blues Summit

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Category: Stage Buzz

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