Anderson’s ‘Born In Chicago doc, Blues Concert June 6

Corky Siegel, harmonica virtuoso

Born In Chicago, ” the Chicago blues documentary that premiered at SXSW in March, will have its homecoming premiere and all-star concert June 6 at the Vic Theater.

The doc shines a long overdue light on the Chicago musicians who helped bring the blues to the forefront of music after learning first hand from legends of the genre such as Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters.

“Born In Chicago” was directed by multi-award winning producer/director/editor and musician John Anderson, who produced, directed and edited the live performance, platinum-selling DVD of “Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE.”

Harvey MandelThe project grew when Timm Martin of Out of the Box Records asked Anderson to a Chicago Blues Reunion (Barry Goldberg, Nick “The Greek” Gravenites, Harvey “The Snake” Mandel, and Corky Siegel) show at Fitzgerald’s in 2004.

The concert next month features full sets from the Chicago Blues Reunion four, joined by special guests Eric Burdon, Charlie Musselwhite, Sam Lay and Elvin Bishop.

Learning the blues directly from the masters

“The story has really not been told,” says doc co-producer and Chicago Blues Reunion keyboardist Barry Goldberg. “It’s sort of like the unsung heroes, the Chicago kids.

“We actually learned the blues first hand from the masters because being from Chicago; it was in our own backyard. We brought the blues to rock ‘n’ roll.”

Nick GravenitesThe doc tells how this group of white kids, including Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield, sneaked out of their homes at night to see the blues legends that held court at the city’s off-limits South and West Side clubs.

“This was during the Civil Rights era and people just didn’t go there. But we didn’t care because we loved the music and these masters like Otis Rush, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters were so nice,” says Goldberg.

“They were so flattered that we wanted to learn about their music and history and eventually they let us sit in with them, which is how we developed our craft.”  They went on to showcase the Chicago blues style on many of the seminal rock recordings of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Valuable story that needed to be told

“Born In Chicago” is narrated by Marshall Chess of Chicago’s famous Chess Records and features interviews with Keith Richards, B.B. King, Steve Miller and Bob Dylan.

“There was all sorts of stuff going on in Chicago at that time in the ‘60s,” says producer John Beug, whose previous credits include the “Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival” series.

Barry Goldberg“There was a whole transition in radio from AM to FM as well as the convergence of these urban blues artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf with the nice Jewish boys from the North Side. It’s a valuable story about Chicago and a story that needed to be told.”

On June 7, the full length screening of “Born In Chicago” screens at the Gene Siskel Film Center, followed by a discussion and Q&A with Goldberg, Gravenites, Lay, Mandel and Siegel.

Additional Siskel screenings will be held June 8, 10, 12 and 13.

Eric Kaplan is a Chicago-based freelance writer focusing on music, film, sports and humor. Contact