If you want a taste of Chicago, you don't have to bite into a deep dish pizza, instead you can stop into B.B. King's Blues Club this Friday night and get a listen to Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials.
Headed by Lil' Ed Williams -- who sings while playing his slide guitar -- and backed by his half-brother James "Pookie" Young on bass, Mike Garrett on guitar, and Kelly Littleton on drums, these folks aren't just legends of the Chicago blues scene, they also were the winners of 2011's Best Live Band award from Living Blues critics' poll.
New Times caught up with Lil' Ed from his van as the band drove from their hometown to Florida to start the tour that Lil' Ed promises, "will have songs from throughout my career," adding, "You know I have eight CDs so there's a lot to choose from. People want something different and they want a good time so we give it to them."
Lil Ed and Pookie came from a musical family. Their uncle J.B. Hutto taught them how to play guitar, drums and, bass as well as passing stories on to them about mythical blues figures with whom he'd crossed paths.
"He'd talk about Elmore James and Hound Dog Taylor and Howling Wolf, who I got to meet. He'd tell us about fights they'd get into and shows they played." Lil' Ed is still greatly influenced by his uncle. The only song on his newest album, 2012's Jump Start, that Lil' Ed didn't have a hand in writing is a cover of his uncle's song "If You Change Your Mind," which Lil' Ed says always puts a smile on his face. "He passed away some time ago, so it feels real good when I get to play one of his songs."
Though the old school Chicago blues is the band's biggest influence, they have eclectic tastes. "We'll be listening to opera, country, everything and you never know which song might inspire me to write something new," Ed says.
During the conversation, Lil' Ed was quick with a laugh even though he was anxious for the van to finally get to their destination. But his biggest chuckle came when he remembered his brother and his early days trying to make it as musicians. "We were teenagers and we were too young to get into the clubs we wanted to play at," he recollects. "So we'd paint a mustache on to Pookie's face. We'd put on big hats and big suits so people would think we were old enough to get in there."
Their show at B.B. King's will be all ages, so bouncers need not be concerned about suspicious facial hair.
Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials, Friday, April 11, 7:30 p.m., B.B. King's Blues Club, 550 S Rosemary Ave, West Palm Beach. Visit bbkingclubs.com