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Celebrating this milestone anniversary of Delmark Records featuring performances by Jimmy Johnson, Steve Freund, Omar Coleman. Dave Specter, Tad Robinson, Ken Saydak and surprise guests.
Delmark Records, the internationally renowned, Chicago-based blues and jazz record label is the oldest active record company still owned and operated by its founder. Bob Koester is 85 years young and Delmark is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year with special anniversary recording projects and live shows.
Bob would sometimes refer to Delmark as “the house that Junior built”. Junior Wells’ Hoodoo Man Blues (1965) is still the biggest selling album on the label and is considered one of the greatest blues albums ever recorded. Delmark is also a jazz label and has more jazz albums in its catalog than blues; however, it’s been the blues that has ensured Delmark’s continued existence. Bob Koester, 20 then, started Delmark in St. Louis in 1953 recording the Windy City Six, a traditional jazz band. A transplant from Wichita, KS Bob learned the whereabouts of forgotten blues musicians from the 1920s and ‘30s living in St. Louis including Speckled Red and Big Joe Williams. Bob joked that Big Joe was pretty good at sniffing out a record deal. Sure enough, after Speckled Red’s The Dirty Dozens came out as Delmar 601 Big Joe was he second blues artist to have a Delmark LP.
Soon afterwards Bob moved to Chicago for a record label purchase that never happened, but it led to the beginning of his retail operation Jazz Record Mart and put Delmark in the city with the most blues activity. After recording Sleepy John Estes, Curtis Jones and one more Big Joe session, Hoodoo Man Blues (Delmark 612) was the first electric blues album to be recorded on Delmark. Buddy Guy was thought to be under contract to Chess, so he was billed as Friendly Chap for the first 7,000 copies. Bob saw many blues artists on Chicago’s west and south side in neighborhoods to which white people generally did not go. Bob became known for taking young white blues fans into these clubs. Magic Sam, J.B. Hutto, Otis Rush, Carey Bell, Jimmy Dawkins, Luther Allison, Mighty Joe Young, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Roosevelt Sykes and Jimmy Johnson all recorded for Delmark from the late ‘60s through the ‘70s, an impressive legacy.
Delmark ramped up its recording program big time in 1992 with the purchase of its own recording equipment. Since then the number of blues albums in the catalog has grown from 50 to 250. All of the artists performing on the SPACE show have recorded for Delmark recently. Steve Freund and Tad Robinson are both members of the Rockwell Avenue Blues Band whose new album Back To Chicago was just released on March 16, 2018. Jimmy Johnson, Dave Specter and Omar Coleman all appear on Tribute, a newly recorded blues celebration of Delmark’s 65th Anniversary officially due out June 15, 2018 however advance copies will be available in time for the SPACE show.