Chicago Blues Festival Preview: JOE PRATT

Picture this Post (PTP) spoke with a number of artists performing at the 2017 Chicago Blues Festival, happening June 9-11 in Millennium Park. Here, Joe Pratt (JP), a blues bassist performing with The Source One Band at 5:15 PM on Saturday, June 10 at the Budweiser Crossroads Stage (South Promenade), shares his thoughts about the blues and more.

Joe Pratt & the Source One Band will be joined by JoJo Murray for a tribute to the late Killer Ray Allison, a renowned drummer in the Chicago blues scene who performed with Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and others. Below is the transcript of our interview with Joe Pratt.

Read our full preview of the Chicago Blues Festival here

Picture this Post: When and why did you start playing blues music?

Joe Pratt: Started playing at the age of 13. I loved hearing blues and soul music on WVON Radio. At that age, my older sister bought my first guitar and amp from a pawn shop, here in Chicago, at 65th and Halsted.

PTP: When and how did you decide to pursue music professionally? 

JP: At the age of 16, I did my first professional gig at The High Chaparral Club, here in Chicago, at 77th & Stony Island with the legendary and colorful M.C. Wilbur "Hi-Fi" White. Tyrone Davis was also on the Show and later became one of my best mentors and friends.

PTP: Why is the genre important to you?

JP: The genres of blues and soul music are important to me from a heritage standpoint, because they detail a story of life that includes the good and bad. It’s great when people from other countries and walks of life appreciate this type music.

PTP: What are your biggest musical influences, both blues and otherwise?

JP: That’s a hard question to answer, but for me, it started out as gospel. Every Sunday I looked forward to going to my family’s Baptist Church and listening to the melodic sounds of worship. Like others, my music interests eventually turned to what’s labeled as “secular.” My biggest influences are legends like Artie “Bluesboy” White, Little Milton, Johnny Taylor, McKinley Mitchell, and Otis Clay, who were all great mentors. Living legend Bobby Rush is another.

Joe Pratt (left) and guitarist Eddie Willis (right) Photo: Joe Pratt
Legendary singer Otis Clay (left) was a friend and mentor of Pratt Photo: Joe Pratt

PTP: Besides blues music, what are your biggest interests? Do you draw artistic inspiration from these non-musical pursuits?

JP: My number one non-musical interest is loving and enjoying family and true friends. Treating others the way I wish to be treated… artistic inspiration can definitely be derived from that mindset.

PTP: How have you seen the world of blues music change in recent years? What future do you envision for blues music?

JP: In my honest opinion, the music itself will never change. My quest and prayer is that the legends who paved the way for artists like myself are NOT forgotten. The future of blues/soul music is bright!

PTP: What should we expect from your set this weekend?

JP: The audience at this year’s Chicago Blues Fest can expect a dynamic performance from The Source One Band, which includes some veteran Chicago musicians: Walter Scott (guitar), Carlo Basile (acoustic guitar), Stan Banks (keys) Warren McClain (drums), Darryl Thompson (trumpet), Earnest Thomas (sax), and myself, Joe Pratt (bass). We will be featuring four vocalists: Louisiana Al, who has the raw grit and style of Muddy Waters; Dakar recording artist Sidney Joe Qualls, who exudes the smooth style of Al Green; Coday recording artist and legend JoJo Murray; and New Orleans Beau, who has a new album called Going Back to Louisiana. Not to mention the main purpose of being at the festival, and that is to pay tribute and honor to my longtime friend and fellow Southside musician Killer Ray Allison. The entire show is dedicated to Ray!

Pratt's set is dedicated to Chicago blues legend Killer Ray Allison Photo: Joe Pratt

PTP: What projects are you currently working on? Any plans you wish to let Picture this Post readers know about?

JP: My current project is to continue the efforts of my former boss and friend, the late, great legend Otis Clay. At the time of his death, he was working on preserving and keeping blues/soul music alive in Chicago and across the world. He, along with Chicago club owner Howard Smith (The Odyssey Lounge East) and myself, teamed up to create music magic at Howard’s club. My band Source One, along with Sidney and Beau, are featured Fridays (9 PM - 1 AM) and Sundays (7-11 PM). We encourage and welcome all who love blues and soul music to join us… the blues is alive and well on the south side of Chicago!

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