Big Bill Broonzy was an exceptionally influential figure in blues and folk music. Author Bob Riesman and guitarist/singer Chris Walz will present the compelling story of this “giant of the blues” on Wednesday, February 15 at 7 pm at Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake Street. Through a combination of live and recorded music plus commentaries and anecdotes, Riesman and Walz trace Broonzy's remarkable career: mentor to Muddy Waters, inspiration to Eric Clapton, musical colleague of Studs Terkel and Pete Seeger, and creative artist courageous enough to speak out against racial prejudice in his songs and his writings. Funded by the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library, "Big Bill Broonzy: Words and Music" is free and open to the public.
Bob Riesman is the author of I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy (University of Chicago Press, 2011). The New York Times described I Feel So Good as "illuminating" and the Chicago Tribune called it "an important new book...giving Broonzy's achievements the honor they deserve." Riesman co-edited Chicago Folk: Images of the Sixties Music Scene: The Photographs of Raeburn Flerlage (ECW, 2009). In addition, he produced and co-wrote the television documentary "American Roots Music: Chicago," which was shown on WTTW-Channel 11, and he contributed several entries to Routledge's Encyclopedia of the Blues. A former Oak Park resident, Reisman now lives in Chicago.
After moving to Chicago in 1988, Chris Walz worked as an actor and musician with the Goodman, Court, Shakespeare Rep, About Face, and other theatres in Chicago. In 1990, Chris toured nationally as Woody in “Woody Guthrie's American Song,” later playing the role at both the Northlight and Briar Street theatres. In 1996, he joined the teaching staff at the Old Town School of Folk Music and has been there ever since. In 1997, Chris began a three and a half year touring stint with the Special Consensus Bluegrass Band and is on two of their recordings, Our Little Town and the 25th Anniversary Album. When not performing solo, Chris is a full-time member of Weavermania, The Mark Dvorak Trio, and Long Journey Home with Keith Baumann. Chris divides his time between teaching at Old Town School of Folk Music and performing.
To learn more about Big Bill Broonzy, check out his recordings or books and DVDs about him from Oak Park Public Library.