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Chicago School of Blues: Faculty

Bonni McKeown - Teaching Artist, Piano, Historian


"Barrelhouse Bonni” McKeown is a historian and blues piano player. From Chicago to her home state of West Virginia, she has played and taught with local heritage musicians. She co-wrote Stepson of the Blues: A Chicago Song of Survival, the autobiography of blues drummer/singer Larry Hill Taylor, and co-produced his debut CD, They Were in This House. Her purpose is to maintain the healing art of blues music by giving back to the community.

Linsey Alexander - Guitar


Born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Linsey Alexander came to the Windy City and has played blues since his youth. He's an entertaining singer and storyteller, and a fine guitarist, having played with stars like B.B. King, Little Milton, Bobby RushBuddy Guy, Johnnie Taylor, A.C. Reed. Usually found downtown at the Kingston Mines, Linsey also takes naturally to sharing his blues with the youth of Chicago. "Blues isn't so hard--it's just a documentary about life," he says.

Larry Taylor - Vocals, drums

LarryTaylor_ProfileMug.jpg Growing up on the West Side, son of musicians (stepfather Eddie Taylor, guitar and mother Vera, singer), singer and drummer Larry Taylor is passionately proud of his history. Put in charge of a band of South and West Side musicians, he brings out the blues, soul and the funk. People of all ages and backgrounds can relate. 

West Side Wes - Teaching Artist Apprentice, Band Leader, Drums

WesBonnidrums809.JPGWest Side Wes, school bus driver by day and a drummer and singer by night, has lived and played music on Chicago’s West Side since he was a teenage Temptations fan in the 1960s and his parents bought him a set of drums. “Music kept me off the street,” says Wes. “When I was growing up in the 1960s, everybody around me wanted to be a gang banger. But I just wanted to bang on my drums.” In addition to leading his own West Side band, the Smokestack Lightning, Wes has played with nationally known Chicago senior blues artists such as Sam Lay, Johnny Christian, Lee “Little Wolf” Solomon, Little Arthur, Vance Kelly, Melvin Taylor and Smokey Smothers. He has toured with Aron Burton, Larry Taylor, and Eddie Shaw and played on records by Larry Taylor and Robert Plunkett. Wes says one of his main goals now is to pass the music on to younger generations.      



Jon McDonald - Guitar

Playing second guitar with the late Magic Slim for 14 years, Jon McDonald brings a wealth of blues scholarship to the faculty. And he has a passion for passing it on to a new generation.


J.R. "Bootsie" Lee - Bass

South Sider Bootsie Lee  has played with EVERYBODY on the R&B, blues and soul scene.    









Abb Locke - Saxophone

AbbLockeCSB_resized.JPGAbb Locke came to Chicago from the cottonfields of Arkansas and played saxophone in the 1950s with Howlin’ Wolf. From his first week of Chicago, when he had pawned his horn and ran out of money, bologna and crackers, to sharing the spotlight with the Rolling Stones, Abb has the stories behind the music. He has recorded and worked with Buddy Guy (he played on Buddy's Chess box set) and Albert Collins (they played Carnegie Hall). Other acts included Willie  Mabon, Earl Hooker, Koko Taylor, Magic Sam, Eddie Clearwater, Lonnie Brooks, Muddy Waters, Elmore James. In addition to heeding his experienced advice to work hard and save their money, kids like to hear him squeal high and honk low on the sax.

Curtis LaBon - Drums

Curtis LaBon keeps the beat for CSB: he's played with Vance Kelly and other West Side blues, soul and R&B bands over the years.  











Killer Ray Allison (guitar and band leader) and C.C. Copeland (bass)  have graced the stage and classroom with Chicago School of Blues.  We are honored by their contributions and pleased to see them continuing their careers on the Chicago blues stage and beyond.  Movement and dance instructor Taj was instrumental in 2010-2012 in showing children how to manage their actions and their attitudes regarding themselves and others.

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