Live at The Village Hall, Castor
Friday 30th April 2010
Live at The Stamford Arts Centre
"Carrying on the West Side Blues Tradition of Magic Sam & Willie Kent"
Vernon Harrington was born on May 21st, 1953 in Chicago. Vernon was born with the Blues in his blood; he is a member of the legendary Bell-Harrington family. His father was Rev. Houston Harrington. His brother is bassist Joe Harrington, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater (Harrington) is his first cousin, Lurrie C. Bell is his second cousin.
Vernon's father, Rev. Harrington was also an entrepreneur, who owned a recording studio and a record label, Atomic H Records. The label was started by to record local, Chicago Blues and Gospel artists. Atomic H released 45's by a wide array of artists such as Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, Sunnyland Slim, Morris Pejoe, Henry Gray, Little Mac Simmons, JoJo Williams, Bay Blunt, Johnny Rodgers and Bill Ace. Delmark Records now owns the masters of these sides, some of which are featured on the Delmark compilation, "Chicago Ain't Nothing But A Blues Band", (DE624).
As a youngster Vernon started out playing piano and singing. "We had a piano in the house, my mother thought that it was a good way to keep us off of the streets and out of trouble" states Vernon.
The turning point in Vernon's life occurred when he was 11 years old. It was then that he first met and heard one of his West Side neighbours singing and playing the blues, that neighbour was the late, great, Magic Sam. Vernon was hooked, and he fell in love with the Blues. "If it wasn't for Magic Sam I doubt that I would be playing guitar and the Blues today" says Harrington. Vernon also sites B.B. King, Freddie King, Guitar Slim, Junior Parker, and Muddy and the Wolf as influences.
At age 17 Vernon started to hit the clubs, occasionally sitting in with his cousin, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater at a place called the Flash Lounge on Pulaski and Polk. By age 19 he was playing regularly, both sitting in with others, as well as with his own band, a trio that included his brother Joe on bass. They played at places like the Bee Tee Lounge on 16th and Harding, and the Cougar Lounge on 18th and Pulaski, as well as other long forgotten clubs. As Vernon puts it "Me and Joe have been playing all over the West Side for the last 40 years".
One of the highlights of Vernon's career came in 1977 when he was tabbed by LB magazine founder, Jim O'Neal to go over to Germany as part of a package show titled "The Next Generation of The Blues". This historic show also featured Vernon's brother Joe, second cousin Lurrie C. Bell, James Kinds, Larry Taylor and Billy Branch just to name a few. Both Vernon and Joe recall this experience fondly and with great pride.
Once back in the States, Vernon continued to lead his own band as well as playing with Eddie "Playboy" Taylor, Lovie Lee, Willie Kent and Johnny B. Moore. "I've been playing with Johnny B. on and off for over 20 years" says Harrington. During this time he also appeared as a side man on recordings by keyboardist Willie Davis, with Willie Kent on Kent's 45 "All Night Long" on the Blue Soul label and with Johnny B. Moore on Moore's debut recording as a leader, the critically acclaimed LP "Hard Times" on the defunct B.L.U.E.S/R&B label, all while working a day job to keep food on the table and pay the bills.
In 1999 Vernon moved to Missouri. After a brief stint living, working and playing the Blues in Missouri he took an early retirement and moved back to the Windy City in 2004. Vernon now has the time to devote himself to his career in music, writing songs, recording and playing out live, where he can often be found in the company of his brother Joe and Larry and Eddie Taylor Jr.
The fruits of these efforts are Vernon's debut recording as a leader, "West Side Blues", on his own Atomic H2 record label. "West Side Blues" is named in honor of Magic Sam's "West Side Soul" on Delmark" says Vernon. "West Side Blues" features Vernon on guitar and vocals, his brother Joe on bass, and special guest Billy Branch on harmonica. The CD was recorded in April 2008 at The Fullerton Recording studio on Chicago's West Side.
"West Side Blues" features a solid mix of covers such as "The Things That I Used To Do" and "Kiddio", as well as four finely crafted originals. These originals include the opener, "You Did Me Wrong", "Lottery Blues", "Crack Head Woman" and "Help Me with the Bills". "West Side Blues" carries on the tough, gritty West Side sound and tradition of Magic Sam and Willie Kent. After 40 years in the shadows it's time for Vernon Harrington to shine!