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Top 10 Chicago Blues Artists

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Photo: Sandy Guy Schoenfeld/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Based around the primitive but captivating sounds of an amped-up electric guitar and wailing harmonica, the Chicago blues sound as we now know it was heavily influenced by the early Mississippi bluesmen who migrated north during the politically unstable 40s. So who were the most influential Chicago Blues Artists? We count down some of the biggest figures in blues, many of whom first emerged from the clubs in the black neighbourhoods on Chicago’s south side.

Big Bill Broonzy
Famous for oft-covered standards such as ‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’ and ‘The Midnight Special’, Big Bill Broonzy’s hybrid style took in folk music, spirituals and country blues, and foreshadowed the post-war Chicago blues sound.

Junior Wells
Best known for his signature song ‘Messin’ With The Kid’ and much-acclaimed 1965 album Hoodoo Man Blues, Junior Wells had a big hand in pioneering the hard-driving, amplified blues harmonica style synonymous with Chicago blues.

Sonny Boy Williamson
Closely associated with pre-war Chicago blues and the Bluebird label, singer and harmonica wizard Sonny Boy Williamson recorded much-loved standards including ‘Stop Breaking Down’.

Otis Rush
Heavy on long bent notes, guitarist Otis Rush’s west side Chicago blues style influenced Eric Clapton and Peter Green. His first single, ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’, was a huge Billboard chart hit.

Little Walter
Richard Hawley recently described Little Walter as “the Charlie Parker of the blues harmonica”. His signature hits such as ‘Juke’ and ‘Mean Old World’ more than bear out this claim.

Bo Diddley
Inventor of that instantly recognisable five-accent rhythm, Bo Diddley’s infectious blues-rock songs such as ‘Who Do You Love?’ and ‘Pretty Thing’ have influenced all rock’n’rollers worth their salt.

Willie Dixon
Writer of omnipresent blues standards such as ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Spoonful’, Grammy Award-winner Willie Dixon is synonymous with Chicago blues – and rightly so.

Howlin’ Wolf
Born Chester Burnette, Howlin’ Wolf’s booming voice remains a looming presence on the Chicago blues scene, as do his hits ‘Smokestack Lightnin’’ and ‘Killing Floor’.

Buddy Guy
Once described by Eric Clapton as “the best guitar player alive”, Buddy Guy has a titanic catalogue, of which 1991’s Grammy Award-winning Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues is just the tip of the iceberg.

Muddy Waters
Often known as the “father of modern Chicago Blues”, McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters) recorded numerous blues standards including ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘I’m Ready’, and his influence on blues and modern-day electric rock’n’roll is virtually unparalleled.

Who are your Chicago Blues favourites? Let us know below!



  1. Jacques Cloutier

    May 26, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Third Degree from Willie Dixon!

  2. Jacques Cloutier

    May 26, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Third Degree – Willie Dixon

  3. stew Kupperman

    May 26, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    for me, i’ve listened to them all. but, the best is that i got to meet a pretty good amount of these people.
    muddy waters….hung out in his dressing room between shows.
    otis rush….saw him in nyc with my friend, ronnie earl, playing with him.
    willie dixon, buddy guy, jr. wells….met them all at a blues show in providence, rhode island.
    i’ve also met james cotton. and, koko taylor used to stay at our house in boston when she would appear in that area.
    sometimes i have to pinch myself when i think of meeting these great musicians!!

  4. Georgia Sam

    May 26, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    Muddy Waters: Long Distance Call
    James Cotton (who plays harmonica on this video): Rocket 88
    JB Hutto: Too Much Alcohol
    Johnny Shines: Dynaflo Blues

  5. Jon Ferguson

    September 28, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Magic Sam

  6. Christer Svensson

    October 3, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    I think you forgot “Hound Dog Taylor.

    • Joyce Marie Morrin

      January 10, 2018 at 12:39 am


    • jonas

      March 6, 2018 at 12:24 am

      Exactly. What a legend.

  7. Tom

    November 4, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Wille, and the Wolf

  8. Michael Mireles

    November 4, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    No Jimmy Reed? I can’t believe he is not on this list!

    • Tom Leverton

      December 28, 2017 at 11:54 am

      I can’t believe Paul Butterfield’s not there

  9. Marie

    November 4, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    No Magic Sam?????? WTF?

    • stew Kupperman

      December 7, 2017 at 6:44 pm

      exactly!!! he certainly belongs!!!

  10. Naftali H.

    November 4, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Muddy Waters

  11. Joel

    November 4, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Hound Dog Taylor and the House Rockers! Little Walter a close,and I mean close,second.

  12. peter crivea

    November 4, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    lighting hopkins

    • Ed

      January 9, 2018 at 6:41 pm

      Texas not Chicago

  13. Baron Gattoni

    November 4, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    1. Muddy Waters
    2. Howlin’ Wolf
    3. Mudbone Steven Clark
    4. J.B.Hutto
    5. Hubert Sumlin
    6. Willie Dixon
    7. Hound Dog Taylor
    8. Magic Sam
    9. Memphis Slim
    10. Sonny Boy Williamson

    • gregory mccurry

      February 15, 2019 at 5:05 pm

      no John lee Hooker?

  14. keith

    November 5, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    paul butterfield

  15. Olaf Janssens

    December 2, 2017 at 4:12 am

    Muddy Waters – Sugar Sweet
    Little Walter – Whatever he did on harmonica and My babe.
    Jimmy Rogers – Chicago Bound
    Songs could be many others but these do stand out throughout the entire genre. Can you tell I love the woman in my life? 😉

  16. Cyndi Crawford

    December 3, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Howlin Wolf is my favorite

  17. Andrew prentice

    December 4, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    What about the mighty Elmore James ?

    • Michael C

      December 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      James emerged from Mississippi in 1952 with “Dust My Broom.” He definitely had an influence on the Chicago sound in the mid to late 1950s and beyond, but he was already well established by the time he arrived on the scene in Chicago.

  18. Erichsen

    December 4, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    T-Bone Walker? T-BONE WALKER??

    • Michael C

      February 7, 2018 at 6:09 pm

      T-Bone did not come out of Chicago. This list is of *Blues artists who emerged from the Chicago Blues scene*.

      • Michael C

        February 7, 2018 at 6:12 pm

        T-Bone had already enjoyed quite a bit of success in Dallas and Los angeles before his stint performing and recording in Chicago in the early 1940s. After the war his recording was once again centered in Los Angeles.

  19. Joe

    December 5, 2017 at 12:55 am

    Lefty Diz live at Kingston Mines!

  20. Boris

    December 5, 2017 at 4:15 am

    Elmore James with his Broomdusters, the rockin’-est Chicago blues band ever!!

    • Michael C

      December 9, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      James emerged from Mississippi in 1952 with “Dust My Broom.” He definitely had an influence on the Chicago sound in the mid to late 1950s and beyond, but he was already well established by the time he arrived on the scene in Chicago.

  21. Alan McDonald

    January 9, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    My 10 includes
    Sonny Boys Williamson II, Magic Sam,, Magic Slim, Hound Dog Taylor, Kokor Taylor
    and Jimmy Reed

  22. Joyce Marie Morrin

    January 10, 2018 at 12:36 am

    Eddie Shaw!!!!! The Master Blaster!

  23. Joyce Marie Morrin

    January 10, 2018 at 12:37 am

    Eddie Shaw!!! The Master Blaster!

  24. Gary White

    January 10, 2018 at 1:41 am

    I believe Etta James belongs on this list, also.

    • Michael C

      February 7, 2018 at 6:19 pm

      Again, this is a lost of artists who were a part of the Chicago blues scene when they became established. Etta came out of California (both LA and the Bay area) and had already recorded in Memphis at Sun Records, dated B.B. King, and met a promising young singer from Tupelo, MS named Elvis before signing with Chess subsidiary Argo (later renamed Cadet).

  25. matt

    January 11, 2018 at 12:53 am

    I agree Hound Dog Taylor and Magic Sam need to be added. And Luther Allison takes a back seat to no one on this list.

  26. Elwin Scholte

    January 26, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    And what about R.L. Burnside?

    • Michael C

      February 7, 2018 at 6:29 pm

      R.L. Burnside was from North Mississippi and developed his early musical style there. The short time he lived in Chicago in the 1940s he worked in factories and was not a well known performing musician. After about three years when several other family members had been murdered he returned to the north Mississippi/Memphis area. He was “discovered” there, did most of his recording there, and was based out of North Mississippi when he finally gained widespread recognition. So not really a *Chicago* blues artist.

  27. 12-Bar

    January 27, 2018 at 4:34 am

    Magic Sam, Jimmy Rogers, Junior Wells, Otis Rush

  28. Sammy

    January 27, 2018 at 4:47 am

    I’d say Magic Sam is definitely in the top 10. Elmore James was hugely influential and so was J. B. Lenoir.

  29. santa claus

    March 5, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    don;t know why everyone thinks Bo Diddeley is so great.not from chicago i guess,but my fav is albert king.

  30. hansenp

    January 15, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    This is retarded, forgive me for sounding respect less, but this is hands down the most worst list I have ever seen… No mention of the 3 greatest, Jimi for revolusionising the blues genre, Albert and Stevie on the top.

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