Instruments: Guitar, Vocals
Date of Birth: January 10, 1935
Place of Birth: Macon, Mississippi
Home: Birmingham, Alabama

Eddy Clearwater is best-known as an interpreter of rock & rock-flavored blues, often paying tribute in his music to his biggest influence, Chuck Berry. A self-taught left-handed guitar player, Clearwater was born in Macon, Mississippi. He moved to Birmingham, Alabama, when he was thirteen years old. Clearwater sang and played guitar in the church, but it was his exposure to both country & western music and the blues that had the biggest impact on his eventual style.

Clearwater moved to Chicago in the early 1950s, called himself Guitar Eddy, and worked into the blues club scene there. By the time be began recording for the Atomic-H label in the late '50s, he had changed his name to "Clear Waters" (as opposed to Muddy Waters), later modified to Clearwater, and developed a guitar style that included both Chuck Berry and West Side (Otis Rush, Magic Sam) blues licks. Clearwater later began wearing an Indian headdress when he performed, thus acquiring a new nickname: "the Chief."

In addition to recording for Atomic-H, Clearwater cut singles for a variety of other labels in the early 1960s, including Federal and LaSalle. Throughout the '60s and '70s, he played as much rock & roll and rhythm & blues as he did blues, and more often than not his audience was white.

In 1980 Clearwater signed a recording contract with Rooster Blues and released his first U.S. album, The Chief. He recorded another studio album, Flimdoozie (1986), and a like effort, Real Good Time - LIve! (1990), for Rooster Blues as well as one album, Red Lightnin', for the British label before signing with Blind Pig Records and releasing Help Yourself in 1992. Clearwater continues to perform regularly in blues clubs and at blues festivals, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Essential Listening:

  • 2 x 9 / Charly (1025)
  • The Chief / Rooster Blues (2615)
  • Flimdoozie / Rooster Blues (2622)
  • Help Yourself / Blind Pig (BP 74792)
  • Blues Hang Out / Evidence (ECD 26008-2)

The Big Book of Blues: A Biographical Encyclopedia by Robert Santelli

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame


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Eddy Clearwater: Biography of the Blues

During the 1950s, Chicago's West Side was a breeding ground for some of the world's greatest bluesmen. Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Freddie King and others ruled the clubs. With his fierce guitar playing, soulful and emotive vocals and wild stage shows, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater easily belongs on this list. A Chicago legend, Clearwater is an intense, flamboyant blues-rocking showman. He's equally comfortable playing the deepest, most heartfelt blues or rocking, good-time party music. DownBeat said, "Left-hander Eddy Clearwater is a forceful six-stringer...He lays down some gritty West Side shuffles and belly-grinding slow blues that highlight his raw chops, soulful vocals, and earthy, humorous lyrics."

Between his slashing left-handed guitar work, his room-filling vocals, his self-defined "rock-a-blues" style (a forceful mix of blues, rock, rockabilly, country and gospel), his boundless energy and even his signature Indian headdress, Clearwater is among the very finest practitioners of the West Side blues working today. The blues world recognized his talent by giving him the Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues – Male Artist of the Year in 2001. His last release, 2003's Rock ‘N' Roll City, was nominated for a Grammy Award. Now he's back with his very first Alligator CD, the aptly titled WEST SIDE STRUT.

WEST SIDE STRUT, produced by young hotshot guitarist Ronnie Baker Brooks (son of the legendary bluesman Lonnie Brooks), is an energized mix of West Side blues and old school rock injected with a tough, up-to-the-minute contemporary edge. Featuring some of Eddy's hottest playing ever recorded, the CD burns with his stinging guitar and rough-and-ready vocals. Guests include Eddy's old friends Lonnie Brooks, Jimmy Johnson, Billy Branch and Otis Clay as well as Ronnie Baker Brooks himself, playing some scintillating guitar parts. The 12 songs (including seven songs either written or co-written by Eddy) lean from straight-ahead blues and humorous rockers to plaintive, emotion-packed ballads. All are brought to vivid life by Eddy's ferocious and unflinching guitar playing, his power-packed vocals and unlimited energy, hard-earned by his years of experience. GuitarOne said Clearwater takes his listeners on "an inspired trip to that rollicking crossroads where the blues and rock collide."

Born Edward Harrington (a cousin of late harpist Carey Bell Harrington) on January 10, 1935 in Macon, Mississippi, Eddy and his family moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1948. With music from blues to gospel to country & western surrounding him from an early age, Eddy taught himself to play guitar (left-handed and upside down), and began performing with various gospel groups, including the legendary Five Blind Boys of Alabama. After moving to Chicago in 1950, Eddy stayed with an uncle and took a job as a dishwasher, saving as much as he could from his $37 a week salary. His first music jobs were with gospel groups playing in local churches. Quickly though, through his uncle's contacts, he met many of Chicago's blues stars. Eddy fell deeper under the spell of the blues, and under the wing of blues star Magic Sam, who would become one of Eddy's closest friends and teachers.

By 1953, as Guitar Eddy, he was making a strong name for himself, working the South and West Side bars regularly. He met and befriended everyone from Sunnyland Slim to Earl Hooker, picking up licks and lessons along the way. After hearing Chuck Berry in 1957, Eddy added that rock and roll element to his already searing blues style, creating a unique sound that defines him to this day. He recorded his first single, Hill Billy Blues, in 1958 for his uncle's Atomic H label under the name Clear Waters. His manager at the time, drummer Jump Jackson, came up with the name as a play on Muddy Waters.

After a successful appearance on a Chicago television show called Bandstand Matinee in 1959, Clearwater recorded another 45 for Atomic H, I Don't Know Why, and he started receiving more and more local radio airplay with singles for LaSalle, Federal, Versa and his own Cleartone label. The name Clear Waters morphed into Eddy Clearwater, and Eddy rarely was in need of a place to play. He worked the local circuit steadily throughout the 1950s, 1960s and into the 1970s, finding success among the North Side college crowd who responded to his individual brand of blues, his rock and roll spirit and his high energy stage show.

Twice during the 1970s he toured Europe (the first time with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells) and even appeared on BBC television in England. His first full-length LP, 1980's The Chief, was the initial release on Chicago's Rooster Blues label. Wearing a full Indian headdress on the cover (an homage to his Cherokee blood), The Chief, as he was now known, reached the largest audience of his career. Recording numerous albums for various labels during the 1980s and 1990s, Eddy's star continued to rise. He received piles of positive press and was nominated for seven Blues Music Awards. His 2003 CD Rock ‘N' Roll City paired him up with the surf-rocking Mexican wrestling-masked group, Los Straitjackets. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award and earned Eddy a multitude of new fans.

Now, with WEST SIDE STRUT, Eddy has made the very best album of his life. Between the untamed guitar work, the tough and gruff vocals and the strength of the songs, the old-school yet contemporary WEST SIDE STRUT will lead Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater to the very top of the blues world and beyond. Clearwater loves to perform and can usually be found tearing it up somewhere around the world on any given night. He's played everywhere from Russia, Turkey, and Romania to Brazil and Alaska. He'll hit the road hard in support of the CD, strutting his slicing guitar licks, his rock-fueled blues, rockabilly, country and gospel gumbo and his uninhibited live show to fans ready for a taste of the real West Side Chicago blues, played by a master at the very peak of his abilities.


2008 West Side Strut, Alligator

2003 Rock 'N' Roll City, Rounder/Bullseye Blues

2000 Reservation Blues, Rounder/Bullseye Blues

1999 Chicago Daily Blues, Wolf (European)

1998 Cool Blues Walk, Rounder/Bullseye Blues

1998 Chicago Blues Session, Vol. 23 (live), Wolf (European)

1996 Mean Case Of The Blues, Rounder/Bullseye Blues

1995 Boogie My Blues Away, Delmark

1992 Live At The Kingston Mines, 1978, ROIR

1992 Help Yourself, Blind Pig

1990 Real Good Time: Live!, Rooster Blues

1989 Blues Hang Out, Evidence

1986 Flimdoozie, Rooster Blues

1981 Two Times Nine, New Rose (European)

1980 The Chief, Rooster Blues

1979 Black Night (live), MCM (European)


Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater is the stage name of Edward Harrington (born January 10, 1935[1]), an American Chicago blues musician. Blues Revue said Eddy plays “joyous rave-ups…he testifies with stunning soul fervor and powerful guitar. One of the blues’ finest songwriters.” [2]

He was born in Macon, Mississippi,[1] on January 10, 1935. His family moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1948. He taught himself to play guitar at an early age (left-handed and upside down) and began performing with various gospel groups, including the Five Blind Boys Of Alabama.
Clearwater is best known for being part of the Chicago blues scene since the 1950s. He performs both within the U.S. (especially around the Chicago, Illinois area, where he resides) and internationally, such as at blues festivals in France, Germany, Denmark, Poland and the Netherlands. His sound has been described as “hard-driving Windy City blues, soul-tinged balladry, acoustic country blues and gospel uplift….good natured fretboard fireworks.” [3]
When he left the South for Chicago in 1950, he worked as a dishwasher while living with an uncle. Through his uncle he met many of Chicago’s blues masters, including fellow left-handed guitarist Otis Rush and Magic Sam. Once he heard the music of Chuck Berry, he began performing some of Berry’s material as well as writing in a Berry-influenced style. He still regularly performs songs by Rush, Magic Sam and Berry as well as his own original material.[4] In 1953, now known as Guitar Eddy, he began working regularly in Chicago’s south and west side bars. His first single, the Chuck Berry-styled “Hill Billy Blues”, was recorded in 1958 for his uncle’s Atomic H label, under the moniker Clear Waters, a name given to him by his manager Jump Jackson as wordplay on the more famous Muddy Waters.
He recorded a few more singles and began receiving local radio airplay. Eventually the name Clear Waters morphed into Eddy Clearwater.[5] He worked steadily throughout the '60s and '70s, and he was among the first blues musicians to find success with Chicago’s north side college crowd. He toured Europe twice during the 1970s and appeared on BBC Television. Clearwater has been nicknamed The Chief and sometimes wears Native American headdress.[4]
The release of his 1980 album The Chief under the Rooster Blues label announced that Clearwater's ascendancy to Chicago blues stardom was officially underway. Two encores for Rooster Blues, Help Yourself (1992) and Mean Case of the Blues (1996), cemented Clearwater's reputation. He became known as a masterful blues showman whose principal goal is to provide his fans with a real good time. Cool Blues Walk followed in 1998, followed by Chicago Daily Blues the next year, with Reservation Blues released in mid 2000. [6] In 2004, he was nominated for a Grammy Award with Los Straitjackets for their collaboration, Rock 'N' Roll City.
Vintage Guitar described his 2008 Alligator Records album, West Side Strut as “great blues. Eddy’s fat, voluptuous tone shows a masterful command of the guitar. It’s hard to believe he can reach such heights in a recording studio. One listen and you’ll wonder why Clearwater’s name isn’t respectfully spoken in the same breath as Freddie King and Otis Rush.”[7]
Clearwater is married to his manager, Renee Greenman. Together they once owned Reservation Blues, a Wicker Park (Chicago) blues bar and restaurant. It is no longer in operation.
He is the father of two children, Jason and Edgar Harrington.
He is a cousin of blues harmonica player Carey Bell.[4]
On 8 January 1997, Clearwater underwent successful triple heart bypass surgery.[8]
1^ a b Eddy Clearwater's profile on his official website
2^ Blues Revue, July 2004
3^ Cristiano, Nick. Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 April 2008.
4^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. pp. 102. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
5^ Blues Lyrics website. accessed February 2008.
6^ Allmusic biography. accessed February 2008.
7^ Vintage Guitar, July 2008.
8^ Blues on Stage page on Eddy Clearwater. accessed February 2008.



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