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Downtown Charlie Brown will perform and share stories in Oak Brook

Downtown Charlie Brown is known for leading one of the hottest blues bands in the Chicago area.

Brown will share his blend of R&B, Delta, New Orleans and Chicago-style blues with acoustic guitarist Harry Binford when the blues duo performs the Community Music Program at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art on Jan. 21. But since the venue is a museum, Brown plans to offer audiences more than just music.

“I love getting the chance to tell the stories and history of the blues,” Brown said. “I will also bring some artifacts with me. I’ll have some instruments that people used to play like me, like I have a diddley bow, which is a one-stringed instrument from West Africa that a lot of older guys started with. It will be my cigar box guitar, which is one of the things I used to make and play.

“I will also have other things like the nation’s sack; This is actually a pouch that women would carry with a belt on their waist. They would hide it under their clothes. They kept their mojo, or whatever it takes to control a man, inside.

Brown will also share some little-known facts. For example, he said: “The first people to actually play the banjo were West African slaves.” To tell this history, Brown will play a few songs on the banjo.

“The museum gives me a chance to do all of these things,” Brown said.

Viewers will definitely hear a story about Muddy Waters that is always an audience favorite. One was sent to the Library of Congress in 1941 to record the folk music of the legendary singer and musician.

“Old Delta blues music was considered folk music before it was blues,” Brown explained. “When you go to record Muddy Waters, Muddy Waters does three things to make money. He plays the blues, is a sharecropper, and sells moonshine. Sometimes someone in the audience who knows this will say, ‘Do you sell moonlight?’ “He may shout.”

Photos of the musicians and other related visuals will be displayed behind Brown during the performance.

Brown and his band are particularly known for playing Chicago-style blues. Legendary singer and musician Muddy Waters is considered the father of this musical style. Brown noted: “His style of Chicago blues was basically Delta blues on electric guitar. That’s the style I like best.”

Brown said he was influenced by both Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, another blues legend who embraced the Chicago blues.

Brown’s favorite musical memories include three times the Downtown Charlie Brown Blues Band opened for Buddy Guy at Buddy Guy’s Legends. “Buddy Guy’s opening is always memorable,” Brown said.

Brown was especially excited to perform at the 2023 Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival this past September. “This was my first time on stage in my hometown of Morristown, New Jersey, since high school 50 years ago in 1973,” he said.

Brown particularly enjoys performing at the museum, compared to some noisy venues, because “the music is at the forefront because that’s what people came for.”

Community Music Program: Downtown Charlie Brown

When: 21 January 14:00

Where: Lizzadro Lapidary Art Museum, 1220 Kensington Road, Oak Brook

Tickets: 15 dollars

Information: 630-833-1616; lizzadromuseum.org/calendar

Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for the Pioneer Press.

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