Kirk West is probably best known as the long-time tour manager, archivist, and photographer for the Allman Brothers Band— but before that he spent many years shooting many other musical legends while living in Chicago. Many of those images laid dormant for decades, and now with time on his hands since his 2010 retirement from ABB, the amazing images have now come to light– and many of them are stunning in their honest, fly-on-the-wall, honest energy. Being a lover of the Blues, I was instantly strike by many of his images of legends in a bygone time that I’d love to step back into.
1978 — Blues guitar great, Johnny Winter at Chicago’s Park West theatre –Image by © Kirk West There’s a famous story about a time in 1962 when Johnny and his brother went to see B.B. King at a Beaumont club called the Raven. The only whites in the crowd, they no doubt stood out. But Johnny already had his chops down and wanted to play with the revered B.B.”I was about 17,” Johnny remembers, “and B.B. didn’t want to let me on stage at first. He asked me for a union card, and I had one. Also, I kept sending people over to ask him to let me play. Finally, he decided that there enough people who wanted to hear me that, no matter if I was good or not, it would be worth it to let me on stage. He gave me his guitar and let me play. I got a standing ovation, and he took his guitar back!” via
1985 — Late guitar great, Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Chicago Blues Fest –Image by © Kirk West From Guitar World Magazine ’85 — “Vaughan remembered something that came from Johnny Winter, the first white Texas blues guitar hero, who’d preceded him down the long path. ‘He said something to me when the first record was doing so well,’ Stevie Ray recalled. ‘It made me feel a lot of respect for what we did, for the music. He said that he wanted me to know that people like Muddy Waters and the cats who started it all really had respect for what we’re doing, because it made people respect them. We’re not taking credit for the music. We’re trying to give it back.'” I dig that attitude– doing what you love, and doing it well– to give back to those who cam before you– and the music as a whole. You don’t hear enough talk like that these days. That’s real heart and soul right there.
1978– Johnny Winter, Bob Margolin, & Muddy Waters at Harry Hope’s, Cary IL where they recorded Muddy “Mississippi” Waters – Live –Image by © Kirk West. During early live performances, Johnny Winter would often recount about how, as a child, it was dream of his to one day play with the great blues guitarist Muddy Waters. In 1977 Winter’s his manager creating Blue Sky Records to be distributed through Columbia, Winter now had the opportunity to bring Waters into the studio for Hard Again. The album became a best-seller, with Winter producing and playing back-up guitar on the set that included Waters, and the legendary James Cotton on harmonica. Winter produced two more studio albums for Muddy Waters – I’m Ready (this time featuring Walter Horton on harmonica) and King Bee. The partnership produced Grammy Awards, a best-selling live album (Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live), and Winter’s own Nothin’ But the Blues, on which he was backed by members of Muddy Waters’ band.