John Brim at the Silver Moon
(Photo by Steve Sharp)
Visitors to one of the Midwest's most unique and charming blues clubs, the Silver Moon in scenic, rural Darien, Wis., saw and heard a piece of living blues history Saturday night.
Far from being a mere artifact, the legendary John Brim proved Saturday that, even at the age of 76, he can still put substantial kick into his classic Chess Records compositions, including his signature tune "Ice Cream Man," as well "Tough Times" and "Be Careful What You Do."
Brim's voice has become huskier with age and his sets are shorter than most younger blues musicians, but he still possesses the ability to fill his songs with thrilling, golden-era, 1950's Chicago blues rhythm guitar lines -- and he can still solo with tastefulness and ease.
Offstage, there is no kinder gentleman in blues. Throughout the night at the Silver Moon, Brim accommodated admirers, signing their CDs, but not without chatting with them first.
Brim's trip to the Silver Moon, a cornfield roadhouse in the finest sense of the word, has become an annual event over the past five years. Brim has been friends with the club's proprieter Glenn Davis, a solid blues musician in his own right, for many years. Brim makes the drive from his Gary, Ind., home with his son to Darien each year to help Davis celebrate his birthday.
"With each passing year you just sound better and better to me," Davis told Brim after the elder statesman called him to the stage to take a birthday bow.
Unfortunately, missing from Brim's birthday salute to Davis Saturday were many of his hits. In fact, Brim had to be coaxed lightly by an audience member into delivering one of the most menacing songs in blues history, his own composition "Be Careful What You Do." Many of the evening's songs were instrumentals, and despite the fact that Paula Records recently released several of Brim's unissued sides from his long-gone days with JOB Records on a disc entitled "Chicago Blues of the 1950s," Brim never touched that material.
Brim was backed Saturday by the capable but unremarkable Warren Zeich Band.
In a conversation with Blues Music Now! between sets Saturday night, Brim stated that he is hoping to release an album of new material in the near future on his own CD label. He also noted, sadly, that his wife and former drummer Grace Brim, is ill at the present time.
Grace Brim was encouraged to take up blues drumming by John Brim in the 1950s, shortly after the two were married. He thought it would allow them to spend more time together. She learned to play drums from Odie Payne and received support in her endeavor from family friend Willie Dixon. She was eventually recorded as a drummer on several of her husband's JOB and Chess recordings, with stalwart bandmates Little Walter, Dixon and Robert Jr. Lockwood.
Grace Brim gave up the drums in order to care for her children and has refused invitations to return to the skins ever since from the likes of Delmark Records' Steve Cushing, Jim O'Neal of Rooster Blues Records and Living Blues magazine. She cites her commitment to the church as well as a promise she made to her late mother in her refusal to go back to the blues.