Legends Charlie Musselwhite and Elvin Bishop show Chico where blues really began


Photo provided by Andrea Zucker

Charlie Musselwhite and Elvin Bishop strolled onto Laxson Auditorium’s stage Sunday night to revisit their influence on the blues and share their musical genius with the town of Chico.

From the first bellow of Musselwhite’s harmonica to the last strum of Bishop’s guitar, the crowd could feel a chill up their spines from the historical presence felt on stage. The set was humble and homey, connecting the legends and audience members through small cross-talk and anecdotes.

Accompanying Bishop and Musselwhite was Bob Welsh, Bishop’s right-hand man who plays background guitar and piano with matched enthusiasm. Welsh first met Bishop 15 years ago through the Bay Area blues community, where Bishop then introduced him to other members of the scene, including Charlie Musselwhite. Since then, Welsh has joined Bishop on numerous tours, including Bishop and Musselwhite’s current one.

The musicians played a total of 13 songs, most from Musselwhite’s discography, with a few exceptions. The crowd howled along to the croon of Bishop’s voice as Musselwhite and Welsh accompanied him with soulful instrumentals. Each musician had a chance to flaunt their effortless musical talent, Musselwhite with fervent harmonica bawls, Bishop with impressive guitar riffs and Welsh with intricate piano solos.

To call the show “a performance” would be a frank misrepresentation, as the relationship between the viewers and musicians was unlike any other. It was obvious that crowd members were reminiscing on the same past as the musicians, sharing an unbreakable connection through life experiences. The show was a reunion of generations past, not a performance.

Between jamming, Bishop and Musselwhite shared stories of living in Chicago in the 1960s, developing an appreciation for the blues scene, and learning to become musicians themselves from other musical legends. The crowd laughed and jived into the conversations between the two musicians, creating a charming atmosphere throughout the night.

At one point, the crowd even barked at the musicians as they performed Elvin Bishop’s “My Dog.” Musselwhite and Welsh smiled with joy as the crowd grew increasingly engrossed in their sound.

As the night came to a close, the legends received a standing ovation before their final encore of “Don’t Lie” and “Birds.” Every viewer in the auditorium could see the overwhelming soul that poured from each musician throughout the night, leaving the audience with a thought of appreciation and contentment, knowing that blues is still alive and influencing music every day.

After the show, Bishop and Musselwhite greeted members of the audience and signed merchandise until everyone in the crowd had dispersed, staying true to their dedicated nature.

For an opportunity to see Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite live, more information can be found on their website.

Melissa Joseph can be reached at [email protected] and on twitter @melisstweetz.