When Ed Williams and his half-brother James “Pookie” Young started the Blues Imperials in 1975, they were considered young Blues turks. Mentored by their uncle, Blues legend J.B. Hutto, who took his underage nephews on tour with him, the pair would sport fake moustaches to get into bars where they played. Guitarist/vocalist Williams and bassist Young worked every seedy club in Chicago, honing their rough-hewn craft.
After nearly a decade of hardscrabble apprenticeship, during which Williams worked full time as a car-wash buffer and Young drove a school bus, Alligator Records honcho Bruce Iglauer offered Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials a pair of songs on an anthology of new Blues artists, The New Bluebloods. The quartet had never recorded and simply ripped in the studio with the passion and abandon they brought to every juke joint and house party where they were booked.
Iglauer offered them a contract on the spot, and the resulting impromptu session produced Roughhousin’, the band’s 1986 debut album.
In 1987, guitarist Mike Garrett joined the fold and a year later Garrett’s pal, Kelly Littleton, became the Blues Imperials’ drummer. That lineup has remained intact for the past 26 years. In that time, Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials have released eight studio/live albums (including last year’s scorching Jump Start), played every major Blues festival in the U.S. and around the world, won a number of prestigious Blues awards, accrued a bulging press kit filled with critical acclaim and made an “Edhead” of Conan O’Brien.
After well over a quarter century, Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials are now seasoned veterans but they still spit and snarl with unbridled energy, tossing off blistering slide guitar runs and red-meat-raw riffage with the same intensity that marked their fake moustache days. Wouldn’t you like to be an Edhead too?
LIL ED AND THE BLUES IMPERIALS play Thursday, March 28 at Legends Nightclub in Cheviot. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.