Even as a kid, Sarnia’s Robb Sharp never really liked rock and roll.
“I listened to Muddy Waters in high school. Then I heard B.B. King and I never looked back. The blues has been in my head ever since,” said the front man of Lit’l Chicago.
Eighteen years ago, Sharp formed Lit’l Chicago, an award-winning band that won the Great Lakes Blues Society Road to Memphis Blues Challenge two times.
“It’s gone pretty strong since we started,” he said. “Sometimes, there have been three in the band, sometimes five. Right now, there are four and we’re getting ready to compete one more time at the Road to Memphis Blues Challenge this fall.”
As they prepare for competition, Lit’l Chicago is playing locally at The Station Music Hall on Campbell Street July 22. The band will also appear at Jazz & Blues in the Village on Sept. 17.
“The blues is viewed as very simplistic by some people, and it can be if that’s how you want to play it,” said Sharp. “There’s also a perception that it’s all sad. But I never saw that.
“To me, it’s very warm and emotional music.
“We like to throw interesting elements into the mix that have led us toward Chicago’s style of blues. We sneak in a bit of soul, a bit of jazz and sometimes a little in-your-face R & B.
“If you think what we do makes you sad, I’ll give you your money back.”
Like most bands, Lit’l Chicago has seen members come and go. The current lineup features Sharp on vocals and guitar; Rick Bardawill on bass; Johnny Esser on drums; and Chris Molyneaux on the horn.
Esser isn’t able to make it to The Station on July 22, so Andy Hardman will fill in on drums that night.
“The Station is one of Sarnia’s great old venues,” said Sharp. “It was the place to be when I was a younger guy in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I’ve had offers to play there but it never worked out until now.”
The July 22 show will include a number of new original tunes the band played on stage for the first time in June at the new Grand Bend Rotary Community Stage.
“There are a couple of songs we’re particularly happy with,” Sharp said. “I play with a really good group of people.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Lit’l Chicago blues band
WHERE: The Station Music Hall, 505 Campbell St.
WHEN: Friday, July 22. Doors open 7 p.m.
TICKETS: $13, at the door during hours of operation. Call 519-383-0006. And at Cheeky Monkey, 130 Christina St. N, 519-332 0978 and Picker’s Alley, 430 Exmouth St., 519- 344-7740.
The Arts Journal is all about Sarnia’s vibrant cultural scene. If you have an idea, contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.