Photos by Lou Montesano
Charlie Musselwhite is more than a great harmonica player—he’s a consummate Chicago bluesman with roots that stretch to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and the giants of the genre. Charlie released his first album in 1966 and has been at it ever since. Although long revered among blues aficionados—Musselwhite was the model for the Blues Brothers parody of the briefcase-toting harp player—he’s recently enjoyed wider appeal as a solo performer and an accompanist for a diverse lineup of rock, pop, gospel and soul artists.
On a warm, late-winter night, Charlie brought his well-traveled metal case to New York’s City Winery for an evening of blues spanning his 50-year career. Backed by Matt Stubbs on guitar, June Core on drums and Steve Froberg on bass, Charlie’s harmonicas wailed and wept through blues standards and several tracks from his 2015 release, I Ain’t Lyin’. Highlights included “If I Should Have Bad Luck,” “Good Blues Tonight,” “300 Miles to Go” and the Elmore James classic “Done Somebody Wrong.” In the house was New York’s own Cyndi Lauper, with whom Charlie toured in 2010. Cyndi joined Charlie on stage for “I’m Just Your Fool” and hinted the two might hit the road together again.
Now 72 years old, Charlie Musselwhite shows no signs of slowing down. His most recent albums have been among his finest, demonstrating his talents as a bandleader and musical curator. Energized and in fine voice, he remains true to his roots while continuing to evolve and expand the boundaries of his art. Look for lots more to come from Charlie Musslewhite.