at Bayport Blues Fest, Duluth MN, Aug 2007 photo by Kathryn Ives
These mini-biographies of Willie Walker, Barbara LaShoure and Big John Dickerson are lifted from the Minnesota Blues Society website. The articles for Willie and Barbara do not give the name of the author, so I cannot give a proper credit here. The article on Big John was written by Lynn B. Kelly.
Barbara LaShoure 2013 Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame Inductee: “Blues Legend Award” Barbara LeShoure is one lady who has really lived the Blues and a diva who can really croon! Born and raised on the South side of Chicago, she was weaned on the Blues by her father, Bluesman Jack Stepter (singer, harmonica and guitar). Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim and John Lee Hooker frequented her home and graced the kitchen table to feast on her mom’s fried chicken. At an early age, Barbara accompanied her father nightly to various blues venues and he had her singing the Blues. She swayed a while to Jazz, but her daddy insisted, "You better sing the Blues!" that's exactly what she does! For 17 years Barbara and her band, Devon Smith (guitar), Carlos Johnson (guitar), Joe Thomas (drums), and a cat she calls Chuggalug (bass) performed as THE House band at Chicago’s Kingston Mines. Influenced by an impressive and diverse group of great female vocalists (Bessie Smith, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Etta James, Koko Taylor, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, and Gloria Lynn) Barbara is equally competent and accomplished. In fact, she had portrayed Bessie Smith in the off-broadway production of "The Cotton Club Review." Of her many other stage performances "Little Dreamers," "The Wiz," and "Don’t Bother Me I Can Cope" are but a few. Plus, she has 2 movie credits to her name, one of them Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. She was featured in the Fernando Jones' production of "I Was There When the Blues Was Red Hot," performed on Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor and at the College Theatre created by Catherine Dunham; she's been featured in several Chicago television commercials and has graced the cover of Inside Chicago and Interview magazines and has won multiple singing contests. She was close friends with late divas Koko Taylor and Valerie Wellington, and she considers Lonnie Brooks, Sugar Blue, Big Time Sarah, Billy Branch, AC Reed, Big Time Sarah, Karen Carroll, Billie Branch, Otis Rush, Carl Weathersby, Larry McCray and many other Chicago artists, her pals. She has traveled the world: Spain and Japan twice with Billy Branch, Nigeria, and Israel, where she lived for a time. She is always called on stage to sing when Chicago cats like Billy Branch or Sugar Blue play in town. Barbara had a setback in the spring of 2010, what she calls "a little stroke" and is working hard to get back into the thick of the Blues scene. She tells everyone, "Don't count me out! I'm coming back!!" That horizontal line marks the end of the biography. On a personal note I’d like to add: Barbara performed again in December 2012, leading her own band at Wilebski’s Blues Saloon in St. Paul - her first performance since 2010 (and I was most happily her guitar player that night, and at Arnellia’s in St. Paul two weeks later). Everybody at Wilebski’s knew what she had been through, what she had come back from, and she was up for the show! At the end of the evening, as her last song, she did Nina Simone’s version of “Everything Must Change” - a beautiful, slow ballad. Some of the lyrics: “Everything must change Nothing remains the same Everyone must change No one and nothing remains the same The young become the old And mysteries do unfold For that's the way of time Nothing and no one remains the same There are not many things in life one can be sure of Except the rain comes from the clouds Sun light from the sky Hummingbirds do fly” It was very a personal rendering of that song. I doubt there was a dry eye in the place when she finished it (and I don’t exclude members of the band from that statement).
Willie Walker 2013 Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame Inductee: “Blues Performer” Willie Walker was born in Mississippi, December 1941. Willie spent his formative years in Memphis where his voice provided him with the opportunity to stand out. Willie began performing and traveling in the 50’s with the group the Redemption Harmonizers. It was on the Redemption Harmonizer’s tours that Willie discovered Minnesota, he moved to Minneapolis in 1960. Gospel continued to be his musical outlet until Willie met Timothy Eason in a laundry mat. Tim introduced Willie to other friends including Dick Shapiro who was starting Central Booking. Willie and some of his vocalist friends joined with a group of musicians including Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame member Willie Murphy to form the Val-Dons. The group became a teen favorite across the cities. While living in Minneapolis, Willie often visited Memphis and his old friends. One one such trip in 1965, Willie signed a contract to record with Goldwax Records and over the years cut a number of sides for the label. Willie enjoyed some artistic success with Goldwax and he was given the stage name "Wee Willie Walker" but neither of these translated into a royalty check for his music. Back in Minneapolis, Willie rejoined with Willy Murphy to become the original singer for Willie and the Bees, he also formed the groups Wee Willie Walker and the Exciters, Salt, Pepper and Spice as well as Willie Walker and Solid on Down. In the early 70’s, Willie didn’t feel that what he was getting out of the music business justified all of the effort he was putting in; he tried to retire. He was drawn out of retirement by a group of college kids playing out of St. Cloud as the Canys and the ongoing calls of musicians and promoters who wanted Willie to work a gig. While in retirement, Willie continued to brush paths with the Butanes such as in 1987 when he was hired to be a part of the opening act for John Lee Hooker. While these events were a success, it was many years until Willie became a regular part of the Butane lineup. Willie is still actively entertaining audiences, leading his own group WE’ R’ as well as playing with the Butanes. Willie credits the late Sam Cooke with giving him the inspiration to use his voice. His voice has delighted music fans for over five decades and inspired Twin Cities musicians, Jimmy Jam and Prince to name a few over the years.
Big John Dickerson Inducted into the Minnesota Rock and County Hall of Fame, 2007 John Lawrence Dickerson Born July 8, 1933 in Sandusky, Ohio Vocalist and drummer Written by Lynn B. Kelly, Artistic Director, GTCBMS John Lawrence Dickerson was born on July 8,1933 in Sandusky, Ohio. John's parents sang in the church choir. John inherited this talent and at the age of 11, his mother told him to take his singing out to the streets and make some money. He sang Christmas Carols in a pre- adolescent voice and received spare change as well as big kisses from appreciative ladies. As he became a teenager, he developed a deep bass voice and it was around this time that John taught himself to play drums by listening to music. He started sneaking into nightclubs to hear the music that would stick in his mind. He decided he wanted to be an entertainer as a singing drummer in a band. When he was in high school he saw many a friend drink and smoke and determined he was not going down that path of destruction. He absorbed himself in music to stay off the streets and out of trouble. He and some friends formed an R & B group in the 1950's, The Fabulous Upsetters. His father acted as manager, chauffeur and chaperone and they performed in the Columbus, Ohio area. John discovered he was quite the emcee and told jokes and danced while singing. In 1959, his father took the group to Detroit to meet Barry Gordy with Motown Records. At Hitsville, U.S.A., John met the 'Motown Family' including The Temptations, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and the Vanguards to name a few. John filled in bass vocals for the Temps, The Del Vikings, The Clovers and The Coasters. When not working, they would cook, play cards and hang out together in the back of the studio. John stands over six feet tall and the Motown Family nicknamed him Big John, after the subject of Jimmy Dean's hit song, "Big Bad John". Before he made it big as a singer, Marvin Gaye played drums for The Upsetters and they recorded "My One Desire" on the Equador Label. When The Contours and The Upsetters were on tour in Cleveland, Ohio, they met Eddie O'Jay, a popular DJ. Eddie didn't like The Contours' name and suggested they use his name and call themselves the O'Jays. The name stuck and they went on to be one of the great groups who still are together. John could well have made it big too if his band had stayed together, but they all took different directions and that was the end of his hopes to be a Motown Records star. Big John left Detroit and began touring with a variety of jazz, blues and R & B artists. He performed with Elvis Presley in Philadelphia in 1964. In 1967-68-69, John toured with Jerry Butler, was the drummer for Betty Swann and also the Lonnie Woods Trio. In the 1970's he went to a club where Jack McDuff was performing. Jack McDuff's drummer, Joe Dukes sat out a set and let John sit in on the drums. John also sang along and Jack liked what he heard and hired John. John also played with Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery and other jazz legends. John joined the Connie and Kenny Trio and came to St. Paul to perform at Paul's Place in October 1979. While he was in town, he visited the Northwestern College campus and was overwhelmed with the beautiful flowers in their landscaping. He decided to stay here and left the trio. One day, he went to a club and met Papa 'D' Woodson . John, Papa 'D' and Merlon Bronco formed the band Down Right Tight and became very popular in the Minnesota music scene. Later in the 1980's, John met Ron Scott at Jazzville, his manager and keyboardist in his current band. Papa 'D' is also his bassist in his current band. In the 1990's, Dave Anderson, founder of Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues approached John to create a house band for his Minneapolis club. John was in Down Right Tight with Paul Mayasich and Joe DeRasmi and many well know local musicians. The group was very popular and changed their name to Blue Chamber in 1998. John was lead vocals, Paul Mayasich/guitar/vocals, Scott David Miller/organ/piano, Jeff Rogers/drums, Joe DeRasmi/trumpet, Brian T. Simonds/tenor sax and John Wright/bass. This is about the time I started visiting Famous Dave's just to hear John and his band. The band recorded the album, Arms of the Blues which sold well locally as well as internationally when they toured Europe and other countries. The band had a full sound much like the music produced by STAX Records studio band the Mar-Keys, Booker T & The MGs, Otis Redding an many more. Now in the new millennium, John has a new group, The Big John Dickerson Band. The band members are: John/vocals, Jamela Pettiford/vocals, Donald 'Hye- Pockets' Robertson/drums-vocals, Donnell Papa 'D' Woodson/bass-vocals, Scott Ives/guitar-vocals and Ron Scott/keyboards-vocals-manager. The group puts on a high energy show including blues, rhythm & blues, Motown, jazz, funk, a tribute to Louis Armstrong and a lot of comedy provided by John. The group wants to perform a wide range of music to attract a greater audience, young and old. John will even mix in a little rap music to bring in the kids to the show. They are working on new music of legends such as Ray Charles and many, many more. On April 28, 2007, Big John Dickerson was inducted into the Minnesota Rock and Country Hall of Fame. Big Walter Smith presented the honorary plaque to Big John at the Medina Entertainment Center. Big John accepted the honor with his characteristic humorous and humble remarks.
Links to each of these biographies at the Minnesota Blues Society website are below (and are up as of August 2013). I learned a long time ago that if you see something on the web you’d like to see or read again copy and save it! (and note the source of that info) - because it might not be around the next time you wish to access it. Author information for the biographies of Willie and Barbara was not given on the page I copied them from, nor photo credit listed for any of the photos attached to the three biographies shown here. Links to the original documents at the Minnesota Blues Society website are: Willie Walker Barbara LaShoure Big John Dickerson