It's now been fifty-six years since Robert Koester founded Delmark Records in St. Louis. For any independent record label to have lasted that long is pretty amazing, for it to be one that's dedicated itself primarily to the music of one city is damn near a miracle. Yet since he moved down river from St. Louis to Chicago the majority of records produced by Koester's label have featured musicians playing in and around that city. What makes this story even twice as remarkable is that no matter what the winds of fashion have dictated or the whims of the marketplace have suggested, the label has never once deviated from producing the jazz and blues Bob started selling our of his college dormitory room.
Although Koester has supplemented his own recordings by buying up other companies old masters and issuing the occasional re-release, the majority of titles issued on the Delmark label have been recorded in either their own facilities or live from the stage of one of Chicago's clubs. So it was only fitting when they gathered to celebrate Delmark's fifty-fifth anniversary of recording blues records that they would do so in the club owned and operated by one of Chicago's biggest name in blues, Buddy Guy's Legends. In May of 2009 It Aint Over: Delmark Celebrates 55 Years Of Blues, as either a CD or DVD, was released to commemorate that party held on March 7, 2008. Not only did the party include performances by some of Delmark's finest, Chicago's mayor, Richard Daley, issued a proclamation marking that day as Delmark Records Day in Chicago, and the label was given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for their 1965 recording of Junior Wells' Hoodoo Man Blues.
While all the accolades are great, what everybody was there for that night was to celebrate the music that Delmark has released over the years. While the DVD contains a few extra tracks by some of the performers, the line-up on it and the CD are the same, representing a cross section of the talent you'll have heard and continue to hear from Delmark. If you're new to the label, and unfamiliar with the Chicago blues scene, you might not recognize many of the names performing. However anyone whose been following Delmark for even the shortest of times will find lots of familiar faces; Zora Young, Jimmy Johnson, Little Arthur Duncan, Lurrie Bell, Eddie Shaw, Aaron Moore, and, of course, Tail Dragger.
The great thing about Chicago blues, and more specifically Delmark blues, is the community of musicians it has created. While some of the performers at Buddy Guy's that night had their own bands, the majority of them used what for many of us has come to be recognized as the Delmark house band. The rhythm section of Kenny Smith on drums and Bob Stroger on bass held down the fort for the majority of the high flyers on this night, and on most songs they were joined by Roosevelt Purifoy on keyboards. While there was a little more variety in the guitar players, one name appears on the credits for this night far more often than anybody else, Lurrie Bell.