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Blues and The Alligator – The First Twenty Years of Alligator Records (1989)


When Bruce Iglauer dropped out of college and moved from Cincinnati to Chicago back in 1971, he just wanted to be near his favorite Blues artists. He never dreamed he’d wind up starting what was to become the biggest Blues recording company in the world! Like many of his peers of the 60’s, Bruce was deep into folk music. But when he heard Blues music for the first time at a folk festival, the directness of the music, the intensity of emotion, reached out and grabbed him.

For a folkie turned Blues freak, Chicago was definitely the place to go. Chicago was – and still is – the Blues capital of the world. The US city with the largest black population in America, people who left the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta to find work up north, bringing their music with them. Bruce’s company – Alligator records – may be small by recording industry standards, but it’s a giant when it comes to Blues. In the movie we meet contemporary Blues greats such as Koko Taylor and Lonnie Brooks, but also relive magic musical moments with past Blues legends such as Hound Dog Taylor and Sonny Boy Williamson.

We also meet the “new kids on the block” a new generation of young Bluesbloods like Kenny Neal, Billy Branch, ad lucky Peterson, artists proud of their musical last and aware of their responsibilities for the future.

The Blues grew up in Chicago’s Black Southside and Westside ghettos, but artists are performing more and more in clubs on the white Northside where there’s money to be made. “The irony of it all is that while Alligator has helped Blues survive and reach a broader audience”, Bruce says, “we’ve also helped take the music away from its traditional environment. And when that hapens the music changes.”

But Bruce is convinced that Blues will always be with us. “Blues is a healing music!”, Bruce explains, “and as long as there’s a need to be healed, the Blues will live on”.

A film by Jim Drowning.

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