By Justin Dreyfuss
“XRT is alright with me.”
This was the phrase used repeatedly by Buddy Guy Wednesday, June 10th as he welcomed the WXRT radio station into the new Legends and co-hosted the show with DJ Tom Marker. An annual event for 11 years now as a kick-off to Bluesfest, this year was special as it marked the first to take place in the new Legends.
Tom Marker, who had been eagerly anticipating the opening of the new club, looked excited to be getting on the new stage as he began talking about the upcoming Bluesfest. Earlier in the month Marker had blogged after the closing of the original Legends saying, “Everyone was excited about the new location and nobody was sad to see the old place shut down, but at the same time there have been a lot of great memories made at 754 S. Wabash. Often newspaper and TV stories will report some of the big, well recognized names who have played at Legends: Eric Clapton, BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. But the real point is that EVERY blues artist has played at 754 S. Wabash in the past couple of decades.”
The crowd was buzzing from the moment Marker took the stage as they knew this meant an appearance by Buddy was imminent. Marker, who has been covering Chicago Blues for years, spent a few minutes previewing this year’s Bluesfest before introducing Buddy to the packed crowd at Legends as well as to the listeners on the radio.
Buddy and Marker spent some time discussing the new club and the transition from one to the other before introducing Otis Taylor up to the stage to play. This marked the 13th time XRT has broadcast from Legends and the third time Otis Taylor has been on the station. Taylor, who is well known in Chicago having been born here and using unique instruments for Blues such as a banjo or mandolin, made it through only song before he led a chant of “BUD-DY, BUD-DY” which quickly filled the room.
Buddy, never one to turn down a crowd request, came back on stage to play a couple songs to the delight of the crowd and XRT. Taylor then took the reins back and played an inspired set. Marker then got back on the mic for a bit before Buddy strolled up to played a few acoustic songs. Before signing off from the show, which lasted from 6 pm to 7:30 pm, XRT welcomed Chicago Blues club favorite Jimmy Johnson, whose on-air performance was his first for XRT.
It was a fantastic way to jump-start the 25th Annual Chicago Blues Festival. The XRT radio show also acted as a preview of what was to come that weekend as Otis Taylor played at the Petrillo Stage at Bluesfest during the Friday night tribute to Howlin’ Wolf. It was also an appropriate way to usher in the new era of Legends as Jimmy Johnson had been playing at the original club since it opened. Buddy and Tom Marker did a great job of hosting the show and memorable performances by Taylor, Johnson and Buddy helped create a few of the first terrific memories at the new Legends.