In November of 2021, we lost Jb Ritchie, a well known Chicago blues musician, who was a highlight of the local blues scene for five decades. Jb was considered by critics and peers to be a master of the slide guitar and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2013 as a Master Blues Artist.
From Jb’s album, Power Blues. Listen to all the tracks here.
Born in 1952, Jb was a self taught guitar master, whose initial introduction to music was through his mother, who played the piano and was a fan of pop-music and crooners like Frank Sinatra. Jb’s parents divorced when he was a baby and his father moved to California. Jb only met his father again at the age of fifteen.
Jb had a revelation when he heard Lonnie Mack play the song Memphis when he was ten years old. Jb played bass guitar in the school band but soon realized that blues was his music and the guitar was his instrument.
Jb scraped together enough money to buy a Gibson Kalamazoo and matching bass. He practiced in his grandmother’s basement for hours and formed a band with some friends. After graduating high school, J.B. began performing at various blues venues. In 1971, he formed the band, Liquid Chrome, a high-energy blues act that lasted for eight years. Liquid Chrome’s first performance was at the Aragon Ballroom as the opening act for Ted Nugent.
As Jb developed his unique style, he became known for his slide work. During the 1970’s, he flourished professionally. After Liquid Chrome folded, he began performing as J.B. Ritchie and The Rafters and in 1988 he formed the J.B. Ritchie Band. He played well known venues in the Chicagoland area continually throughout his career.
From 1983-2003, Jb was a sound engineer, multimedia artist, and studio musician at Rainbow Bridge Records. J.B. worked with musicians and bands such as Barilla and Rust-Oleum as well as corporate clients like Abbott Labs. He was part of the creative team with Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) on the Gold Record soundtrack for the movie Spawn. In 1997, he recorded his only album Power Blues.
During his career, J.B. performed alongside legendary figures such as Buddy Miles, Jimmy Reed, Luther Allison, Eddie Taylor, (Sideman to the Stars) Jimmi Mayes, Coco Montoya, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, The Kingsmen (Louie, Louie), Buddy Guy and many others.
In one of his final interviews, Jb extends an invitation to all of us to keep the blues alive. In order to do that, we must continue to support our blues musicians by going to their gigs, buying their records, and showing them the appreciation that they deserve.
Read more about Jb in this insightful interview at Chicago Music Guide.