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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Remember Too - Mississippi Heat

Pierre Lacocque: Bandleader
Pierre was born on October 13, 1952 in Israel of Christian-Belgian parenthood. However, shortly after his birth, Pierre's family moved to Germany and France before going back to Belgium in 1957. On a Saturday night in the early Fall of 1969, Pierre decided to go to a concert being held at the University of Chicago's Ida Noyes. He had no exposure to Chicago Blues before then, and had no expectations as to what he was about to hear. As he listened to the band playing, he became overwhelmed with emotion and excitement at a sound he never heard before: A saxophone-sounding amplified harmonica! In his own words, " I was absolutely stunned and in awe by the sounds I heard coming from that harmonica player and his amplifier ... It sounded like a horn, yet distinct and unique". The harmonica player went by the name of Big Walter Horton, a name he had never heard before but who changed his life forever. What he heard that night, the music, the mood, the style and sounds, moved his soul.

From that moment on, Blues music, and blues harmonica in particular, became an obsession. Two days later, on a Monday morning, Pierre bought himself his first harmonica (or "harp" as it is called in blues circles). Next he was buying records, instruction books, anything to do with the blues harp. He was talking to people, picking up new knowledge wherever he could. Obsession led to passion and intense dedication, and Pierre was practicing the harp six, seven hours a day, notpaying attention to the clock (although he is known to check the clock now to remind him when he needs to get off the stage, because if it was up to him he would keep on playing beyond the scheduled sets! His band members tease him about that).

Pierre eventually finished High School (like Paul Butterfield, Pierre graduated from the University of Chicago's High School, better known as "The Lab School". The two never met, however, as Butterfield had left the school before 1969). Pierre then left Chicago to go to College in Montreal, Canada. He played harp through his College years, making a few dollars here and there. While at Stanislas College and later, at McGill University, both located in Montreal, Pierre got his first live experience with a local blues group named the ALBERT FAILEY BLUES BAND. About a year later, Pierre joined another band: OVEN. That was in the early 1970's when he lived for six years in that French-Canadian city (1970-1976). OVEN gigged regularly, and eventually won the Montreal Battle of The Bands contest in the summer of 1976. Unfortunately, the promoter who promised the winner $1,000 Canadian dollars and a record contract skipped town, and was never seen or heard from again. The news of the winand of the shady promoter did make the Montreal newspapers though...

Not having the ill-fated Canadian blues career anymore, Pierre, 24 at the time, and disillusioned, came back to Chicago. Although playing the blues on the harp could never be more fitting as it was at this point, it couldn't pay the bills. And it was at this point (1976) that Pierre described his life as going "the intellectual route". Pierre decided to further his education in Clinical Psychology. It was during this period that Pierre met his Social Worker wife Vickie, and began working as a clinician at a Mental Health center in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. For the next decade, Pierre was involved with his psychological work and research, finishing a doctorate at Northwestern University and publishing professional articles and a book, until a major insight took place in 1988. Pierre, an accomplished 36 years-old man, who had been studying Existentialism, Theology, History of Religions, etc. began to feel a void in his life. He began to re-evaluate his life and look into his own heart. Eventually he heard the answer loud and clear: He missed playing the blues. The awareness struck him like a beautiful horn, coming from an amp, distinct and unique, and yet a sound he had heard before, hidden all these years, but definitely not lost.

And this is where Pierre's passion revived, his fire and "joie de vivre" rekindled, his ability to take what was lost inside of him all these years and turn it into the raw, powerful heat that it is today.
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