Chicago Blues veterans Jimi “Primetime” Smith and Bob Corritore deliver a collaboration of hard-hitting, real-deal blues. Having met more than 40 years ago in the Chicago blues clubs, they each followed their own star and had amazing, star studded careers before reconnecting seven years ago in their new home base of Phoenix, Arizona. Bob and Jimi have been teaming together up ever since, and this album documents their musical adventures so far — lots of good, rowdy blues fun, including two songs by Jimi’s storied mother.
Jimi “Primetime” Smith was born in 1959, smack dab in the heart of Chicago’s blues scene. The son of immensely important female blues drummer, singer, and songwriter Johnnie Mae Dunson, who partnered with Jimmy Reed, worked with the likes of Willie Dixon and ran rehearsals over her restaurant. Smith’s extended family included blues pioneers Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor, Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor and others. Jimmy Reed, who lived in their household, schooled young James on guitar and brought him to play at the Ann Arbor Blues Fest at the age of 14. He would go on to play with many popular Chicago musicians, including Big Walter Horton, Eddie Taylor, Big Moose Walker, Big Time Sarah and Sunnyland Slim.
Jimi moved to Minneapolis at age 19, and was soon called on to back Etta James, Albert King, Otis Rush and others. He did gigs with Lynwood Slim and Big Jay MdNeely, and went abroad with Bernard Allison and Shawn Holt and the Tear Drops. When he began appearing as a bandleader, he started spelling his name “Jimi” so that he wouldn’t be confused with organist Jimmy Smith. Jimi returned periodically to Chicago for gigs with his acclaimed Mother. Jimi released two solo albums, Give Me Wings (1998) and Black On Track (2002). He was inducted into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame in 2014, before he relocated to Arizona, where he soon teamed up with harp player/producer Bob Corritore, doing studio work with John Primer, Johnny Rawls, Oscar Wilson, Alabama Mike, and Sugar Ray Rayford.
“I’ve had a love affair with the blues since I first was bitten by the Muddy Waters bug,” harmonica ace Bob Corritore once told us. A disciple of and minister to the post WWII, electrified Chicago blues, Corritore calls Phoenix, Arizona his home, but the music he creates with fellow storied masters of the craft, is the sound of the South and West sides of the Windy City.
Born in Chicago in 1956 and heard Muddy Waters on the radio at age 12, and within a year he was playing harmonica and collecting blues albums. He saw blues shows in his early teens and cut his teeth sitting in on Maxwell Street until he was old enough to get in the clubs. He hung around great harp players such as Big Walter Horton, Little Mack Simmons, Louis Myers and Junior Wells, and received harmonica tips and encouragement from many of them.
Bob became friends with many blues veterans, working with many of them in the late 70s and 80s, and going into the studio to produce some classic albums. In 1981 Bob ventured southwest to live in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was soon joined by Chicagoland friend Louisiana Red. Bob started his still-running Blues radio show in 1984, and in 1991 opened the now famous Blues and Roots Concert club, The Rhythm Room. In 1999 Bob released his first CD as a national recording artist.
His many albums have now been released on Hightone, Blue Witch, and Delta Groove, and digging into his vast vault of recordings, Bob has released 10 albums since 2018 through his own Southwest Musical Arts Foundation in affiliation with VizzTone. Bob’s work has garnered a Keeping The Blues Alive Award, Blues Music Award, Living Blues Award, and Blues 411 Jimi Award. Bob remains very active with his own releases as well as numerous guest appearances on others’ albums. He performs regularly across the country and around the world with numerous projects. Bob has also become well known for organizing multi-artist showcase sets and events featuring traditional blues artists.
Together, Jimi and Bob are a musical match made in Blues Heaven. Both immensely talented and sensitive players who hit the perfect note without ever overplaying or showboating. Corritore says, “Jimi’s a gentle giant of the blues. He’s the consummate guy to back anybody. He’s always going to be the right guy for anything. Jimi will play egolessly in a second guitar part, but then shine when it’s his time to. He’s blessed our town with his presence here.”
Jimi adds, “Seems like God had a plan for me to move to Arizona and reconnect with Bob Corritore, my brother in the blues.”
The rest, as they say, is Blues Magic.