Gloria Hardiman is one of the Women in Blues on August 5.
Get ready for a rousing evening of Chicago blues when the Mill in Iowa City presents “Women in Blues: A Tribute to Legends” on Saturday, August 5, at 9:30 and 11:30 p.m. The event features Gloria Hardiman, a storied singer with a long history in music who settled in Iowa after her semi-retirement from performance.
“I don’t want the blues to die out, and if we don’t keep passing it on to others, it will die out,” she said. “I wanted to bring Chicago blues to Iowa City.”
The show will pay tribute to legendary artists Etta James, Big Time Sarah, and Koko Taylor. Hardiman has worked with all three artists, but she is particularly connected to Taylor, who was her mentor and a frequent collaborator.
Hardiman played for years in Professor’s Blues Review with Professor Eddie Lusk. They had a hit with their 1987 recording of “Meet Me With Your Black Dress On” on Alligator Records. Through this band, and her many other collaborations, she toured the world, working with artists including Albert King, Ray Charles, Etta James, the Staples Singers, and many more. She also had the chance to work with Big Time Sarah after a fortunate meeting during Hardiman’s first foray into the North Side scene. “We all seem to run in the same circles,” she said. “You meet people you look up to.”
But her personal and professional relationship with Koko Taylor remained a major influence, and that will be reflected in the tribute. “I loved her so much,” Hardiman said. “She used to have us younger singers over. She called us her children and mentored us.”
Hardiman first started coming to Iowa City on her tours with Koko Taylor in the 1980s. Local clubs were a natural stop on trips west from Chicago. Her familiarity with Iowa led her to eventually settle with family here, near enough to her hometown to return regularly for performances.
Another of the evening’s featured singers, Demetria Taylor, was also inspired by Koko Taylor (no relation), whom she calls “the Queen” and describes as “sweet, intelligent, and encouraging.” And she would know: through her parents, blues artists Eddie and Vera Taylor, Demetria grew up surrounded by countless Chicago greats and now carries on the family tradition on the Delmark label.
Hardiman and Taylor will be joined by Holle Thee Maxwell of the legendary Ike and Tina Turner Revue—and an inductee of the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame. Also on the bill is Tanya English, an active blues singer and doctor based in Davenport who started singing with Iowa City’s Monday Night All Stars before starting her own band.
All four singers will offer tributes to the three Women in Blues with their own unique voicings and perspectives.
The singers will be backed by a veteran band led by Grammy-nominated guitarist Carlos Johnson, a left-handed master and collaborator of Otis Rush and Billy Branch. They will deliver the real deal: Carlos Johnson’s band is made up of players who’ve actually accompanied the artists being celebrated in the tribute.
The outstanding lineup of musicians will deliver on Hardiman’s vision of preserving and spreading this particularly potent style of blues music.
“I know everyone who comes will love it, and I hope that the music and the guitar rings in their ears so they can feel it,” she said. “Because this type of music, it’s something that you feel, it’s something that touches your soul.”
Tickets for the August 5 show are available at Midwestix. Doors open at 8:30 p.m., showtimes are at 9:30 and 11:30 p.m.