Chicago Bluesman Toronzo Cannon Signs With Alligator Records
New Album Due In Early 2016 "Among the cream of the next generation of blues musicians making their name on the Chicago scene." --Blues & Rhythm
"One of Chicago's new greats." --The Chicago Sun-Times
"Progressive as he is rootsy...Slow, simmering riffs and smoldering licks." -- Chicago Reader
On Saturday, June 13, Chicago blues guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Toronzo Cannon, performing on the main stage of the Chicago Blues Festival, announced to the crowd of over 100,000 that he had just signed with Alligator Records. He then tore into a razor-sharp solo, layering the deepest Chicago blues with contemporary lyrics and gospel-flavored vocals. The Chicago Tribune lauded his performance, saying, "Cannon made the most of his opportunity as a festival headliner to win over a new audience. His extroverted guitar style and forceful singing voice sounded especially compelling."
Cannon's first two albums, released on Chicago's Delmark label, catapulted him from local newcomer -- and Chicago Transit Authority bus driver -- to one of the city's most celebrated bluesmen. With his Alligator Records debut set for release in early 2016, he knows more and more people are hearing his message: Chicago blues is very much alive. According to Cannon, "To be on two historic Chicago labels is huge. To be from Chicago and be signed to Alligator is unreal. To be part of Alligator's history...I'm at a loss for words.
Alligator president Bruce Iglauer says, "I've watched Toronzo grow as a singer, player and songwriter over the last few years. He's now become a major blues talent, using the Chicago blues traditions as a launching pad to create his own unique, and very contemporary, vision. His music comes right from the heart of the city."
Cannon was born in Chicago on February 14, 1968, and grew up in the shadows of Theresa's Lounge, one of the city's most famous South Side blues clubs (and, coincidentally, the place where Iglauer spent a lot of time). As a child, Cannon would occasionally sneak a glance inside at Junior Wells or Buddy Guy or whomever was making music. He heard plenty of blues growing up at his grandfather's home, and listened to all types of popular music of the day.
He got his first guitar at age 22, and learned to play in short order. Although his first focus was reggae, he found himself increasingly drawn to the blues. "It was dormant in me. But when I started playing the blues, I found my voice." He learned sounds, styles and licks from listening to Albert Collins, Hound Dog Taylor, B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Al Green, Jimi Hendrix, J.B. Hutto, Lil' Ed and others.
He played as a sideman for Wayne Baker Brooks and Joanna Connor before striking out on his own in 2001, honing his skills as a bandleader, vocalist and performer. As a songwriter, he writes about shared experiences with a keen eye for what's not obvious. "Blues is truth-telling music," he says, "and I want my audience to relate to my stories." As a singer, his impassioned vocals take his songs to the next level.
Cannon has become one of Chicago's most recognized and most popular bluesmen through the sheer force of his music, his soul, his songs, and maybe most impressively, his passion for what he is doing. He's toured North America and Europe, all the while holding down his full-time job as a city bus driver. It isn't easy, but blues, like all of the Chicago greats who have come before him, is his calling. "Chicago blues is still alive," he says. "I'm not trying to carry a torch, but I am proud to be part of a movement, standing on the shoulders of every great Chicago blues musician who came first."