Lil’ Ed: Blues Hall of Famers return to town



Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, performing at the Hidden Gem Music Club in Centerville on Friday, Feb. 2, will be inducted into the 44th class of the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame in May alongside Odetta, Lurrie Bell and others. Despite the honor, the legendary Chicago blues artist isn’t ready to retire.

There’s more music ahead for Lil’ Ed Williams, who was 31 when he first came to the attention of Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer in 1986. He and his band mates were primed to go after a decade of splitting their time between working day jobs and lighting up the Chicago blues circuit. When Iglauer took the Blues Imperials into the studio to record a few numbers for a compilation, the musicians knocked out 30 songs in three hours. Williams and company left the session with a record deal and the opportunity to take its brand of grimy Chicago blues to a wider audience.

“Roughhousin’” (1989), the group’s debut, was followed by “Chicken, Gravy and Biscuits” (1989) and “What You See Is What You Get” (1992). However, after numerous grueling tours, Williams was burned out from the road. He put the Blues Imperials on ice and contemplated a new path forward.



After recording a pair of solo albums for Earwig Records, “Keep on Walkin’” (1996) and “Who’s Been Talking” (1998), a refreshed Lil’ Ed reformed the Blues Imperials and re-signed with Alligator. “Get Wild” (1999) was considered a return to form for the reinvigorated Blues Imperials. Albums like “Heads Up” (2002), “Full Tilt” (2008) and “Jump Start” (2012) continued in the same vein of high-octane boogie woogie.

Williams was home in Chicago recently when he discussed the state of the world and the Blues Imperials’ long-awaited follow-up to “The Big Sound of …” (2016).

Q: How was 2023 for you?

A: It was fair. It was a little slow, but I can’t complain about it. What can you expect after 2022? Things are still kind of shaky. There is a lot of crime going on and stuff, so you’ve got to look out everywhere you go. There is a lot going on with politics also, so life is changing. Blues has always been one of those things that goes down and comes up and goes down and comes up. It’s a little slower than normal but I think it’s going to pick up. It’s just a matter of time.

Q: It’s been a few years since you put out an album. What’s the plan?

A: Every time I get ready to go in the studio and start working, I try to figure out what area I haven’t been in and what can I get into. I’m working on songs now. Me and Mr. Iglauer are getting into it. He’s going to be talking to me soon about the songs. We already talked once, and we had to change a few things. He’s looking those over. He wants to put his little touch on them as well. It’s good we kind of lock in together because two heads are better than one. Sometimes I have an idea, but he thinks it’s not appropriate. He’ll get in touch with me soon and then we’ll probably be going into rehearsals and then we’ll go into the studio.



Q: What’s it like writing music at this point in your life?

A: I’m fine. I mean, I’m not down in the dumps. I’m happily married. Me and my wife have been together over 25 years now and we’re still living it up, doing what we do. We’re not arguing or fussing at each other. Every once in a while, we have different opinions but it’s not like we’re fighting. Bruce said, ‘You’ve got to write some more blues for me.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t have the blues.’ As far as everyday living, yeah I’ve got the blues but as far as my life at home, I’m happy. My wife hasn’t kicked me out. I’m not out in the streets and all that stuff. I’m not doing that anymore.

Q: Other than working on new music, what are your plans for 2024?

A: I’m not doing a whole of traveling right now because of the economy. Everybody is suffering right now. It’s not just the poor people, it’s everybody. Hopefully things will get better. It’s causing problems in everybody’s lives right now, not just musicians. Everybody is talking about this thing. Everybody has their own opinion. We just have to wait it out and see what happens. That’s all we can do. They always say it’s up to the people but what can the people do? All we can do is just live according to the law, let it go and try to do the best with what we’ve got.

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or

How to go

Who: Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials with Noah Wotherspoon

Where: Hidden Gem Music Club, 507 Miamisburg Centerville Road, Centerville

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1; doors open at 7 p.m.

Cost: $20 in advance, $25 day of show

More info: 937-829-4874 or

Artist info: www.Lil’

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