press review

Chicago Tribune: “More fiery
and energetic every year”

“Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials is James “Pookie” Young, from left, Mike Garrett, Lil’ Ed Williams and Kelly Littleton.” Photo Paul Natkin

The only question for Chicago blues fans in January, is which Buddy Guy show to pick during the 81-year-old guitar hero’s annual run at his South Loop nightclub, Legends. One way to distinguish his 16 performances, at least in advance, is by the opening act — fortunately, the proprietor has put some thought into picking top names. […]

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials. Although they’ve been steadily releasing albums and playing clubs and roadhouses since their first gig on the West Side in 1975, the Blues Imperials grow more fiery and energetic every year. Taught by his uncle, underrated Chicago bluesman J.B. Hutto, bandleader Ed Williams initially worked as a car-wash buffer to enable his music career; behind his colorful fezzes and jackets and party-time shows is a steady work ethic. The Blues Imperials roll out a stomping album on local label Alligator every couple of years — 2006’s Rattlesnake was a peak.

By Steve Knopper. Read the full story, in the Chicago Tribune

body-swaying blues”

Photo Paul Natkin

Lil’ Ed Willams and his Blues Imperials are planning dinner, musically speaking, for the Center for Performing Arts in Bonita Springs. Just listen to a few of their song titles: Chicken, Biscuits and Gravy and Icicles in My Meatloaf.

“That’s a true story,” Williams said, laughing about the last one. He was nestled in at home in Chicago doing interviews before another gig among his 115 a year. […]

A good story gets Williams’ creative juices going, and that creativity has served him through nine blues albums and tours around the world. The Dec. 8 show is the first venture into Bonita Springs, however, for Williams and his crew’s foot-tapping, body-swaying blues.

They roam a musical landscape that includes original tunes like the sassy “She’s Fine, She’s Mine,” blues ballads and booty-shakers like “Your Love is So Strong,” “I Can’t Have Nothin’ ” and “North Carolina Bound” and covers, perhaps of Albert Collins’ wryly funny “Master Charge” or Rufus Thomas’ “Walking the Dog.”

Williams figured he’ll even put a blues spin on a Christmas tune or two, such as “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” His holiday song, “I’m Your Santa,” which promises that certain someone a frisky Christmas, is bound to be on the list, too.

He’s also likely to cover a tune by his uncle, bluesman J.B. Hutto. A Blues Foundation Hall of Fame member and slide-guitar wizard, Hutto taught Williams about finding your own voice as well as honoring your role models. […]

By Harriet Howard Heithaus, before Lil’Ed & The Blues Imperials’ show this December 8, 2017, at the Center for Performing Arts, in Bonita Beach, Florida. Read the full feature article in the Naples Daily News

Lil’ Ed part of the Windy City
Live celebration

As part of WCL’s Chicago Music Series, we celebrated Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials 30th anniversary of performing together. They sang their classic Poor Man’s Song.

Full performance to be watched on Windy City Live



Lil’Ed to celebrate
30th anniversary
with the Blues Imperials

World-renowned bluesman Lil’ Ed Williams and his band, The Blues Imperials, will celebrate 30 history-making years together with a live performance at B.L.U.E.S. in Chicago on Friday, November 17th, 2017. The Blues Imperials, made up of Williams, bassist James “Pookie” Young, guitarist Mike Garrett, and drummer Kelly Littleton, have been traveling the world, delivering their brand of rollicking, and deeply emotional blues for three decades.

A group of special guests will be on hand to help celebrate this milestone. Alligator Records founder, Bruce Iglauer, will be on hand, and well as Williams’ label-mate, Toronzo Cannon. Hungry fans will be able to sample Williams’ and Garrett’s secret recipe barbeque ribs, which the musicians will be cooking prior to the show.

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials won the Blues Music Award in 2017 for “Band of the Year,” making it the third time they’ve won the coveted award. They also received the Living Blues Award for “Best Live Performer” three times in five years. Their latest Alligator release, The Big Sound of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials was touted as one of the ten best blues albums of the year.

Williams, whose uncle and teacher was the legendary Chicago slide guitarist J.B. Hutto, plays smoking guitar boogies and raw-boned shuffles, along with the deepest slow-burners we’ve heard. The Chicago Tribune says, “Williams represents one of the few remaining authentic links to pure Chicago blues.”

Over the course of nine Alligator Records albums and countless live performances, Williams has earned his place as one of the most honored bluesmen of his generation. A three decade anniversary is an achievement rarely matched in any genre, and almost unheard of in the blues.

By JD Nash, before Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials’ 30th Anniversary Celebration Concert this Friday, November 17th, at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted in Chicago. Read the full story in American Blues Scene.

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials
win top Blues Blast Award

For the second straight year, blues legends Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials won the coveted Blues Blast Award for Blues Band Of The Year.

The Blues Blast Music Awards are presented by Blues Blast Magazine. Voting was open to the public at beginning July 1 and ending at midnight CST on August 15, 2017.

The band’s most recent album, The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, has been hailed as among their best. DownBeat magazine calls Ed a “forceful, outrageous Chicago blues slide-guitarist” whose “piping hot energy” makes him “a star of the first magnitude.”

According to The Chicago Tribune, “Williams represents one of the few remaining authentic links to pure Chicago blues.”

A “showman not to be missed”

Headlining the opening night will be twenty-time Blues Music Award nominee Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials. Lil’ Ed Williams continues the lineage of such Chicago slide guitar masters as Hound Dog Taylor, Elmore James, and Williams’ uncle, J.B. Hutto. The fan favorite, fez-wearing, toe-walking showman is not to be missed.

By Brian Cornish, before Lil’Ed & The Blues Imperials performance at the Chenango Blues Festival, on August 18, 2017, in Norwich, New York. Read the full story in NYS Music

“The strength
of his standout slide guitar work”

Lil’ Ed is Ed Williams, Chicago-born blues guitarist, singer and songwriter who has risen to fame on the strength of his standout slide guitar work.

His backing band — The Blues Imperials — are bassist James “Pookie” Young, guitarist Mike Garrett and drummer Kelly Littleton.

“I’ve always used a four-piece band — two guitars, bass and drums,” said Williams, during a recent phone interview. “Kelly, Mike and Pookie are my guys. This is a really tight band. These guys have been with me for about 30 years.”

Williams and his half-brother Pookie Young, received childhood encouragement and tutelage from their uncle, blues guitarist, songwriter and recording artist J. B. Hutto.

“J.B. would come and play for my family,” said Williams. “Slide guitar was the instrument for me because it shimmied. J.B. would play his slide and the 40-watt light bulbs in our house would dim.

“I started playing guitar when I was 11 or 12. J.B. would always play songs by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Elmore James. The Muddy Waters songs always had a lot of slide guitar. That’s what I really liked a lot.”

It’s been almost 30 years since Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials released their debut album Roughhousin’ on Alligator Records. The band’s most recent album is The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials in 2016.  All of Li’l Ed’s records over the last three decades have been on Alligator Records, a Chicago-based label specializing in blues music.

“Back around 1985, I was playing a North Side club here in Chicago and Bruce (Iglauer, producer and owner of Alligator Records) heard me play,” said Williams. “He invited me to play a couple tracks on a compilation album called ‘The New Bluebloods.’

“I went to their studio and did 15 songs. Then, we kept going. We cut 32 songs in a couple hours. That was where all the songs from Roughhousin’ came from.

“I signed with Alligator Records then. Bruce and I shook hands and we’re still together 30 years later.”

Williams has started working on his next album for Alligator but no release date has been set.

By Denny Dyroff, before Lil’Ed & The Blues Imperials’ performance at the Riverfront Blues Festival in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 4. Read the full story in the Unionville Times.

Lil’ Ed nominated for two Living Blues Awards

Living Blues magazine has announced the nominees for the 2017 Living Blues Readers’ Awards. Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials received two nominations, for Best Live Performer and Best Blues Album Of 2016 (New Recordings), with The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials.

The public —subscribers and non-subscribers alike— can vote at or by mailing in the ballot in the current issue of the magazine (#249), by July 15, 2017.

Winners will be announced in August. 

“Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials
bring brilliant modern blues”

Photo by Paul Natkin

Contemporary blues outfits don’t come any finer than Lil Ed & the Blues Imperials, who have been preserving and updating the classic Chicago sound for nearly 30 years. Fronted by diminutive but dynamic lead singer and guitarist Lil’ Ed Williams, the Imperials are proud sons of the West Side, the very same turf that once nurtured blues greats like Magic Sam and Otis Rush. Williams’ elaborate guitar calisthenics in particular have made the Imperials a top draw at concert halls and festivals hither and yon, shaping the Imperials into one of Alligator Records’ flagship artists. The group’s ninth album for the label, last year’s The Big Sound of Lil’ Ed & the Imperials, has earned them nominations for Best Band and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year (Williams) at the upcoming Blues Music Awards in Memphis.

Chris Gray put Lil ‘Ed & The Blues Imperials in his “Shows of the Week” list, before their performance this Wednesday, March 29, at Dosey Doe in Houston, Texas. Read the full “Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials bring brilliant modern blues” story in the Houston Press


Lil’Ed makes
Mojo’s Top Ten of 2016

New release from world-renowned Chicago blues stars Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials made MOJO magazine’s influential list of Top Ten Blues Albums of 2016. Lil’Ed Williams, who recently guested on TBS-TV’s CONAN, hit #7 with The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials.

Blues & Rhythm writes, “What’s not to like about the raucous sound of Chicago slide guitar maestro Lil’ Ed Williams and his long serving trio? Great music that often seems spontaneous will have you bopping like crazy. Superlative guitar and piercing slow-burn slide will surely gain your immediate attention. Enthusiastic and passionate.”

Currently celebrating 27 history-making years together, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials ply their musical talents with skills that have been honed to a razor’s edge. They have won many awards over the years, including the Living Blues Critics’ and Readers’ Awards for Best Live Performer and the coveted Blues Music Award for Band Of The Year. The Chicago Sun-Times says, “Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials are the hottest purveyors of bottleneck boogie to come out of Chicago since Hound Dog Taylor.”

The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials mixes smoking slide guitar boogies and raw-boned shuffles with the deepest slow-burners. Lil’ Ed Williams and his Blues Imperials —bassist (and Ed’s half-brother) James “Pookie” Young, guitarist Mike Garrett and drummer Kelly Littleton— deliver gloriously riotous, rollicking and intensely emotional blues. The Chicago Tribune calls Lil’ Ed “a guitarist extraordinaire” who plays “electrifying, raucous, pure Chicago blues.”