Lil’Ed in Florida with the Chicago Tribune

Lil’ Ed of The Blues Imperials flashes his signature smile onstage at the BBC. / Photo
Nancy Moreland for the Chicago Tribune

For a bluesman, Lil’ Ed Williams looks mighty cheerful. His silver fez and million-watt smile sparkle in the neon aura of the Bradfordville Blues Club, a rural outpost of musical history about 12 miles northeast of downtown Tallahassee.

When a patron shouts, “It’s a lot warmer here than Chicago!” the slide guitar king and lead singer for The Blues Imperials banters back, “You got that right, brother!”

Even with his hometown in a polar vortex death grip, it’s not the Southern climate warming the singer’s heart on this January night; it’s the venue — a cinder-block juke joint at the end of a dark, rutted lane.

“When you drive up that lane, you turn the clock back 50 years,” says club owner Gary Anton. One of two Florida sites on the Mississippi Blues Trail, the “BBC” rocks the woods with soulful sounds every weekend. The 1960s-era road house isn’t easy to find, but for musicians of a certain ilk, it’s a holy grail.

“You only find clubs like Bradfordville here and there,” Williams says. “I love that club and hope it always stays that way.”

The band joins a legendary lineup of musicians whose soul-baring ballads have pierced the country quiet….

Read the rest of the “Florida juke joint a living time capsule of blues history” story, written by Nancy Moreland in the Chicago Tribune.