Anthony Palmer is Chicago's best kept secret. Born on the West Side when the blues was red-hot. Palmer was inspired hearing the fierce, soulful music that sparked his imagination as it poured out of the taverns, echoing into the streets. A musician’s musician and fan favorite, Palmer has lent his accomplished, soulful guitar chops to some of the top names in the blues, such as Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Phil Guy, Bobby Rush, and Johnny Sayles. Palmer spent the last 13 years touring and recording as a member of the Joanna Connor Band, a band dedicated to bringing a fresh, new sound to the blues Currently he is a member of the Jimmy Burns Band. On his off days, he gigs with Matthew Skoller, Byther Smith, and others.
Palmer began playing at the age of 14. Guitarist Johnny Dollar gave him his first break and Palmer went on to play locally. In 1970 he formed an R & B band called Communication that played throughout the city and the Midwest. Communication stayed together 10 years. They spent a year and a half backing Bobby Rush, including sessions with Rush for the famed Philadelphia International Records.
Palmer began playing the north side in the early ‘80s. His first gig was with harp wizard Sugar Blue. Shortly thereafter he joined the band Nightflight for two years, led by Gloria Hardiman. He went on to play a six-month stint with Little Johnny Christian. In 1985, Nightflight re-formed as Professor’s Blues Review. A highly sought after group, they played the 1986 Chicago Blues Festival. Otis Rush chose the band to tour with him in Europe, and would often request them as his opening act when he played at Chicago’s Kingston Mines. During that European tour, Palmer was part of an all-star jam at the Montreaux Jazz Festival that included Rush, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, and the late Luther Allison.
Palmer’s standout guitar playing with the Review can be heard on the track, “Meet Me with Your Black Drawers On” on the Alligator compilation entitled The New Bluebloods: The Next Generation of Chicago Blues.” The song was a huge hit throughout the south, where Professor’s Blues Review won a Beach Music Award. In 1986, Palmer won recognition for his playing with the band when he received an award from AT&T at a local talent competition. Palmer also spent three years as a featured performer with the Kingston Mine’s All-Stars; the band that led the Blue Monday jams sessions at Chicago’s world-renowned blues club.
Palmer was a featured performer at the 1988 Chicago Blues Festival, as part of the Youngbloods Guitar Set. He won rave reviews for his solo spot on the Crossroads Stage. In a festival that featured the world’s top blues guitarists such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Albert King and Son Seals, the Chicago Tribune wrote of Palmer’s performance, “his solos were some of the most distinctive and soulful to be heard the entire weekend.”
A creative musician, who is constantly seeking to add originality to his playing, Palmer’s encyclopedic musical knowledge allows him to refer to a wide range of styles in his solos. He can place the appropriate lick, whether it is Jeff Beck, Clapton, Albert King or Son Seals into a solo that totally surprises and delights. Palmer plays and sings with that West Side soul which is his birthright. His unique phrasing and unexpected notes take the blues to the next level, without compromising the feeling that is at the heart of the music.
Palmer was featured prominently at the 1997 Chicago Blues Festival. He made a solo appearance at the Gibson Guitars Crossroads stage leading a four piece band; played an unplugged set at the Juke Joint stage; and played his regular gig with the Joanna Connor Band. In 2001, Palmer branched out into session work. He was the guitar player of choice for a recording by Chicago blues and soul vocalist Johnny Drummer on Earwig Records for which he received widespread critical acclaim.
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