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The Legendary Charles "Chic" Powell

Charles "Chic" Powell of Port Arthur Texas, for more than twenty years, almost singlehandedly carried the blues flame in Jefferson County. He was truly the "Texas Highway Bluesman", an accomplished bandleader, rhythm player, and extraordinary harp player, one of the few harpists to master the harp's high register in the style of Jimmy Reed.  

"ChicO" as he was affectionately known, combined a rare knowledge of various rhythm grooves with a dedication to the blues genre undemonstrated by any other local blues musician apart from, perhaps, Johnny Winter.  From his own unique interpretation of Stevie Wonder's "Boogie On Reggae Woman", to extended jams with John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillin", ChicO nailed the groove for blues lovers and, especially, dancers in blues clubs and juke
joints all over Southeast Texas and Louisiana. He appreciated the blues wherever and whenever he heard it, from Elmore James to Jimmy Hendrix.   

Scores of young musicians were tutored by Chic in the legendary "Texas Highway Blues Band". Their names run the gamut of every young aspiring blues player in the Triangle, from Freddie Savoy who made his Silvertone guitar cry with his metal finger pick style, to Chic's own young children who played drums and percussion and gigged with their dad from the tender age of 10. Lynn, Fat Floyd, Moore, Clifford Anton, and a host of others were taught by and influenced by Chic Powell. For many years, when blues giant Johnny Winter visited his family in the Triangle during various holidays, Winter would seek out The Texas Highway Bluesman to sit in during
his inevitable gig somewhere in bluestown. 


ChicO played hundreds of clubs and juke joints, from those forgotten and hidden, wood stove heated joints in the Piney Woods of deep East Texas, to famous venues as The Blue Moon Tavern at 1111 Magnolia Street in Beaumont.   It's concrete foundation, like ChicO's relentless BACKBEAT, still stands as mute testimony to his many nights of providing howling blues to hard shined
ship workers looking to spend a pay check and drink up the boogie and blues.  As if Friday and Saturday nights weren't enough to quench their thirst for the blues, a Sunday matinee offered them one last chance to ride the backbeat before an early morning whistle on Monday.

He worked them all, the Bon Amie(sp) Club on Proctor Street in Port Arthur, a storied saloon built with a second floor, railed balcony which saw at least three generations of gamblers, blues lovers, and outlaws pass through its doors, and, most notorious, "Effie's Go Go" a juke joint hunkered in the shadows of a hissing oil refinery which is soon to be chronicled in Mary Karr's sequel to "The Liars Club".

True to the essence of the blues, Chic Powell strove for and earned, above all, RESPECT for his dedication to the blues and his connection to the BACKBEAT until the day of his untimely accidental death a few short years ago.

He was my blues mentor, my bandleader, my friend, a dedicated father to his many loving children, and an extraordinary fisherman. After having been out of touch with ChicO for nearly ten years, I heeded some inner call to visit him again. He, as always, proudly showed me the pictures of his children, his custom made lures, his collection of prized fighting roosters, and finally, would sit down to either play me some blues or share a tape of some music he thought was unique and extraordinary. It was always THE GROOVE
that mattered to him whether it be the driving fervor of the Mississippi Mass Choir or some long forgotten cut by Little Walter.

His ear attuned to the drumbeat, the soulbeat, the heartbeat, the BACKBEAT, ChicO recognized and connected with it when he heard it, and dedicated his life to its call. Only a few months after we reconnected in renewed friendship and mutual respect, he was suddenly gone, passing on in his sleep during a hard freeze as the oxygen in his upstairs apartment was burned away in his efforts to keep warm.

Truly a music legend from Southeast Texas. He will forever have my RESPECT for his dedication to the blues and for having been eager to share it with me and anyone else willing to listen as the Texas Highway Bluesman laid down the BACKBEAT.

Steve Watson, Bass - March 7, 2000

 
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Last modified: August 29, 2002