An Interview with trombonist Big James Montgomery of Chicago Playboys: Blues has brought to my life.

"U live and U learn though all of life's experiences good & bad!"

Big James & the Chicago Playboys

Blues often suffers from too much of the same old sound. But, Big James is different from today's blues re-hash. The Chicago-based singer, songwriter, producer, and trombone player was heavily influenced by the late Little Milton Campbell.

Big James's voice is as big as his girth. He combines blues, soul, R&B & funk in his horn-drenched music. His music is strongly influenced by James Brown, Little Milton, O.V. Wright, Albert King, Luther Allison, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Prince, & P-Funk. They take the music where it hasn't been. Big James has shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the Blues industry. He has played with Little Milton, Albert King, Otis Rush, & Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer Blues God Buddy Guy!! He has also shared the stage with Eric Clapton, George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic, Lou Rawls, Dan Ackroyd, Koko Taylor, Larry Coryell, Derek Trucks, & many others. He has also performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Big James is a 3-time winner of the Living Blues Magazine's Critic's Choice Award for Most Outstanding Horn Player in the Blues Industry! He was recently nominated for an American Blues Award formerly (W.C. Handy Award). Big James's music is delivered with a passion & conviction that cannot be faked! Check out the genius of Chicao's own Big James!


Interview by Michael Limnios


When was your first desire to become involved in the music & what does Blues offered?

I knew I wanted 2 play music when I was 7 years old after my dad took me 2 a James Brown concert.  The blues has offered me an education, a way of life; a chance 2 feed me & my family.



What do you learn about yourself from the music, what does the blues mean to you?

I learned 2 be patient n life and be thankful for the many blessings this music has brought 2 my life.  The blues means everything 2 me. Without the blues I am nothing.


Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

The best thing was when I toured with Buddy Guy.  The worst was when one of the greatest blues guitarists ever & a good friend of mine Chico Banks passed away. Original Chicago Playboy!!!



What is the “think” you miss from the Little Johnny Christian?

I learned so much from Johnny just all of the things he taught me and all of the fun we used 2 have together.


Tell me about the beginning of The Chicago Playboys. How did choose the name and where did it start?

The band was originally started by Johnny Christian and he came up with that name, after he passed in 1993 I took over the band.


I wonder if you could tell me a few things about your partners: Charlie Kimble on saxophone, Joe Blocker keyboards, Mike Wheeler guitar/ vocals, Larry Williams bass, and Cleo Cole drums

All of these guys are great musicians and also my best friends.



How did you first meet Otis Rush, what are some of the most memorable tales with him.

I met Otis when he came to one of our gigs because he was interested in hiring my bass player @ the time, and he wound up hiring the whole band!!!  When we went on tour with him 2 Japan!!!


Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

Right now!!!  Everything in my past is history; everything in my future is a mystery!!


What experiences in your life make you a GOOD BLUESMAN?

U live and U learn though all of life's experiences good & bad!!!  And 2 be able tell a story about those things makes me a good bluesman!!


What's been their experience from “studies” with Little Milton? What advice has given, what was your relationship with him & which memory from makes you smile?

My first gig was with Little Milton when I was 19 years old.  he taught me so much not just musical, but business wise and he was a good friend of mine, just all of the fun we used 2 have on the road!!


Where did you pick up your style & what characterize the sound of Big James?

I tried 2 pick something up from every one I played with and those I looked up 2, Little Milton, Albert King, Buddy Guy, Johnny Christian, Tyrone Davis, as for my horn, Fred Wesley, Wayne Henderson, Bill Watrous, J.J. Johnson, and so many others!!!  My sound I think is a big, robust husky sound that is a gift from GOD!!!



Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES

Because the blues is the roots of all music everything U hears in modern music today came from the blues.  I wish the blues could become more mainstream!!!


What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

Practice, practice, practice!!!  And patience is needed.


Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Buddy Guy & Eric Clapton?

One of the best gigs I ever done they were really going @ it!!!



Are there any memories from “THE ROAD FOR THE BLUES”, which you’d like to share with us?

Man, it would take me forever2 answer that one but every day is an adventure on the road!!


Which of the people you have worked with do you consider the best friend?

Buddy Guy!!!


From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?

Little Milton, Johnny Christian, Buddy Guy!!!


What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've had?

When I played with Buddy Guy & Eric Clapton, also when I jammed with George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic!!!


What is your “secret” music DREAM? What turns you on? Happiness is……

Playing with Parliament/Funkadelic was my musical dream because I think they were the best!!!  Good music turns me on!!!  Happiness to me is every time I step on stage someone is hearing Big James for the 1st time and they are going 2 be blown away!!!



Big James & the Chicago Playboys



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