For blues enthusiasts, the term Chicago blues conjures images of a transformational time in music. Imagine smoke-filled rooms permeated by electrified delta beats and the soulful voices of Buddy Guy, Little Walter and Muddy Waters.
Tonight, Nick Moss and the Flip Tops bring that style of music to Wichita with their special guest, the legendary Lurrie Bell. The show starts at 9 p.m. at Rock Island Live in Old Town.
Moss, who grew up in Chicago, says he started out like a lot of other white guitar players interested in the blues.
"I loved rock bands like Led Zeppelin and early ZZ Top," he said. "Their music was all blues-based. My mom had lots of blues records in her collection, so I listened to those. When we figured out that all of our favorite bands were basically playing blues records, we decided that's what we wanted to sound like."
Moss is recognized as a blues contemporary who pays homage to his musical forefathers in his performances. He has released multiple albums with the band he formed in the late '90s, the Flip Tops. Many of those have been nominated for awards. Most recently, the band earned a 2010 BMA Band of the Year nomination.
"I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel," he says. "I've dedicated my life to Chicago blues and doing it the right way."
One person who recognizes his talent is Bell, described by many as a living blues legend. Bell has been on tour with Moss for several months. The son of renowned blues harmonica player Carey Bell, Lurrie started playing guitar at age 6 and polished his skills with Chicago legends like Eddie Taylor and Big Walter Horton.
He credits his success with growing up in a blues household.
"It made me pay attention to the blues, because my dad hung around a lot of great bluesmen when I was growing up," Bell said. "It made me develop my own sound while I was listening to my dad and his musician players."
Lurrie Bell had a boisterous and successful career, releasing multiple records and traveling the world. He was hailed as a blues prodigy. Drug abuse and emotional problems held him back, though, keeping him out of the scene for several years starting in the late 1980s.
By the mid-1990s he began making a comeback. Today, Bell is back on top and remains a force. In 2007, he released a new album, "Let's Talk About Love," on his own label.
"Lurrie has a mystique about him," Moss said. "A lot of people have heard of him, heard stories, but have never actually seen him. The guy was a child prodigy. He really hadn't been out much for 15 to 20 years due to personal problems, but then he came back with a roar."
Anyone who turns out for tonight's show won't be disappointed, he said.
"This is blues the way it was meant to be. This is Chicago blues. It's exceptional entertainment, exceptional musicians. Audiences are going to get a good blues show, the way it's supposed to be done."
If you go
Nick moss and the flip tops with lurRie bell
What: Chicago blues-style concert
Where: Rock Island Live, 101 N. Rock Island
When: 9 p.m. today
How much: $15 at the door; must be 21 to enter.