Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Lazy Bill Lucas Show

Lazy Bill Lucas is an interesting figure in both blues and  broadcasting. Born in 1918, into a Arkansas sharecropping family he had the credentials of a blues legend, but he spent his early years playing hillbilly music. It wasn't until about 1940 that he teamed up with Big Joe Williams in St. Louis and began playing the blues. He relocated to Chicago in 1941 and began playing guitar with the blues greats like Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter,  Willie Foster, Homesick James, J.B. Lenoir, and Snooky Pryor. He switched to Piano in 1950 and played with some of the same bands in a new role. But even in Chicago, blues music did not stay on top forever. Did I mention he was blind?

His discography is spread across dozens of bands and dozens of small labels on 78 and 45 rpm releases seldom compiled and scantly pressed when it was. Lucas was a working musician. As the windsock of  popular musical tasteless turned, Lucas increasingly had trouble finding work. In 1970, Bill appeared at the Wisconsin Delta Blues Festival and the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, but regular work was hard to come by. By 1960 he was living on state assistance in Minneapolis. He had performed on the radio for decades, but in 1979 he moved to the other side of the mic and began hosting The Lazy Bill Lucas Show on KFAI in Minneapolis.

The station only signed on in 1978 at a meager 10 watts so Lucas wasn't looking for fame and fortune. the station didn't upgrade to 125 watts until 1984, two years after Lucas died in December of 1982, at the age of 64. Lucas was memorialized in his adopted home town of Minneapolis with blues festivals, and inducted into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame post-humously in 2009.

But KFAI memorialized him by continuing his radio program on their small but growing station. Stephen Babbitt, also a blues musician picked up the mic and hosted The Lazy Bill Lucas Show from 1983 to 1994 only stopping when he died of liver cancer. The program survived even The passing of it's second host. It continued on and was hosted by Joel Johnson another twin cities blues man. But when Joel died in 2003 they finally put the program to bed.