Jim Schwall


Jim Schwall, guitarist, vocalist, and co-founder of Chicago’s Siegel-Schwall Band, died June 19. He was 79 and passed away at his home in Tucson.

Schwall learned guitar as a high-school student and met Corky Siegel while studying music at Roosevelt University, in Chicago. Fans of the blues music sweeping the scene at the time, they began performing with Siegel on harmonica and piano, Schwall playing a Gibson B-25 through an amplifier; he also played mandolin, bass guitar, and accordion.

The duo scored a weekly gig at Pepper’s Lounge on Chicago’s south side, and began drawing respectable crowds with their good-time take on blues songs. After the Paul Butterfield Blues Band moved on, Siegel-Schwall took its spot at Big John’s, on the north side, where they occasionally jammed with luminaries like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, Junior Wells, and James Cotton.

In 1965, the band signed to Vanguard Records, for which it released five albums, toured, and performed at the Fillmore West, sharing the stage with Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane. They next signed with Wooden Nickel and released five more albums before disbanding in 1974.

Schwall then formed a blues-rock act called the Jim Schwall Band, which gigged intermittently into the 2000s. In 1992, he earned a PhD and taught college courses on music while also working as a professional photographer.

Siegel-Schwall Band re-formed in 1987, and in ’88 released Siegel-Schwall Band Reunion Concert on Alligator Records, then didn’t record again until 2005’s Flash Forward.

In ’07, Schwall released the first of three solo albums and published a book, Let Your Music Soar: The Emotional Connection. The Siegel-Schwall Band continued to tour sporadically into 2014, the same year Schwall released his final album, Bar Time Lovers. He is survived by two brothers, a nephew, and a niece.

This article originally appeared in VG’s August 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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