Hailing from the 'Windy City,' Blind Pig recording artists the Cash Box Kings are keeping REAL DEAL, old-school Chicago blues alive and thriving. The band is dedicated to carrying on the spirit of the 1940's and 50's post-war Chicago blues sound as well as the Delta blues music of the 20’s and 30’s. But these illustrious torch bearers also add a bravado, energy and freshness to the mix that results in a distinctive musical experience and a high-energy stage show. With a focus on the raw, stripped-down, ensemble playing that was the hallmark of the post-war sound, the band showcases the music of Chess Records and Sun Records while adding a healthy dose of original music that captures the essence of the Memphis and Chicago blues sounds of the 40’s and 50’s.
The CBKs are one of the few bands on the national scene still playing real, TRADITIONAL CHICAGO BLUES, the way it's supposed to be played. The band regularly headlines Chicago venues like Buddy Guy's, Rosa's and Smoke Daddy as well as major festivals all over the world like the Chicago Blues Festival, the Cambridge Folk Festival (UK) and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
The Cash Box Kings are fronted by Joe Nosek, who writes and arranges songs, sings, and channels the spirits of Little Walter and Slim Harpo on harmonica, and singer and songwriter Oscar Wilson, a 6’3”, 300 hundred pound Muddy Waters-type throwback to the heyday of the Chicago blues scene. The group is rounded out by Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith (drums), Joel Paterson (guitar, vocals), Brad Ber (upright bass) and augmented by a rotating cast of honorary Kings including Billy Flynn (guitar, mandolin, vocals, harmonica), Gerry Hundt (bass, rhythm guitar, vocals), Beau Sample (upright bass, vocals), and Mark Haines (drums)., and Little Frank (guitar) Barrelhouse Chuck (piano, vocals) also regularly performs with the group.
Living Blues called them simply "one of the best blues bands in the land. Any of these musicians could have played with the great bands of the golden blues era. Together they keep a sound alive that many thought was no more."
On the Kings’ 2011 Blind Pig label debut, Holler And Stomp, they put together a collection of songs that captured the various byways where traditional blues and country music intersect. They covered Ray Sharpe (dubbed in his heyday "the greatest white-sounding black dude ever") with his own style of rockin' country blues and Hank Williams Sr. singing about the 'blues'. They took a swipe at a country fried number by a group of Brits who named themselves after a Muddy Waters' blues song (the Rolling Stones) and also laid down their own version of a 'country blues' song that Muddy brought with him to Chicago and recorded with a new urban electric sound for Chess studios in 1948. The rest of the originals and covers on this album had these same underpinnings, thematically and/or musically, making Holler And Stompone of the freshest and most distinctive blues records in recent memory. It garnered critical acclaim as well as Blues Blast Award nominations for “Band of the Year,” “Song of the Year” and “Best Traditional Blues” CD.
Hittin’ the Note magazine said, "The Cash Box Kings' cast of aces sizzle the hip side of classic Chicago blues with an old delta branding iron. A prime homage to the blues' rich history with creative, enthusiastic twists." Chicago Blues Guide enthused, "The music has the liveliness and energy that only roots music genius can provide."
And the Pittsburg Post-Gazette nailed the band’s unique appeal when it said, "Now it's one thing to say you're interested in this old music, and even to be able to play a few of the tunes with some accuracy. But it's another thing entirely to be able to re-create the originals and write new material that's faithful to this 1940's and 50's style, and do it with authentic vitality." Vintage Guitar added, "The Cash Box Kings' blues conveys powerful joy, commitment, and connection to history. When it's as good as it is here, it's all one can do to refrain from doing just what the album title suggests."
On their follow-up release, 2013’s Black Toppin’, the band remaineddedicated to carrying on the musical traditions of post-war 1950's Chicago blues, while stretching out and covering some of the other musical landscapes that blues music has traversed over the last 70 years. Thealbum won the 2013 Blues Blast Music award for “Traditional Blues Album of the Year” and was also nominated for a 2014 Blues Music Award in the same category.
On display is their deep affinity for Delta and Louisiana swamp blues, jump blues and their own signature "blues-a-billy," a hybrid of Sun Records blues sounds (Howlin’Wolf/Joe Hill Louis/Roscoe Gordon) with Sun Records country/roots sounds (Charlie Feathers/Billy Lee Riley). And the Kings don't have a problem delving into the musical styles of groups that were influenced by the blues; they cover a tune by the Velvet Underground and include a pair of originals redolent of the 70's era Rolling Stones.
Again, the critical praise flowed. Living Blues called it "a great record by one of the best blues bands in the land...a dancing and listening pleasure” No Depression paid tribute to the album by saying, "The ghosts of Muddy Waters, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and Little Walter must be smiling as they listen to the purposefully distorted overamplified vocals, guitar and harmonica which add a gritty retro authenticity that will leave you wondering if these might be some great lost tracks from Chess Records. Black Toppin' might be the best blues album you'll hear this year.”
Goldmine summarized their refreshingly retro music thusly: "This is the real deal. The Cash Box Kings may take from '40s and '50s post-war Chicago blues, add some '20s and '30s Mississippi Delta blues and some '60s adventurism, and it all comes out as a barrelhouse, honky-tonk good time."
On their latest opus, Holding Court, the Cash Box Kings pay homage to some of the founding fathers of the Chicago blues scene like Jimmy Rogers (“Out on the Road”) and John Lee Hooker (“Hobo Blues”). But the Kings also help keep alive the musical contributions of lesser-known blues artists like Honey Boy Allen (“I’m a Real Lover Baby”), Willie Love (“Everybody’s Fishin’”) and Big Smokey Smothers (“I Ain’t Gonna Be No Monkey Man”). Of course the CBKs have never been a one-dimensional “blues band” and on this release they throw some New Orleans, jump blues, ragtime, and swamp pop sounds into the mix. While the Kings have their feet firmly planted in these timeless musical traditions, they bring a spirited energy and updated approach to the music. While the subject matter of many of the songs is familiar (love, money and good times) they also touch on a number of current issues. “Download Blues” portrays the challenges of selling records and staying financially afloat in the era of digital piracy and streaming services. “Gotta Move Out To The Suburbs” describes the real struggle faced by many who are forced out of their neighborhoods due to the gentrification taking place in inner-city areas of Chicago and other urban centers in the U.S.
As the band’s fan base and acclaim continue to grow, the Cash Box Kings are more dedicated and energetic than ever in their quest to keep these uniquely American musical traditions alive and relevant in the 21st century. They look forward to bringing this music and their dynamic live show to a stage near you.