Toronzo Cannon

Sunday, Oct 27, 2024
at 7:00pm
  On Sale to Members Only

Toronzo Cannon was born in Chicago on February 14, 1968, and grew up in the shadows of the notoriously tough Robert Taylor Homes. Theresa’s Lounge, one of the city’s most famous South Side blues clubs, was close by. As a child, Cannon would stand on the sidewalk outside the club’s door, soaking up the live blues pouring out while trying to sneak a glance inside at larger-than-life bluesmen like Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. He also heard plenty of blues records growing up in his grandfather’s home and listened to soul, R&B and contemporary rock on the radio.

Cannon’s sister gifted him his first guitar at age 22, and his natural talent enabled him to quickly master the instrument. Although his initial focus was reggae, he found himself increasingly drawn to the blues. “It was dormant in me. But when I started playing the blues, I found my voice and the blues came pouring out.” He absorbed sounds, styles and licks from Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Hound Dog Taylor, B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Jimi Hendrix, J.B. Hutto, Lil’ Ed Williams and others. Although influenced by many, Cannon’s biting, stinging guitar sound is all his own.

From 1996 through 2002, Cannon played as a sideman for Tommy McCracken, Wayne Baker Brooks, L.V. Banks and Joanna Connor. But he was determined to prove himself. In 2001, while continuing to work as a hired gun guitarist, he formed his own band, The Cannonball Express. By 2003, he was working exclusively as a band leader. His first three albums—2007’s My Woman, 2011’s Leaving Mood and 2013’s Blues Music Award-nominated John The Conqueror Root document his rise from new kid on the block to promising up-and-comer.

Cannon fulfilled that promise with the 2016 release of his Alligator Records debut, The Chicago Way, with his maturity as an artist on full display. The album was hailed as the emergence of one of the most electrifying bluesmen to burst onto the international stage in decades. The groundbreaking 2019 follow-up, The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp, built upon the foundation he’d laid, creating and defining his vision of contemporary blues. Local, national and international media all took notice. England’s tastemaker MOJO magazine declared The Chicago Way the #1 Blues Album of 2016 and The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp as the #2 Blues Album of 2019.

Cannon has been nominated for ten Blues Music Awards, and as his fan base expands, so do his friendships with famous musicians. Gary Clark, Jr. declared, “Toronzo is a beast. He lights the room up,” and Joe Bonamassa rightly pronounced, “Toronzo’s a great guitar player, excellent vocalist and an amazing personality.”

Cannon has performed at clubs and festivals in major cities all over the U.S. and continues to bring his music directly to his fans. He’s toured Canada, the UK, made his way across Europe and even to Japan. He has played the Chicago Blues Festival on ten separate occasions, bringing tens of thousands of his fellow Chicagoans to their feet. His live performances unfailingly earn him heaps of critical praise and hordes of wildly enthusiastic new fans. “Listen to a master bluesman at work,” declared the UK’s Blues & Rhythm magazine. “This is modern blues at its creative best.”

Now, with his newest release in 2024 of Shut Up And Play! Toronzo Cannon delivers his songs with purpose and passion. “It’s not about the solos,” says the man whose blazing guitar work continues to impress, “it’s about the songs. People get used to everyday life, so it’s easy to miss the things around them. I know the problems of Chicago, the hardships. I write about those things. But I love my city, warts and all. I grew up here. It molded me and gave me the people and places I know and love. And it produced the Chicago blues giants that came here from down south. I’m proud to be from Chicago and to be able to stand on the shoulders of every great Chicago blues musician who came before me.”

All the attention he’s received only makes Cannon more focused. “I feel like I’ve become an ambassador for Chicago blues. People expect a lot from me,” he says. “But it’s good because I’m forced to keep upping my game.” And like all the Chicago greats who have come before him, blues is his life’s calling. “You don’t choose the blues,” he says. “The blues chooses you.”