Joliet native ‘Huck’ steps his way into Blues Hall of Fame
Chicago is world famous for the blues, but when it comes to rippin’ licks in Will County, nobody’s got slide like Harvey “T-Bird Huck” Huckstep.
The Blues Hall of Fame thinks so, too. It inducted the Joliet native Sunday during a ceremony at Buddy Guy’s in Chicago.
“The best part about it was when we walked in, there was already a contingency from Joliet,” Huck said. “There was well over a hundred people there from Joliet I would say.”
He was thrilled to meet harmonica legend Corky Siegel there.
“I’ve seen him blow Joe Cocker off of the stage back in 1969 at a Chicago venue called the Kinetic Playground,” Huck said. “To be able to see him 44 years later and to tell him I was at that show ... ”
Huck’s earliest influence was his mother, who sang around the house to 78s on the phonograph.
“Way back in the day there was something about Ray Charles,” he said about another important inspiration. “I must have had a seed planted.”
The real clincher for his lifetime of blues came in 1965. His pitching helped take Ingalls Park Pony League to second in the nation. Instead of telling about the World Series, his first story is about the other players jamming on Fenders.
“That was the way it was for us when we heard that music,” he said, likening the experience to Bugs Bunny levitating to the scent of apple pie. “We were just entranced.”
After that, he paid $10 for three months to rent an old Stella acoustic in order to take guitar lessons.
Over the years, Huck made playing the blues his main gig. He married his wife, Debbie, in 1983 and started a family. They celebrated 30 years of marriage last week.
“It takes a good woman to stay with a guy like me and put up with being married to a blues man,” he said.
Huck, who got his nickname for buying Thunderbirds, played with his partner Michael Ciancanelli from 1970 to 2005. They dressed in big Fedoras, long coats and spat shoes. They were often called the original Blues Brothers.
Through it all, his family and friends are whom he credits most. Without them, the blues music doesn’t happen.
“Being honored by your peers and fans, I guess, is the ultimate reward as far as tangibles go,” he said.
Every Sunday, Kegler’s Bar and Grill at Crest Hill Lanes, 905 Theodore St., Joliet, features T-Bird Huck’s Joliet Heritage Blues Jam. This Sunday, the bar is hosting a special party to honor Huck’s induction. The jam runs from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.