Chicago Pete Reviews

What they're saying about Chicago Pete

"...possesses one of the greatest singing voices you’ll ever hear..... Many who haven’t heard this talented bluesman will be amazed at the caliber of his singing."
Andy "Blues Boy" Grigg Real Blues Magazine Victoria BC

"Pete has a great Albert King infected voice, and he knows how to use it. ....Funky is the word that describes this outfit."
Blues Scene Quarterly Winnipeg

"Pete's singing has an authenticity which comes from life experience."
Chris Probert Globe and Mail Toronto On

"...sings all in a straight-ahead style that recalls Mightly Joe Young and at times Big Daddy Kinsey."
Jim DeKoster Living Blues Magazine Chicago IL

"A must-see for blues purists."
T.O. Nite Magazine Toronto ON

"...traditional blues all the way, with rich full vocals."
Jo Ann Korcynska Detroit Blues Magazine Detroit MI

"Pete has the archtypical blues voice and he knows how to deliver a song......the highlight of the disc, of course, is Pete’s voice."
Mario Circelli Scene Magazine London ON

"....gospel inflected R&B of Chicago Pete and his crowd-pleasing vocals."
Lenny Stoute Toronto Star Toronto ON

"Pete's got the funk......"
Joseph Jordan Blues Access Boulder CO


Blues Scene Quarterly Vol 1 No 2 Summer 1997
by J.P. LePage

Born in 1931 in rural Tennesee, Alford Harrell (better known as Chicago Pete) has the history of the archetypal bluesman right up to the point of actually having learned to sing on the cotton field and in the church.

Raised up in a religious home, gospel and spirituals were Pete's roots. Deep roots indeed, as Pete has been singing from his soul for as long as he can remember.

His mother was a "sweet singer" who taught the kids all kinds of music. "There were no labels back then - just music," says Pete. And young Alford was brought up with his mother's encouragement to reap the full potential of his talents.

Knowing well himself what his talent was, Pete's early years were spent singing in groups like his uncle's Heavenly Harmonizers.

After serving in the Korean War, Pete found himself in Detroit. From '54 until he moved to Chicago in'59 he performed in gospel vocal groups The Songs of Zion and The Golden Harmoneers. That same year he took up guitar briefly before settling on the bass, under the tutelage of a musician named Robert Bester.

"The Fender bass was real popular," says Pete. It was a fine time to start into the blues, as Chicago through the fifties and sixties was rife with clubs and musicians, and as time wore on, Pete got in there like a dirty shirt.

By the late sixties, Pete had played with many of the hallmark names of Chicago blues of that era - Earl Hooker, Willie Mabon, Junior Wells, and many others - but he got especially close to Jimmy Dawkins, working much of the time with him. They played alot at a little after hours club called the Squeeze.

Appropriately named for its size, The Squeeze was a popular spot among musicaians, and surely many graced the small stage. Other memorable gigs were at the Peacock, where Pete was a member of the house band; and a place called the Bossa Nova Club. The proprietor there told Pete "As long as you can keep up with that juke-box, the stage is yours", and so Pete with his own group, the Live Wires, covered all the popular styles, and subsequently held down a second house gig.

Pete left the band and the Bossa Nova behind when he hooked up with Junior Parker, the man who was perhaps Pete's single biggest influence. He worked with Junior on the road all over the country for three or four years until just before Parker's death in '71.

Pete moved back up to Detroit in the early seventies and soon fell in love with the scene there which included people like Little Mack Collins, Alberta Adams, Little Sonny, and Mr. Bo. On a friend's advice that since he spent all those years in Chicago, he should start calling himself CHICAGO PETE, and his new band "The Detroiters," Pete picked up a new handle and a hot new band.

The Detroiters were an eight-piece band (or more) outfit with a four-piece horn section, and the big band for nearly the next twenty years was what you could expect to see when you heard the name Chicago Pete. He always had heavy players in the section, and the detroiters could swing hard.

The band covered a number of styles: primarily uptown blues a la Little Milton, and including interpretations of R&B and Motown standards. True to his roots, Pete clearly wasn't limited to musical boundaries. He'd throw in all these different ingredients and just COOK. Combining egual parts intensity, charm and showmanship, the unifying flavour was Pete's powerful gospel drenched voice.

When Pete eventually relinquished the bass chair to move up front, he'd get way up front - out into the audience and preach to the crowd. His shows could be likened to revival meetings, with rooms of people standing there, shaking and waving their hands in the air, with Pete all up in the middle testifying and shouting "Blues Power!" "Do you feel alright?"

Needles to say, Chicago Pete and the Detroiters were a popular regional act: their longevity alone is testament to that. They worked in their own backyard, forgoing national recognition, and released only two recordings: THE GIFT recorded in Lansing Michigan, MI in '84 on the Stormy Monday Label; and a 45, I'm Begging You from near the same time on Pete's wife Valerie Records.

In more recent times, although Pete still gets together with some of the Detroiters on occasion, he's mostly been doing the single thing, appearing as featured vocalist with a number of area groups. He's a welcome attraction in Detroit and neighboring cities, through Windsor and all the stops on the 401 up to Toronto, working a fair bit with the houseband from one of the clubs in London, Ontario.

The name of the club is Old Chicago Speakeasy, and the band leader is a saxophone/keyboard player named Chris Murphy, who also runs a small independent record label aptly titled Speakeasy CDs.

THE BLUES IS ALRIGHT was released on Speakeasy in '96 and features Pete in front of the Old chicago Blues Band as well as on several tunes with the most recent line-up of the Detroiters. The highlights include a number of Pete's arrangements of songs co-written by his old friend, "Blind Child" Gerry Gaughan, the late long time blues radio personality.

The new record has given Pete's career a boost, and he's now working more than ever, travelling further and further afield. He's also reunited with his old ally, Jimmy Dawkins to work festivals and tour Europe, where he plans to return with the Old Chicago Blues Band.

Chicago Pete

T.O.NITE Magazine  January 12, 1997
New Releases

Veteran Chicago bluesman and singer Chicago Pete is in town with his band to do a couple of big ticket concerts, but tonight only you can see him at Glenevis Inn for free! Since he began playing in 1959 he's toured Europe with Jimmy Dawkins and played bass and sang with Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Jr.Parker, Jr.Wells, Mighty Joe Young and many other greats. A must see for blues purists!

Chicago Pete

Toronto Blues Society Newsletter   January, 1997
by Lenny Stoute

Chicago Pete makes a rare Toronto appearance at the Black Swan on January 10 & 11. Alford Harrel was born in Chicago hence the nickname of this Detroit-based singer. He's a frequent guest at the Old Chicago Speakeasy & Grill in London, Ont. (He'll be there New Year's Eve and February 6-8th), and in fact has a fine new CD on the Speakeasy label, The Blues is Alright whose Toronto debut will be at the Swan. The band has Speakeasy's Chris Murphy on sax and keys with Gary Kendall from Downchild on bass, Steve Grisbrook from Midnight Walk on guitar and Tyler Burgess (Midnight Walk) on drums.

Chicago Pete

Toronto Star  Thursday, Jan.9,1997
by Lenny Stoute

The Black Swan comes up big with Chicago Pete Friday and Saturday. Pete hasn't played these parts often, spending his time in the touring company of such as Albert Collins, Jr. Guy, and Luther Allison. Fronting his own crew, Pete shows a big voice and steading-rolling playing style. He'll be working tunes off the current album, The Blues is Alright.

Chicago Pete • The Blues is Alright (Speakeasy 3003)

Blues Access Magazine No.28•Winter 1997
New Releases

As he explains during an interview on the disc, Pete got his name for his many years in Chicago before he moved to Detroit, and this pleasant outing substantiates the stories he tells.

Chicago Pete: The Blues is Alright (Speakeasy 3003)

Scene Magazine-Music   Dec.19/96-Jan.8/97
by Mario Circelli

Since 1959, Chicago Pete, or Alford Harrell as he is known, has been laying down bass lines and belting out the blues. He has toured with some of the hottest blues players in the world and released several albums on his own. So how does a bluesman from McLemoresville, Tennessee, a man who has played with the likes of Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and Jr. Parker, a musician that cut his teeth on southern gospel music and old spirituals, hook up with the Old Chicago Blues Band? Well, in the seventies Harrell moved to Detroit from Chicago and like all devout bluesmen, Pete has worked the circuit, the Forest City has been one of his pulpits. It wasn't long before Chicago Pete met up with Chris Murphy and the Old Chicago Blues Band.

Ten of the 17 tracks on The Blues is Alright were recorded in London by the venerable Paul Venesoen at his Studio 107 and are backed by the capable Old Chicago Blues Band. For those of you who don't know, the Old Chicago Blues Band features some of the city's hottest players. The band smokes with the likes of Chris Murphy sax, Doug Varty guitars, keys and organ, and Geoff Dahl and John Knapp keeping the rhythm. Chris' father Phil Murphy helps out with sax, accompanied by Paul Stevenson playing the trumpet and Don DiCarlo on the organ. Seven of the tracks were recorded in motown with some of Detroit's finest bluesmen, including Pete on bass.

The highlight of the disc, of course, is Pete's voice. Pete has the archetypal blues voice and he knows how to deliver a song. Whether it's one of the two Jr. Parker tunes or one of the five originals written by long time friend Gerry Gaughan, Pete's voice conveys the guts of the idiom. The CD presents some of the best known blues standards, all of which are part of his stage show. So if you're in need of a blues fix, this might just be the tonic.
Reviewed by Mario Circello

Chicago Pete: The Blues is Alright (Speakeasy 3003)

Real Blues   June/July'96 Number 1
by Andy "Blues Boy" Grigg

I got spoiled living in South-Western Ontario in the 1980's - I got to hear Chicago Pete and The Detroiters and Eddie Burns on a regular basis at Wild Glen Smith's, many blues bashes at The Hoodoo Lounge and Pop the Gator. Why Chicago Pte isn't a major international blues star is another one of the blues' great mysteries.

This bass-playing Detroit native possesses one of the greatest singing voices you'll ever hear and he's been working his tail off getting his band gigs from Windsor to Toronto. 10 years earlier he released a simply stunning 45. "I'm Begging You " was as sweet a soul tune as you'd ever hear, co-produced by ex-Motown keyboardist/arranger Joe Hunter, who was Pete's bandleader for a good long period. Alford Harrell, Chicago Pete's real name, is comfortable with both hard low-down blues or fine northern soul, but this production, a split effort (track 1-7, 15-17 recorded in London, Ont. with a local backup band, and tracks 8-14 done in Detroit with his regular long-time cohorts) is all blues. While it's over-represented with familiar items from Pete's live stage show, like Little Milton's "The Blues is Alright" and "Driving Wheel", there are also 5 originals from the pen of Gerry Gaughan and a 3-minute segment titled "Pete's Story", in which he talks about his like as a bluesman.

Pete has an incredible mimicry ability and his Albert King voice on "I'll Play the Blues For You" is scary. The boys from London do a very good job at backing him except for some excruciatingly bad harp on "Baby Bee", but the Detroit session really cooks with dancing horn charts and great guitar from Gary Miser. The 5 originals here by Blind Gerry Gaughan are so good that the few minor flaws become quickly forgotten. "Help" is especially fine. I'd love to hear Chicago Pete do an album of Gaughan originals.

As it stands, this is a fine introduction to the big blues voice of one of Detroit's long-time veterans, and many who haven't heard this talented bluesman will be amazed at the calibre of his singing and his throbbing blues bass playing. No funk thumb here. A great debut and independent release. 4 bottles

Chicago Pete: The Blues is Alright (Speakeasy 3003)

From Living Blues Magazine November 1996
Jim DeKoster

Chicago Pete is bassist Alford Harrell, who earned his stage name by gigging around the Windy City with such notables as Jimmy Dawkins and Junior Parker before relocating to detroit in 1972. Harrell had a 1980 LP on Golden Afica (reveiwed in LB 56), which was a loose affair with only six tracks. The Blues is Alright offers 16 cuts (the closing Sweet Home Chicago is not listed) plus an autiobiographical interview. Song sources include Little Milton, Junior Parker, Lil' Ed, B.B. King, Albert King, and Gerry Gaughan (five songs). Backed by a tight , well-rehearsed band, Harrell sings all in a straight- ahead style that recalls Mighty Joe Young at times and Big Daddy Kinsey at others. - JDK

Chicago Pete: The Blues is Alright (Speakeasy 3003)

by Wayne Glidden July 18, 1996


Southern gentleman or badass bluesman? You decide. From Detroit via Chicago and Tennessee, Chicago Pete is the favorite front man at The Old Chicago and cut nine tracks of his CD THE BLUES IS ALRIGHT with the band, and seven tracks with his boys back home in the motor city. It's a mixture of classics and material written especially for Pete by long time friend Gerry Gaughan, a Windsor professor who passed away a year ago.

"He knew my feelings and he knew my voice," says Pete. Growing up in small-town Tennessee, he cut his teeth on gospel, spirituals and blues before making it a career in 1959. "It's just in my blood," he says. "I'm at home singing the blues." While nothing will ever equal the club scene of Chicago in the 60s, "it was really popping," he feels the timing for this is right, with high demand and radio play of his cuts from the Old Chicago Blues Band Third Anniversary CD. Old LP's, like 1984s The Gift, with his band the Detroiters, and The Voting Blues, are being issued on CD.

"People are waking up to the blues," he says. He plays three or four nights a week, sometimes with the house band, and often with his own eight-piece - he likes horns - and toured europe last fall with JImmy Dawkins.

"There's a pretty good blues circuit," he says in that drawl. "You have to be lucky enough to get in the hook up. It's treated me pretty good.
JULY 1996

Chicago Pete: The Blues is Alright (Speakeasy 3003)

by JoAnn Korczynska

A Detroit resident since 1972, Pete is originally from Tennessee.There he sang gospel music until he moved to chicago in 1959, learned to play bass, and became a blues musician. As part of the 60s Chicago blues scene Pete appeared with many well-known blues artists, touring for three years with Junior Parker and playing for several years with Jimmy Dawkins. When Pete moved to Detroit he formed a band called the Detroiters and began to call himself Chicago Pete. The band broke up five years ago and now Pete performs as a guest artist.

THE BLUES IS ALRIGHT includes 17 songs, half of which were recorded with Pete on bass and vocals, backed by some fine Detroit musicians. The rest of the album was recorded with the Old Chicago Club's house band (also excellent) in London, Ontario with Pete on vocals only. THE BLUES IS ALRIGHT is traditional blues all the way, with rich, full vocals by Chicago Pete. If you are in need of some down home blues this album will satisfy.-
JoAnn Korczynska DETROIT BLUES

Additional Information Contact:
Chris Murphy (519) 668-6443 London, Ontario, Canada
Can Orders: 1-800-JOE-RADIO   1-800-563-7234 $16.50
US Orders: Blue Loon Records 1-800-710-7667 $15 (US)
or The Other Stuff Catalog
POBox 581364, Minneapolis MN, 55458