Nick Moss & the Flip Tops
Chicago blues is now synonymous with guitarist Nick Moss. Having spent his formative years touring with Jimmy Dawkins, Jimmy Rogers, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, this young Chicagoan carries on the tradition while developing his own distinct sound.Share
Chicago blues. Those two words conjure up the most powerful and evocative images in the entire history of American music. Think smoke-filled taverns on the South or West Side nearly ablaze with tremendous displays of electrified Delta beats from dignitaries named Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, Elmore James, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and so many more. Imagine sidewalk curbs and street corners on busy Maxwell Street where storied performers like Hound Dog Taylor and Robert Nighthawk wailed the blues for spare change.
Chicago blues is now also synonymous with guitarist Nick Moss. Though the golden era of Chicago blues is long past with many of its key players deceased or retired, this young Chicagoan stands tallest in the current generation of blues performers that honor the letter and spirit of the great urban African-American music. No less than Jimmy Rogers saw Nick as a protégé, a torchbearer, and a colleague. Leading Chicago-style guitarist Buddy Guy sanctions his talent: "Nick Moss is one of the local favorites at my club, Legends. I always enjoy the way he plays and works hard to please our audience". Noted Chicago-based music journalist Bill Dahl, never one for gratuitous praise, has raved over Nicks guitar playing, saying he possesses mastery of the classic Chicago sound, while acclaimed blues producer Dick Shurman numbers himself among Nicks ever-growing legion of admirers, calling his Windy City neighbor "an increasingly centered artist who can rightly be called a master".
A musician of consummate skill, Nick fully understands the debt he owes his predecessors and how important it is to carry on tradition in an honorable fashion. "I'm not trying to re-invent the wheel," he says with characteristic modesty, "or trying to bring things into the new millennia. I'm just playing what was handed down to me and do it justice. I have a lot of respect for the guys who taught it to me; I played with Jimmy Dawkins, I played with Willie Smith, I played with Jimmy Rogers and in my heart I love [this music] and I dont feel it has to be changed much."
Passionate blues fans around the country gravitate to Nicks playing in live performance and on recordings because of that stylistic link to the Chicago blues past. But Nick's music also holds enormous appeal for casual fans of blues and even novices. "I'm trying to find that fine line of not compromising the integrity of that classic music, he says, and yet still make it a little fresher-sounding and contemporary-sounding where I can get across to the element of the crowd that isnt hard-core."
To his credit, Nicks no imitator. He has his own distinct voice on the guitar, what all musicians in all genres strive for yet very few achieve. "Ive listened to just about every blues guitar player from the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, especially the Chicago guys, and tried to take in all of it, he offers, but I dont consider myself a note-to-note copier. I absorbed their style and feel and timing. I try to listen and capture the essence of what they were doing."
For Nick Moss, the rise to the top tier of blues musicians out of Chicago had its beginnings right in his boyhood home. "If it wasnt for my brother Joe I wouldnt be playing. I used to watch him play guitar growing up, and still today hes one of my favorite guitarists, a musicians musician, playing blues, jazz, funk, soul, and rock. He pointed me in the right direction." Too young for legal admission into clubs, aspiring teenaged blues man Nick literally sneaked into local blues dens and soaked up the classic ensemble sound played by the venerable elders. "My first influence was Jimmy Dawkins because he gave me my first real gig playing bass for him. I just happened to be at a blues jam when I found out he needed a bass player. I really didnt know who the guy was. I found out how heavy he was after I started playing with him and doing research." How heavy? Dawkins was one of the true stars of electric blues in the 70s, an acclaimed star in Europe but always criminally undervalued in the States.
Nicks schooling began in earnest when he hooked up with the Muddy Waters-styled Legendary Blues Band that featured Muddy Waters Blues Band alumnus Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on drums. "That was one of my favorite bands," he recalls. "I still love Willie. He is like my second father. He basically taught me two things: 1) to take pride in myself right now, and 2) the timing and feel of blues, how its suppose to be." The next deep-blues learning period for Nick, who'd switched over from bass to guitar, was in the employ of Jimmy Rogers for three years in the mid-90s. From this major figure in the story of blues he learned all about the special ensemble sound of authentic Chicago blues, coming to understand the importance of listening closely to and reacting to his fellow players on the bandstand. "Listen to early Muddy Waters stuff with Jimmy and Otis Spann and Little Walter," says Nick of the origina
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Live At Chan's: Combo Platter No. 2 (2009)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Play It Til Tomorrow (2007)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Live At Chan's (2006)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Sadie Mae (2005)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Count Your Blessings (2003)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Got A New Plan (2001)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - First Offense (1998)
Gerry Hundt - Since Way Back (2007 - BB 1009) (Co-Producer, guest)
Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Tear Chicago Down (2007 - BB 1010) (Producer, guest)
Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Put It In The Alley (2006 - BB1007) (Producer, guest)
Bill Lupkin - Hard Pill To Swallow (2007 - BB 1011) (Producer, guest)
Bill Lupkin & Friends - Where I Come From (2006 - BB1006) (Producer, guest)
Monster Mike Welch - Cryin' Hey! (2005 - Dixie Frog) (guest guitarist)
Easy Bill & the Big Beat - Stay Tuned! (2005) (Producer)
Pauline York Band - Mudy Water (2004) (Guest)
Easy Bill & the Big Beat - Midnight Creep (2003) (Producer, guest)
Big Bill Morganfield - Ramblin' Mind (2001) (bass)
Set list changes nightly. Number of sets and set lengths are usually specified by club.