By: Laura Santowski
It’s Sunday night in Chicago, time to tune in to Blues and News with Brother Jacob. What’s Blues and News you might ask?
Blues and News with Brother Jacob is a weekly program on the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Radio Station that features Blues, Classic R&B, Jazz, Gospel, artist interviews and so much more. Listen live every Sunday from 6pm to 8:00pm on www.UICRadio.org or access the archived broadcasts at www.bluesandnews.com.
Jacob’s wealth of knowledge of the Blues, jovial laughter, and his unique interviewing style make guests feel they are part of the family chatting over dinner. Whether you call in to request a song or to speak to a guest, Jacob has you covered. A well-known name around Chicago, his fan base continues to grow.
The program started back in Oct of 2016 as Jacob was attending UIC. Jacob’s love of the Blues music started when he was very young. According to his website, “He would stay up late and listen as his godmother tuned into the Pervis Spann, “The Blues Man” on WVON Radio-AM. Jacob would call into the station requesting his favorites such as “Muddy Waters” and “Koko Taylor”. In an age of technology, Jacob took to the internet to gain more knowledge about Blues history. He added that if it weren’t for Real One Rhapsody, a downloadable streaming service, he never would have become a die-hard Blues fan”.
In the 3rd grade, Jacob recalled a field trip to the House of Blues; his teacher was taken aback as he could name the artist of song clips from B.B. King and Johnnie Taylor. That same afternoon, he recalls a band on stage playing for the students. When they asked for a volunteer, Jacob’s hand went up; he was chosen, went on stage and he said at that moment, as he began singing, he knew he wanted to entertain. He was truly a natural with no shyness in sight. The lead vocalist jumped in and a memorable duet commenced.
One year at the Chicago Festival, he remembers walking with his mother and seeing a booth which read “Blues Heaven Foundation”. There he met Willie Dixon’s wife, Marie. As Marie got to know Jacob she learned he was a big fan of Koko Taylor. She introduced Jacob to Cookie Taylor, Koko’s daughter and told him to come back the next day to meet her Mom, Koko. As one of Koko’s biggest fans, Jacob was thrilled at the opportunity to meet her. “What’s my name?” Taylor asked Jacob and when he responded without hesitation, “Koko Taylor”, she was delighted. How many 6th graders would know Koko’s Taylor’s music?
Among Jacob’s mentors is Deitra Farr, an international legend in Blues music. Having met Farr her when he was in just 6th grade, she was the instructor of the Blues in Schools program. Jacob made his debut in 2004 as a Blues singer at the Chicago Blues Festival. He appeared with the “Oscar Mayer Wieners”, which was appropriately named after the school, Oscar Mayer Elementary. This was a school group comprised of students in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades.
Jacob, Deitra Farr, Ardella Williams and Blues Guitarist (Delmark Records) Billy Flynn along with the other students proudly took to the stage and sang together in a once in a lifetime experience. To this day, Jacob recalls, he and Deitra have remained very close friends.
At the age of 11, Jacob was invited by Caleb Dube, Blues Professor at DePaul University, to come in and lecture college students. Dube was so impressed with Jacob’s knowledge, stories and history of Blues music, and thought it would be the perfect opportunity for his students. “Hound Dog isn’t an Elvis Presley song”, Jacob would tell the students— “that was Big Mama Thornton’s tune!”
Just listen to his weekly playlist and you’ll hear musicians from every era—everything from Otis Clay, Howlin Wolf, Bobby Rush, Mike Wheeler, Koko Taylor, Toronzo Cannon and the Staple Singers along with so many others. He combines all genres of music, along with accepting requests keeping you coming back for more.
Many have wondered, where did the name Brother Jacob come from? The name was given by Alligator Records’ Toronzo Cannon, one of the hottest blues performers on the Chicago scene. One night when Jacob was being introduced onto the stage, Toronzo called him “Brother Jacob” — it was a name that seemed to fit, and it soon became Jacob’s trademark.
Jacob is well known and respected in the Blues community. When he’s not studying, he enjoys sitting in on open jam sessions. In fact, that is where he has met many prominent Blues musicians. He’s motivated to continue to write, sing and keep the blues alive. You can stream Jacob’s CD, “Blues from Below” by Brother Jacob on Amazon.
Jacob’s impressive credits include opening for the legendary Otis Clay and sharing the stage with Billy Branch and the SOB’s, Deitra Farr, Shirley Johnson, Toronzo Cannon, Mz. Peachez, Demetria Taylor, Sir Walter Scott and Nellie “Tiger” Travis, to name a few.
Last month, Jacob graduated with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from UIC. He will also continue to broadcast the show on Sundays from 6-8p. Tune in, like his page, and listen live. Better yet, call in and request your favorite tune. There is nothing better than Sunday night, listening to Blues and News with Brother Jacob.
Ask his loyal followers and start checking in via The Blues and News Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/BluesandNewswithBrotherJacob/
Jacob gives a welcoming shout out to each person throughout the program: tonight, we have Florence, Ruby, Crystaline, Xavier, Keith and Jonas just to name a few. We also have Deitra Farr, the legendary Blues Artist who was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in 2015.