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NEWS: Abb Locke dies
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Abb Locke dies at age 84

R.I.P. 8-25-1934 to 3-9-2019

Abb Locke by Jenn Noble
photo: Jennifer Noble

By Dave Weld

 Chicago blues saxophonist Abb Locke was born on August 25, 1934 in Cotton Plant Arkansas, to Abb Locke, Sr. and Rubie Locke.  Locke, Sr. and his three sons, owned and worked their own fields, "right across the field from Peetie Wheetstraw's place" in Cotton Plant, said Abb, Jr.  It was near Louis Jordan's hometown, 12 miles away in Brinkley, AR.  Locke recalled a childhood Saturday afternoon when he had a quarter to get some candy and see a show, as long as he put his head down when walking past a white woman on the sidewalk. As a tall child working the cotton fields, "from can't see to can't see," feeding the cows, going to school only when it rained, living with his father and brothers, his life was not unlike many African Americans in the rural South.


When his father moved in with a new stepmother, Abb, Jr. went to Memphis to stay with his biological mother, Rubie, and there he joined the band at Manassas High School, alongside band mates George Coleman and Hank Crawford.  Abb was able to play in Memphis on the radio with B.B. King, and he had a gig in West Memphis where Abb was proud of the fact that "Bobby Bland and Junior Parker came to steal my gig!”


Abb relocated to Chicago working his way up through Cairo, Colp, and Carbondale IL, and settled into the "Golden Age" of Chicago Blues. He performed and recorded with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Memphis Slim, Willie Mabon, Magic Sam, Wille Dixon, Chuck Berry, Otis Rush, and later on, James Cotton, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Eddy Clearwater,  Lonnie Brooks, Albert Collins, the Rolling Stones and so many more that only Abb knows. The sax player spent 18 years with Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames, touring and recording for Delmark Records.

Dave Weld & Imperial Flames
Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames

Abb's recording career is legendary and he got involved with Chess Records through knowing and playing with Willie Dixon.  He recorded many sides for Chess, including three by Howlin’ Wolf: "I Been Abused" (1959), "Down in the Bottom" (1961) and "Howlin’ For My Baby" (1962). Here is one link to some of his credits:

Abb played Carnegie Hall with Albert Collins, Lonnie Mack and Roy Buchanan; he played with the Rolling Stones for Mick's birthday in front of 80,000 fans. He received the "Lifetime Blues Achievement Award" at the Pennsylvania Blues Festival along with James Cotton. In 2017, Locke was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Buddy Guy’s Legends. 

Abb Locke at Chicago Blues Fest 2007
Abb Locke (center) at Chicago Blues Fest 2007 with (L to R): Henry Gray (piano), James Cotton (seated), Hubert Sumlin (guitar). Photo: Jennifer Noble

“Abb Locke was an inspiration to younger players and a good friend to older players; he served as a role model to those who looked up to him, as we all did.  He was always cheerful, always philosophic, always sober and accountable,” said Weld.

 Memorial Service Saturday March 23, 2019

1 - 3 p.m. 

Leak and Sons Funeral Home, 18400 S. Pulaski, Country Club Hills, IL

Repast 3 - 5 p.m. directly following Memorial Service


Donations for helping with memorial service expenses can be sent to Mr. Locke’s son:

Herbert Clark, 8203 S. King Drive, Apt 2 South, Chicago, IL 60619


There is also a GoFundMe Page for donations:


Dave Weld learned to play the blues from Chicago slide guitar legend J.B. Hutto, who introduced him to his nephews Lil’ Ed and James “Pookie” Young. They went on to form Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials. Dave later put together his own band, The Imperial Flames which included Abb Locke.

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