The first time Chizmo sang to me up close and personal, I was pretty loaded at Gene's on
Rt. 51 and laughed till the song was over. Then he was back. And back again. He was in his
60s then, close to 20 years ago, singing with Gil Snyder, Doc Dougherty, Jimmy King, Tom
Garner as the Mystic Knights. I tried to fix him up then and again more recently with
Jimmy King's mom, but Chizmo just laughed.
Last year I stopped in on a Saturday to see Chizmo at the Blues Cafe on Carson Street
wanting to interview him. Unbeknownst to me, he was then recently victimized by home
invasion robbers. That got me thinking, gave me more time to prepare. However, when I
tried to find past articles about him to read over, I realized nobody in the larger
newspapers had ever written about this man except a brief piece when "Up All Night" was
re-released as Decade Records premiere CD and then a brief blurp about the home invasion.
How could this be? I wondered, that no member of the press had ever written an article
about Chizmo? How could this be?
So I was more determined to track him down and sit him down to talk. And talk he did. He
provided a little too much personal information that I knew he would regret saying to the
press one day. So those notes were trashed and those secrets undisclosed. What we had
left was the following article. I loved writing this story. People such as Jim Hamel, Jill
West, Norman Nardin and Billy Price loved providing me with their thoughts on Chizmo.
Usually, I've made sure subjects receive a copy or copies. In Chizmo's case, however, I
framed the Sunday Lively Arts page and returned to the Blues Cafe to give it to him.
Next time I go, I'm taking Miss Beulah along, too...
|"Chizmo" Charles Anderson has earned his reputation as
"Pittsburgh's Senior Statesman of the Blues" for good reason
little to do with age.
Anderson has been singing all styles of music to captive
audiences for 50 years. It might have been 60 or 70 years, but
he was busy being Pittsburgh's third best jitterbug dancer
through his late 20s.
With dancing as his passion, the Polish Hill/Lawrenceville
native sang along at home to Billy Ekstein, Joe Williams and
Ray Charles records and got comfortable with the songs. He
initially ignored musician friends who urged him to sing with
their bands. He didn't think he'd like singing.
|'Pittsburgh's Senior Statesman of the Blues'
Celebrates Golden Anniversary Singing
By Julie Toye, for the Herald Standard
May, 15, 2005
|But Anderson found his nitch and second home when he got on stage to sing 50 years ago. He
remembers his first night out singing on Pittsburgh's North Side and the first song he sang in public. He
sang "Everday I Have The Blues," with drummer friend Eugene Betts' band.
"That's still a swinging song," Anderson said of the 1952 tune that opened his current day act at the
Blues Cafe on Pittsburgh's South Side. Anderson laughed when he recalled having no idea then what a
musician named Lefty in Betts' band meant when he asked what key Anderson wanted the song played
in that first time.
"I knew what a car key was," he said of the foreign musical jargon that he learned over time. From
that night, he went on to perform with groups such as the Debonnaires and Unity, a polka and country
band, before making a name for himself in the blues and R&B clubs.
"I've sat in with everyone in Pittsburgh," Anderson concluded of the years in between. His vinyl
musical influences such as Ekstein, Charles, Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson, Williams, Tony Bennett and
Frank Sinatra helped prepare him for the next show and the next band. He began a 7-year stretch with
The Mystic Knights in the late 1980s and sang lead on a few tunes on the 1991 CD, "Live Blues
Breakout." It included the song, "Spread Yourself Around," featured with video of Anderson and the
band in a beer television commercial.
|In 2003, Anderson's previously released and acclaimed CD, "Up All Night," was reissued on Decade
Records. The project involved an impressive gathering of talent that included drummer Ron "Byrd"
Foster, acoustic pianist Dr. James Johnson, acoustic bassist Bobby Boswell, Fender bassist Del Rey
Reynolds, lead/slide/rhythm guitarist/producer James M. Dougherty, Jr. and the late James King on
"Up All Night" also included other former Mystic Knights, Gil Snyder and drummer Tom Garner.
Joining them were mighty saxopohonists Robbie Klein, Rick Modery and Kenny Blake and trumpet
player Danny Donohoe. New Jersey's Chris Franchese played rhythm guitar on one song to round out
Anderson's finely tuned 12-piece studio band.
Following the CD reissue, Anderson toured the north-eastern part of the country and opened a few
times for one of his idols, blues legend B.B. King. It wasn't Carson Street, but New Englanders baked
him a 75th birthday cake, gave him Pittsburgh hugs by proxy and proudly posted his birthday pictures
with them on their inn websites.
These days Anderson plays with two R&B bands on a regular basis. For the past 14 years, he has played
the Saturday happy hour at the Blues Cafe . Then there's his Tuesday evening shows at Station Square'
Crawford Grill and his occasional shows with just him singing along with a pianist. He has received some
radio airplay on public radio WYEP's Saturday evening blues show and weeknights on "Nightflight: The
Original Quiet Storm" aired on WLSW with host Ron Chavis.
click to continue
|Chizmo Charles Anderson