Randall "Big Daddy" Webster's Bluesography
Growing up in Wheaton, Illinois (also home to Jim and John Belushi), he snuck into the Windy City’s most notorious Blues clubs. They soaked in the music of Muddy Waters, Otis Span, Junior Wells, Big Joe Turner, and other Blues legends holding school on stage. Webster would often jump the “L” (elevated train) to Maxwell Street where itinerant Bluesmen plied their trade on the corner. Webster’s first guitar, a Harmony Stratatone, came from Duke’s pawnshop north of the old market. He scavenged record bins for vintage vinyl from his new Blues heroes. But eventually Chicago Top-40 radio on WLS and WCFL stole his ears.
The teenage Webster learned how to run a P.A. system, frequently working for area Blues bands in the very clubs he once snuck into as a child. During one sound check with Otis Rush, the band suddenly stopped mid-song only to hear Webster belting out a verse of "I've Got My Mojo Working." They chuckled loudly, and then Rush said, “Not bad for a skinny white kid!” The Blues flame was lit again and Webster never looked back musically.
Webster polished his vocal skills in the late 1970’s singing jingles for Chicago area radio stations, and sitting in with most any Blues band that would have him. Wrapping his four-octave tenor voice around tunes, Webster frequently was called the “Pavarotti of Blues.” His vocal acrobatics and expressive singing style wrenched every bit of emotion out of each tune.
Eventually he landed at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale where Webster hosted a noon hour Big Band Blues radio show on WCIL-AM. Periodically he’d record St. Louis area Bluesmen, and itinerant Blues musicians who lived in the shanties overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Wabash rivers. These Bluesmen are descendents of minstrels who traveled the nation’s waterways. Using an old dreadnought acoustic guitar given to him by Will “Big House” Staughton, Webster picked tunes with his new found Blues friends. When they ran out of cover tunes, they made them up. This was the beginning of Webster’s Blues songwriting.
By the early 1980’s Webster migrated back to Chicago occasionally hosting a midnight Blues show for WAUR-FM, an oldies radio station. His guitar gathered dust. In 1985 a business opportunity in Tallahassee, Florida brought him south. Suffering through too many of Chicago’s brutal winters, the Sunshine state was very appealing. Once in Tallahassee, Webster hit the Blues jams to check out the scene. As his Tallahassee Blues circle grew, so did the idea of developing a horn based Blues band. By 1986 the “Mighty Big Blues Band” was born. With 5 horns, 3 backup singers, lead and rhythm guitarists, keys, bass and drums; the 13 piece group earned it’s name and reputation with a “wall of sound” as he belted out Blues and Soul classics. Their “Big Band” sound instantly captured audiences. During this tenure, master Blues harp player Lincoln “Chicago Beau” Beauchamp dubbed Webster “Big Daddy” while doing a show together. Beau marveled at Webster belting out tunes over his horn section saying, “The only thing bigger than ‘Big Daddy’ is his voice!” Unfortunately, keeping “The Mighty Big Blues Band” together was difficult and the band folded after one CD and three successful years.