EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated Sept. 27, 2015: Due to a health issue, the Bobby Whitlock concert has been cancelled. Ticket refunds are available at point of purchase.
Originally posted Sept. 25, 2015:
BY JEFF ELBEL | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
Bobby Whitlock’s lengthy resume is a continuing series of musical highlights, distinguished by the supernova blast of his early accomplishments. The soulful keyboardist, guitarist and songwriter from Memphis made major albums with foundational classic rock artists including Delaney & Bonnie, George Harrison, and Eric Clapton – and that was in 1970 alone.
History has proven that musical era to be pivotal, but Whitlock just remembers it as steady work. “We were all in the flow,” he says. “We never once looked back.”
Whitlock is best known for his pivotal role in Derek and the Dominos with Clapton. The album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” featured Whitlock compositions and collaborations like “Keep on Growing,” “Tell the Truth,” and “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad? ”
After decades, he’s also being recognized for co-writing another standout. “Eric’s done the very best he can to catch me up on it, and from here on out the credit for ‘Bell Bottom Blues’ is going to read, ‘Written by Eric Clapton and Bobby Whitlock,’” says Whitlock. “My grandchildren’s grandchildren will be able to look back and say their great-great-grandfather helped write that song. These songs will last forever.”
Whitlock released solo projects through the mid-‘70s and even contributed to the Rolling Stones’ landmark “Exile on Main Street,” providing the musical backbone to “I Just Want to See His Face.” Following 1976’s “Rock Your Sox Off,” Whitlock withdrew from the public until returning with 1999’s appropriately titled “It’s About Time.” Since then, he has worked with accomplished musician, producer and spouse CoCo Carmel. “When I play piano, CoCo plays saxophone,” says Whitlock. “We both sing. She takes the second part that I sang with Eric in the Dominos.”
Whitlock and Carmel promise an intimate set at FitzGerald’s, including old favorites, songs from 2013’s “Carnival” album like “John the Revelator,” and fresh material. “We’re also doing all of the Dominos songs that I had anything to do with, plus other things like our version of ‘Layla,’” says Whitlock.
Whitlock’s 2010 book is praised as one of rock’s most worthwhile autobiographies, so it’s no surprise that he’s a raconteur in concert. “I give the backstory of each song,” says Whitlock. “I can’t tell anything twice the same way, so it’s always changing.”
Although it’s the final stop on what is dubbed the “Just Us” tour, the pair will be joined by a local hero. “Our guest in Berwyn will be Nicholas Tremulis playing electric guitar,” says Whitlock. “He’s a good friend.”
* Bobby Whitlock and CoCo Carmel, 8 p.m. Oct. 1, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; $20-$25 . (708) 788-2118; fitzgeraldsnightclub.com.
SPOTIFY playlist: http://bit.ly/WhitlockSPOT
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.