LOGAN SQUARE — “If you don’t like the blues, then you just haven’t lived long enough,” said Jacob Schulz, otherwise known as Brother Jacob, the effervescent Logan Square blues artist who has been championing blues culture for most of his life.
Schulz, 30, has a knowledge of the genre fans decades older would envy. He also has a radio show, Blues and News with Brother Jacob, that airs twice a week on Buddy Guy Radio and WGFM-FM.
Growing up, Schulz was exposed to a steady diet of classic blues. His godmother, who was from Virginia and a diehard blues lover, would play him hits from Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters and Koko Taylor. At night, she’d listen to the legendary blues DJ Pervis Spann’s blues show on WVON.
“I would wake up at 2 a.m. and hear B.B. King’s ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ or Bobby Blue Bland’s ‘I’ll Take Care of You.’ Blues is like my parent,” Schulz said.
As he got older, “I started to realize what the blues was in terms of history,” he said. “It’s more than music. It’s culture and a way of life and I don’t mean a depressing life. It represents progression and growth. For African Americans, who went through slavery and Jim Crow, it symbolizes perseverance.”
Schulz never wavered in his commitment to the blues. He asked his godmother to let him stay up at midnight to listen to Spann’s show, and he called in regularly. When he was 10, he met Spann in person and the DJ took photos with him.
In 2004, Schulz attended a panel discussion that coincided with the Chicago Blues Museum exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. Spann discussed the blues industry with legendary blues harpist Billy Branch and moderator Dr. Caleb Dube, a DePaul University sociology professor.
When Dube asked the often-considered question, “How will we keep the blues alive?,” Spann pointed to the adolescent Schulz and told him to stand up.
“That young man is going to keep the blues alive,” Spann said.
Schulz was soon guest-lecturing Dube’s DePaul classes about blues history and attending blues shows with his mom. By the time he was in high school, he was sitting in with local artists like Billy Branch, Toronzo Cannon and Katherine Davis. He started doing services for the artists, building websites and establishing their social media.
“I developed a rapport with a lot of artists on the scene and learned a lot about the industry,” Schulz said.
When he hit 18, Schulz “eased on down to Lee’s Unleaded,” he said. The legendary South Side blues club at 7401 S. South Chicago Ave. was run by Sarge and Yvonne Davis. Schulz performed a medley of suggestive hits like “Sue” and “Built For Comfort” to enthusiastic crowds.
At 21, after almost a decade of patronizing blues clubs, Schulz could finally get in on his own. He played gigs as Brother Jacob and the Blues Crew around the city and suburbs and released his debut CD, “Blues From Below,” in 2013.
After graduating from UIC, he continued on to grad school, where he started his radio show, Brother Jacob Blues & News in 2016 on UIC Radio.
In 2021, he switched the show over to Buddy Guy Radio, broadcasting from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursdays and 6-9 p.m. Sundays. He plays a collection of blues standards and new releases and announces industry news.
Schulz said a new music project is in the works. Meanwhile, he sits on the programming committee for the Chicago Blues Fest and is planning a blues journalism series for his show in August.
And of course, he can be heard from 6-9 p.m. Sundays on Buddy Guy Radio and WGFM Radio, and 11 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursdays on Buddy Guy Radio and WBGX 1570 AM/95.9 FM in Chicago, as well as on his website, brotherjacob.com.
As a blues ambassador for his generation, Schulz guides his peers through the history.
“We have so much blues history in pop music,” Schulz said. “All you have to do is explore and open your horizons, You’ll discover that blues is always at the root.”
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