"I'm the house rocker and the show stopper, the woman's pet and the man's threat. I'm Chico, the Boogie Man." -- Chico Chism
Legendary blues drummer Napoleon "Chico" Chism, Phoenix's longtime "Ambassador to the Blues," died on Sunday, January 28, at the Kivel Campus for Compassion in Phoenix, following a four-month battle with kidney disease. Chism was 79 years-old.
Chism was born on May 23, 1927, on a riverboat near Shreveport, Louisiana. His career began in 1957, when he recorded with T.V. Slim on the original version of "Flat Foot Sam." Over the next fifty years, Chism recorded or toured with countless blues and rock legends, including Big Joe Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Howlin' Wolf, Henry Gray, and Louisiana Red. Chism relocated to Phoenix from Chicago in 1991, where he became a fixture of the Rhythm Room, the local blues club owned by Chism's close friend, Bob Corritore. Chism spent the past 16 years nurturing the Phoenix blues scene, drawing legendary players to perform here and serving as a mentor for the city's up-and-coming blues players. "Phoenix will never be the same without our blues cheerleader," Corritore said. "We have all been profoundly touched by this beautiful person."
The "Chico Chism Appreciation Night" show scheduled to take place at the Rhythm Room on Tuesday, January 30, will now be a memorial service. Performers include The Flamekeepers, Big Pete Pearson, Lynne Avril, Bob Corritore, Nightshift featuring The Chief and Tom Grills, George Bowman, Walkin' Cane Mark, Mike Howard, Matt Row, Hans Olson, Blues Dinosaurs, Johnny Rapp, and more. There will also be a religious service led by Father Ron Poston. Proceeds will help pay for Chism's funeral costs. There will also be a "Memorial Benefit for Chico Chism" featuring The Flamekeepers at El Dorado Bar & Grill in Scottsdale on Saturday, February 3.