Peter M. Hurley

Photographing Women Of The Blues is like documenting a hurricane in full force. The instinct is to back off but the invitation to step in its way and feel its full impact is the ultimate seduction. The sonic depth summoned from the finest female blues interpreter is matched by her visual presentation, and it’s inspirational to “capture” her image while she is in the throes of her ecstatic art. Sam Phillips once said of Howling’ Wolf that “this is where the soul of man never dies.” The same can be said of a Woman Of the Blues, that she embodies the soul of women… and within her blues, it never dies.

— Peter M. Hurley



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Photos taken at Blues Mamas for Obama, election night, November 4, 2012. 


Peter Hurley - Deitra Farr

Deitra Farr

© Peter M Hurley

Short in stature, serene in nature this Blues powerhouse is 100% world-class Lady! No need to assault you with her ample vocal prowess: with a toothy grin she simply slips you into her world of Blues/Gospel/Soul excellence for the ultimate ride of your life! The Chicago singer/songwriter has penned dozens of tunes and is a favored vocalist in nearly every European country across the globe. In October 2015 Deitra was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame as a "Legendary Blues Artist” and has been numerously nominated for Traditional Female Blues Artist of the Year (W.C. Handy Awards), Female Blues Artist of the Year (Living Blues Critics’ Awards), British Blues Connection Awards, and the Les Trophees (France Blues awards). The Columbia College Journalism alumnus is also a published author; pens the “Artist to Artist” column in Living Blues Magazine, has written articles for the Chicago Blues Annual and il Blues (Italy’s Blues magazine). She represented Chicago Tourism in Düsseldorf, Germany and has toured with The Women of Chicago Blues project alongside Zora Young and Grana Louise. Deitra also often tours Europe with Raphael Wressnig’s Soul Gift tour. Italy’s Pistoia La Nationale, proclaimed her “Regina del Blues.” Bellissimo!



Peter Hurley - HolleThee Maxwell

Holle Thee Maxwell

© Peter M Hurley

None would have imagined that Holle Thee Maxwell would sing blues: she was destined for an operatic career! Yet the correctly-postured, clasped-hand classical life would give way to “Thee” rocking Soul/R’n B, Blues volcano: Chicago’s “Force of Nature Par Excellence.” The statequese blond bombshell recorded for several labels, with early hits “Only When You’re Lonely,” “One Thin Dime,” “Never Love Again,” “Suffer,” and “Philly Barracuda” charting well across the country. Today, her singles are sought by collectors across the world, especially in Europe where they call her sound “Northern Soul.” Café-owner Maxwell recorded with jazz great Jimmy Smith, and replaced Tina Turner in the Ike Turner band. A graduate of the Juilliard School and Chicago Musical College, the accomplished songwriter sings several genres and in French, German and Italian. From opera, to “Thee” Blues, Holle Thee Maxwell fills the stage with her distinct style and personality. Maxwell was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame (2014) at Buddy Guy’s Legends; and honored by the Great Black Music Project of the Northeastern Illinois University who added her to their artist registry and podcasting their interview of her about her music career.



Peter Hurley - Nellie Tiger Travis

Nellie ‘ Tiger’ Travis

© Peter M Hurley

Like Aretha and other luminaries before her, Nellie “Tiger” Travis (a Mound Bayou, MS native) grew up in the early 60s “slaying ‘em in the aisles” singing gospel music in church. Since then, Nellie has been crowned the New Queen of The Blues for Chicago by Bluesman Purvis Spann (who also bestowed that honor on Nellie’s mentor, Koko Taylor, the original Queen). When Ms. Taylor passed in 2009, her worthy successor used talented songwriting skills to write and record a tribute song to her friend, Koko: Queen of the Blues. Travis has headlined at the Chicago Blues Festival, aboard international Blues cruises, and at numerous Festivals and clubs around the world including Japan, Greece, Italy, Germany and Brazil, as well as her hometown in Mississippi. She has shared the stage with such luminaries as Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Gladys Knight, and Ronnie Baker Brooks. The feline-like Nellie has an intense vocal style as well as a feisty, independent personality—both onstage and off. gushed,”That girl’s got soul! I’m not talking about shallow vocal tricks, but deep Gladys Knight/Tina Turner soul from the gut.” — Purr-fection!



Peter Hurley - Peaches Staten

Peaches Staten

© Peter M Hurley

Dizzying, energetic Peaches was born in Doddsville MS. and reared in Chicago on a sumptuous diet of blues, soul, gospel and R’n B by her stepfather (a DJ) and mother (member of a social club for Blues musicians). Her career beginnings were in a zydeco band and an Afro Brazilian Samba ensemble: she has gone on to work with the very best of the blues; as a global entertainer she is known for jet-setting across continents spreading the joy of the Blues. From Europe to South America, back to the U.S. then off again to some corner of the world at the drop of an e-mail, she entertains the masses with ferocity and spirit. She is, what other vocalists call, a “flat-footed, gut-bucket singer”—needing no mic to belt from the rafters! Her latest CD, Live at Legends (the last one recorded at the club’s original locale) is electric: Staten dazzles with a personality that pulls you into her inner cycle. Nominated in 2016 for Best Blues Entertainer by the Chicago Blues Awards.



Peter Hurley - Shirley Johnson

Shirley Johnson

© Peter M Hurley
Shirley Johnson started out singing in church and then went on to embrace secular music where she pursued a career. Although Johnson has spent much of her adult life in Chicago;  she was born in Franklin, VA and raised in Norfolk, VA. Shirley came from a very religious family and was only six when she started singing gospel in a church choir. Shirley made her presence felt in Norfolk’s blues and R&B circles and became an opening act for Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, Z.Z. Hill, and other well-known artists who were passing through town. After being offered a plane ticket to Chicago in the late 70’s she decided to stay and became active on the city’s blues circuit. Shirley worked with Little Johnny Christian, Artie “Blues Boy” White, and keyboardist “Professor” Eddie Lusk (who she went on the road with him on international tours.)



Peter Hurley - Shirley King

Shirley King

© Peter M Hurley

Charismatic, high-energy Daughter of the Blues Shirley King —The offspring of the late Blues icon, the legendary B.B. King, Shirley has carried on the family tradition to become a favorite among the world’s best-known blues establishments and festivals. Born in West Memphis, Arkansas, she sang gospel in church as a child, later pursued a career as an exotic (shake) dancer before turning to voicing the blues in 1990. Two years later she had recorded her debut LP, Jump Through My Keyhole, a perfect vehicle for her husky vocals that are heavily influenced by the stylings of Etta James and Mahalia Jackson. From traditional blues to gospel to funky R’nB to smooth soul, Shirley defies genre: her singing and stage presence will light you fire! Shirley has shared stages with her legendary Father and Bobby Bland, Albert King, Little Milton, Tyrone Davis, Otis Clay, Jerry Butler, Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Eddie Clearwater, Billy Branch, Lonnie Brooks and many others. She continues to tour worldwide as “Daughter of the Blues,” and is released (2017) a tome about life with her famous Dad. The Thrill Lives On!