By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
And he sure loved his job.
Back in Chism's room at Kivel, I'm admiring the relics from his career, some of which date back to the 1950s.
There's a flier for a show B.B. King played in Chism's hometown of Chicago; a framed painting of Carlos Santana; a concert poster featuring a young, grizzly-bearded Chism next to John Lee Hooker; and several black-and-white photographs. There's also a ceramic clock shaped like a red drum set on the window sill, and a pair of drumsticks wedged between some chair cushions. The drumsticks are beat to hell, with notches, ridges, and bumps that taper into splinters near the tips.
Because of the dementia, Chism doesn't tell stories anymore (he really doesn't speak more than a couple of words at a time), but he smiles when I pick up the drumsticks. "Damn, Chico, you really played the hell out of these!"
Chism nods. "Yep."
I spend several minutes holding his drum sticks and turning them over in my hands. Finally, Chism looks bored and starts scooting toward the hall.
"Show you something," he says, in his gruff, bluesy voice.
We end up strolling through the dining room, where some jazzy canned music is playing on the speakers. "What's this music?" I ask Chism. "They need some blues in here!"
Chism laughs. "Heh-heh. Yeah, that's right!"
He meanders over to one of the dining tables and points to a placard with the name "Chico Chism" on it. And I remember how he'd corrected the young guy who introduced him to me two years ago as just "Chico Chism."
"I'm the legendary Chico Chism," he'd said.
As Corritore said afterwards, "Coming from anybody else, that might have sounded arrogant, but coming from Chico, it's just a fact."
After showing me the placard that does not have his proper title on it, Chism shuffles back toward his room. I call after him.
"Hey, you gonna be at the show they're having for you at the Rhythm Room?"
Chism stops and turns to me. "Oh . . . yeeaah," he says, with a gleam in his eye. Then he winks, blows me a kiss, and strolls off down the white hallway.
Of course Chism wouldn't want to miss one more chance to dive into the blues bag. Because, as Chism told me shortly after I met him, "I'm a blues guy, through and through, because the blues is about feeling. That's why the blues will always be alive.
"And that's why I've spent my life in the blues."