Bob Corritore arrived in Phoenix in 1981, figuring he'd be here only for a year, at most.
Almost three decades after the fact, the Chicago-born harmonica player is still around, and local blues connoisseurs are grateful he decided to stay put. He's been plenty busy in that time, using his lifetime love of the blues to help the Valley get hip to the down-home genre personified by B.B. King and Bo Diddley.
Since 1984, he's served as Phoenix's reigning blues guru, broadcasting choice cuts from his ample album collection and sharing an infectious fervor for the American-born art form every Sunday during his weekly KJZZ 91.5 FM program, Those Lowdown Blues. Meanwhile, Corritore has also devoted the past 18 years to making his CenPho joint the Rhythm Room the preeminent spot for blues and roots music.
It's become a hallowed ground of sorts, having featured gigs by such giants as Pinetop Perkins, Leon Redbone, and Jimmy Rogers. A number of renowned artists have also recorded live at the Rhythm Room, including the Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson and the late Robert Lockwood (stepson of the famed Robert Johnson). Corritore has also provided a home for Arizona's blues and R&B practitioners — ranging from Windy City-style trio The Rocket 88s to Texas transplant Big Pete Pearson — as well plenty of Americana, country, rockabilly, and other roots-oriented bands.
The place evokes the spirit of the South Side Chi-Town joints that Corritore haunted during his youth, blowing his mouth harp alongside legends like Honeyboy Edwards and Big Leon Brooks. In fact, his relationships with countless greats is why CenPho property owner Lenny Frankel asked him in 1991 to help transform a vacant cinder block building — which had housed everything from a '60s go-go bar to late-'80s music venue the Purple Turtle — into the Rhythm Room.
Corritore, who'd already been performing with local blues bands and booking shows at such bygone hangouts as Chuy's in Tempe, began bringing in buds like Louisiana Red, Junior Walker, and other marquee-level artists to who ordinarily might have skipped Phoenix altogether. (He'd already encouraged the late Chico Chism to relocate here in 1986, and the former Howlin' Wolf drummer became a frequent collaborator and a regular at the club before passing away in 2007).
It's helped Corritore (who became sole owner in 2001 after Frankel pulled out) build a devoted patronage and weather many a storm over the years, as has his recent practice of hosting a variety of indie and alt-rock acts. So regardless of what night of the week it is, you're guaranteed to find a good show at the Rhythm Room.