Wendy and DB introduce Chicago Blues to a young audience with fifth album
She’s a mover and shaker. He’s a mellow fellow.
Together it all works.
Chicago music veterans Wendy Morgan and Darryl Boggs, who record and perform together as Wendy and DB, will release their fifth album of children’s music on Sept. 23, the blues-infused “Into the Little Blue House” (Tigerlily Music).
Produced by Michael Freeman, whose work at Chicago’s Joyride Studios helped Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith earn a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album, “Blue House” introduces young listeners to the blues organically, starting with the title track featuring Chicago blues harmonica legend Billy Branch.
“It almost sounds like you’re down on the street corner with just an acoustic guitar and harmonica,” Boggs said.
“It’s really about community — about getting the blues community out there (and) introducing children to blues music, which is the base of all music,” said Morgan, who helped recruit another member of that fraternity, Waukegan singer and multi-instrumentalist Ivy Ford, to sing on the album.
Other musicians on “Into the Little Blue House” include drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith — Willie’s son is a star in his own right — guitarists Dave Specter and Mike Wheeler, pianists Sumito Ariyoshi and Johnny Iguana, and bassist Melvin Smith. Guest violinist Anne Harris accents Morgan and Ford’s vocals on the up-tempo “Women of the Blues.”
“There are a couple songs that actually are very educational. We’re teaching them a field holler and a work song,” Morgan said of album selections such as, aptly, “Feel Holler.”
“I had a little girl say, ‘Blues is a sad feeling.’ Well, it is a sad feeling, but it’s something a lot of kids don’t know about,” said Morgan, an Evanston resident who lived in Deerfield for several years. Her son, Tyler, attended Deerfield High School.
After decades performing individually, Wendy and DB’s partnership has served them well, starting with the 2013 album “Pockets Seasons, Rhymes & Reasons.”
Their three prior albums — “Hey Big World” (2020), “HomeEarth” (2017) and “It’s a Doo Da Day” (2015) — all won National Parenting Product (NAPPA) awards, with “HomeEarth” earning Creative Child 2018 CD of the Year.
While Earth is indeed a big world, “Into the Little Blue House” focuses on that part of it close to home and heart — “the blues capital of the world,” as Boggs said.
“One of the ideas and the intent of this album was to get some of those blues players known to other people and, at the same time, we wanted to get blues music to kids, so kids could be educated about how the blues sounds,” he said.
“They could be taught the blues form and learn some of the names of the musicians who play in that style, and we also could take lyrics and stories to children in terms they could understand and apply them to the blues style.”
And, thus, tracks such as “Peanut Butter Blues Jam.”
An educational approach comes naturally to Wendy and DB, neither of whom can pinpoint the exact moment they met, but figure it came in the course of performing.
“It was probably at a job,” Morgan said.
Boggs, who sings and plays his Fender Stratocaster on the new album, retired in 2015 after 32 years as a band director at St. Joan of Arc in Lisle and Lindop Elementary School in Broadview.
Simultaneously, for more than 40 years Boggs played with or opened for legends such as Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and Sunnyland Slim. He continues to perform at private parties with the Becca Kaufman Orchestra, whose BeatMix Music company is based in Northbrook.
Morgan, who writes most of the lyrics, shifted gears after she performed in a rock band, Girls on Film, and released a pop album, “Say Wen,” in 1994.
“I wanted to be Madonna when I started out, but it didn’t work out,” she said.
She’s since done commercial voice-over work, sung with Chicago-area ensembles, and even appeared on “Days of Our Lives.”
Inspired not only by entertaining her then-young son Tyler, as well as paying the bills as a divorced, single mother, Morgan started teaching children’s music programs at the Wilmette Park District.
“One day, one of the moms said, ‘Why haven’t you done an album?'” Morgan said.
Nine years after their 2013 debut, Wendy and DB have released their fifth.
Supporting the release of “Into the Little Blue House,” Wendy and DB will perform at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, at Space, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston. They also will play at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Sundays, Oct. 2 and 9, at the Kohl Children’s Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview, pulling from their other albums as well.
Families will see an engaging duo. Along with their guitars and voices — and Wendy’s ukulele — she often brings crayons to a gig for children to use.
“She’s a consummate performer, and so am I, but our styles are a little different,” Boggs said. “She’s more assertive; I’m a little more laid back … It’s a really nice balance. And, of course, we get along with each other really well, too, and that always helps on stage,” Boggs said.
“We have a different energy,” Morgan said. “Mine’s kind of high energy, and his is a little more mellow. We work really well together.”
“Into the Little Blue House” is available on Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby and at wendyanddb.com. Ten percent of album sales will go to the Pinetop Perkins Foundation to benefit musicians, young and old alike.
“My hopes and dreams are that I would love to get this album into the hands of many, many kids,” Boggs said. “And I’d really love to get it in the hands of kids in an urban environment. A lot of children’s music is not available to them.”