Blues great, frequent Wood County visitor Shaw dies at 80

Eddie Shaw was a fixture at Howard's Club H during the 1980s and '90s.

Wielding his saxophone and dominating the stage with the same authority that many of his contemporary blues legends did with a guitar, Eddie Shaw was the face of Chicago blues for many in Wood County.

Shaw passed away Jan. 29 in his adopted home town of Chicago. He was 80.

Most closely associated with Howlin' Wolf, Shaw was brought to Chicago by Muddy Waters, who gave him his first shows there.

Born March 20, 1937, in Stringtown, Mississippi, he was recognized at a young age for his ability with the tenor saxophone, but he also sang and played harmonica. While formally studying music at the Mississippi Vocational College in Itta Bena, now Mississippi Valley State University, he played with a host of big names, including Ike Turner and Little Milton.

Shaw was Howlin' Wolf's band leader, rising to international prominence in 1971 for creating the horn arrangements on "The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions" from Chess Records, and worked with Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Ringo Starr.

After Howlin' Wolf's death in 1976, Shaw continued to lead the Wolf Gang band and went on to record nine albums under his own name, on several record labels.

"What made him unique is him being a front man that played saxophone and harmonica. So it gave it a whole different sound with him out front. He was a dynamic performer," said John Henry, a friend and blues associate.

In Bowling Green, Shaw was a regular fixture at Howard's Club H. For more than a 10-year stretch during the 1980s and '90s, Shaw played the venue several times a year as part of a regular touring stop.

"There's a generation of people, now in their 50s and 60s, who recognize him as 'the Chicago Blues guy,' because of his frequent visits. He was a legendary guy. ... We used to call him 'King of the Road,'" Henry said.

Shaw and the Wolf Gang also played at Grounds for Thought and the main stage at the 2013 Black Swamp Arts Festival, as well as numerous shows and festivals in Toledo. Shaw's last live show in Northwest Ohio was in 2015 at Third Street Cigar in Waterville.

He continued to play shows in Chicago after 2015, but no longer toured.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel honored Shaw by declaring May 3 as Eddie Shaw Day in Chicago.

Shaw also has been honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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