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Pioneer Press
Sutton turns on the Charms

By Bruce Ingram
June 8th, 2000

The Four Charms
Chicago Boogie: Jimmy Sutton (left),Jim Barclay, Joes Patterson and Jonathan Boyle of the Four Charms.
Jimmy Sutton was casting about for a name for his band; adding possibilities to the million or so filling up his notebook, when The Four Charms suddenly popped up out of nowhere and struck a responsive chord.

"With The Four Charms, the whole image of the band fell into place," said Sutton, a bass-player and singer who parted company three years ago with the Mighty Blue Kings the popular retro-swinglblues band he co-founded in 1994. "I loved the idea of a band made up of four guys - four individuals who make up the whole. I really believe in consistency because fans are very sensitive - and very fickle."

The Charms, whose "Flatland Boogie" CD on Sutton’s Hi Style label has been raking in rave reviews, are hoping to add new fans to their growing national audience Friday night at Pops in Highwood.-Sutton took more than a year to find a group of musicians who share his musical vision. He discovered guitarist/vocalist Joel Paterson playing in Milwaukee while on tour. He found drummer Jim Barclay’s playing in Chicago clubs. He performed with sax man Jonathan Doyle for a year in the Blue Kings.

"We have a great chemistry," Sutton said. "It didn’t take long for me to take the band seriously as something more than just a vehicle to make a buck."

The Charms found a ready market for swing-style bands trading in the market of late-’40s/early-’50s jump-jazz and jive. Sutton, however, soon found he wanted to explore more territory.

"‘Zoot Suit ‘50s swing bands -that’s not what I’m about," he said.

There’s some question whether this should be whispered confidentially, but South Side native Sutton received his original musical inspiration from The Ramones.

His older brother took him to a Raiiiones concert in 1980 at the tender age of 13.

"My brother always said that was the, night I changed," said Sutton, who immediately formed a punk group called The Troubadors.

At 15, after hearing a single by The Stray Cats, Sutton bought his first upright bass and formed a rockabilly band called The Rockin’ Blue Notes. He made his professional debut with the group at Sally’s Stage the night before he began junior high school.

Rockabilly was a virtual offshoot of punk in the early ‘80s, but Sutton soon discovered a fondness and flair for the ‘50s mix of rock and country. After The Rockin’ Blue Notes ran its course, he played rockabilly in The Moondogs, then shifted gears with the swinging Blue Kings.

"A lot of swing band players used to play rockabilly." Sutton said. "They still have that same love for old-style music but swing offers more of a musical challenge"

Playing’s the thing

After his increasing dissatisfaction with what he saw as the Blue Kings’ emphasis on image instead of music, Sutton is careful to put playing first with the Charms.

The group specializes in jump rhythm and blues music of the late-‘40s and early-’SOs, from such standards as "hit that Jive, Jack" and "Rock This Joint" to more obscure numbers like "Chicago Boogie." It also plays its own original tunes in the same idiom.

Sutton doesn’t limit the Charms to one style, however; he wants every performance to be fun for the audience and the band.

"We’re not museum pieces," he said. ‘We’re starting to branch out into rockabilly and early Memphis blues. Sometimes I just like to rock out. The mix works because it’s all old-school, ‘40s and ‘50s music.

"The only rule for us is to dig whatever we play."

The Four Charms perform at 8:30 p.m. Frida.y and July 7, 2000 in Pops of Highwood, 214 Green Bay Road. Cover charge is $3. CaLl 266-1313.

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