Chicago-style bluesman Steve Freund at Harrah’s

Tahoe Onstage

Steve Freund, right, returns to Harrah’s Tuesday Night Blues with Buddy Emmer and drummer Bryan Jenkins.

Steve Freund appears at Harrah’s Tuesday Night Blues with the Buddy Emmer Blues Band. The free show is from 8 p.m. until about 11:30 p.m.

Freund cut almost 50 records and toured extensively with Sunnyland Slim, James Cotton, Boz Skaggs and Koko Taylor.

“If you want to play blues it’s not just learning the notes and the chords,” Freund told Tahoe Onstage. “Those people came up a certain way and they have certain priorities. The key was learning not what the people play but why they play and how they think and what’s important and how you treat other musicians.”

A native of Brooklyn, Freund immersed himself in the blues when he moved to Chicago at the age of 24, staying in the Windy City for 18 years. After many blues greats died, the scene changed and in 1994 Freund moved to the Bay Area. He played many times with his former band the Dynatones at the Peppermill in Reno.

He plays many different hues of blues: Chicago-style from the 1960s, prewar Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Minnie, and contemporary. His experience with the older players was invaluable to his sound, he said.

“The music part can be learned other ways,” Freund said. “But it’s not only how you play but it’s why you play and what you play and your material and the stories behind all these songs. They are all short stories, little vignettes. They tell a story and they have a moral, too. And you learn from that.

“And you go on the road and you learn from older folks how hard it was for them to survive coming up through the racism and the bigotry when most of these African-American artists, especially the Chicago musicians, were all from the deep South — usually Mississippi and Southern Tennessee and Arkansas and those kind of Delta places. They really endured a lot of racism and you just learned about that. You develop a sense of empathy and a sense of right and wrong. It just instills that into you.”

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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