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Remembering Delmark Records Founder Bob Koester


If you just walk in off the street into Chicago's Jazz Record Mart, you might have wondered, how does that crusty guy behind the counter hold onto his job? He could bark at customers to close the door, so they wouldn't let the heat out or the traffic noise in. Of course, he owned the place. And if you stayed for just a few moments, you could also see that Bob Koester could be endlessly patient with customers from all over the world who might ask, do you have "Hoodoo Man Blues" by Junior Wells? Did he? Bob Koester recorded it.


JUNIOR WELLS: (Singing) Lord, you know, they tells the baby that somebody done hoodooed the hoodoo man. Lookie here, baby...

SIMON: Bob Koester died this week at the age of 88. He was a member of the Blues Hall of Fame who founded Jazz Record Mart 65 years ago and his own recording label, Delmark Records, to bring the vibrant sound of Chicago jazz and blues to the world. He recorded Speckled Red, Magic Sam, Otis Rush and Big Joe Williams.


BIG JOE WILLIAMS: (Singing) Good morning, Captain. He said, hello, child. Well, your woman then come see you, oh, Lord, while you cut your time, baby, please (ph)...

SIMON: Music that took the sound of Chicago's streets, the hard work and heartbreak, delight and despair, the energy, electricity and art and put it on the record. The store had a website in recent years before he sold it in 2016 and opened a smaller store. But the true joy and art of Jazz Mart was to pitch yourself into the piles and stacks of recordings, blow off some dust and discover something old, classic and compelling, like Dinah Washington.


DINAH WASHINGTON: (Singing) I've got a mellow man who loves me and mellow whiskey in my glass...

SIMON: Bob Koester told people simply, I recognized good talent when I heard it. He also gave his own life to giving those great jazz and blues talents a precious and enduring gift, an audience of fans to appreciate them generation after generation.


MAGIC SAM: (Singing) Back to that same old place, sweet home Chicago... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.