If the name doesn't ring a bell, don't go searching for a copy of Blues for Dummies. Wallace Coleman entered the blues fray after retiring from the Cleveland, OH, bakery where he unloaded trucks. He was born in 1936 in Morristown, TN, where he fell for the blues listening to Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Little Walter recordings on WLAC late night broadcasts out of Nashville. Jimmy Reed and Little Walter records inspired him to play the harmonica. Coleman taught himself to play on a 50 cent harp and developed lung power by imitating freight trains.
He followed his mother, who remarried and moved, to Cleveland, OH, in 1956; Wallace arrived a year later and found a career-lasting job at Hough Bakery where he played the harp during his breaks, honing his skills. He befriended the blues artists who came to town which wasn't difficult to do since most played small clubs seating less than 100 patrons. So blues notables like Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and others were accessible to aspiring musicians and fans. Amazingly, he didn't perform in public until he was 51.
Guitar Slim (known for his playing as well as his prowess with the ladies) was introduced to Coleman by one of Wallace's co-workers; an impromptu audition resulted in Coleman regularly playing with Slim's band at the Cascade Lounge located at 79th & St. Clair. Renown blues singer and guitar player Robert Jr. Lockwood resided near the Cascade on Lawnview Avenue and went to hear the band one evening and came away impressed with Coleman's traditional blues playing. So much so that he offered him a position with his band, Coleman nixed the offer because he was two years from retirement; as events unfolded, he retired early anyway for a chance to pursue the music blooming from his soul. Ironically, the bakery closed for good four years after he left.
Upon retiring, he contacted Lockwood in 1987 to see if the offer still stood, it did, and he began a 10-year association with the Godfather of Cleveland Blues. A guy he emulated as a teen in Morristown without even knowing it; Lockwood played guitar on many of the blues records that he admired; Coleman even created harmonica parts for some of Robert Johnson's songs redid by Lockwood -- Johnson's stepson. The 10 years were eventful as Lockwood's band gigged all over the U.S., Canada, and overseas. In 1996 he formed his own band: the Wallace Coleman Blues Band. A year later he left Lockwood for good and recorded his first CD, Wallace Coleman on Fishhead Records.
The critically acclaimed album received rave reviews from blues critics; it included one of his finest efforts "Black Spider." Career highlights include the Lockwood years, playing the Rose Center in his birthplace, Morristown, TN, and his enterprise: Pinto Blues Music where he has released a second CD entitled Stretch My Money. When not touring he played regularly at the Main Street Cafe in Medina, and Pepper Joe's Bar and Grill in Lakewood, OH. And has also performed at the East Cleveland Library, many private parties, and at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's Tribute to Muddy Waters. He married happily to Jody Getz. ~ Andrew Hamilton