Derrick Procell has been grooving the Chicago Music scene for over 30 years. We are very fortunate to have him leading the Stitely dance band “Chicago Groove Collective”. Check out our new Musician’s Spotlight showcasing his talents and what he’s up to outside of Stitely Entertainment.
Where did your passion and drive for music come from? More specifically, blues?
According to my mother, I was literally whistling in the crib! I’ve always had music goin’ round my head as far back as I can remember. I used to sneak my transistor radio into bed and listen under the covers. I would sing along with my favorite songs and seemed to understand the relationship between the melodies and the harmonic structure of the songs.
I took piano lessons as a kid, so that helped to develop my ears. As I began playing in cover bands, I had to try to cover all sorts of styles, but I seemed to lean toward the singers that had a certain amount of soul in their voices. A lot of the British acts of the time…Rolling Stones, Animals, Yardbirds…were heavily influenced by American Blues artists. As I came into my own as a singer, I found that producers would hire me specifically because they wanted that soulful sound. In fact, early in my career as a studio singer, I showed up at a jingle session for one of Chicago’s top producers that I had never worked for before. Everyone ignored me as I sat on the couch watching the session happening. Finally, he came over and asked who I was. He, in a very flustered manner, told me that he had been expecting a black singer, based on my demo tape! I told him it was OK… more than a few folks had made that assumption.
Name a few of your musical influences.
Procol Harum, Eric Burden, Little Feat, Steely Dan, Warren Zevon, The Beatles, Jackson Browne, James Brown, Randy Newman, Ray Charles, Gregg Allman, Floyd Cramer, Johnny Cash, Elvis and pretty much anybody I listen to on any regular basis. They all play a role in the music that comes out of me.
Talk about your newest release and how did the idea for it get started?
I began writing songs with my lyricist partner, Grammy winner Terry Abrahamson, around 2011. We had met years earlier when I was a busy studio singer on the Chicago advertising scene. Terry had worked with a lot with Blues artists like Muddy Waters, George Thorogood, John Lee Hooker, etc. The song demos we were recording were getting a lot of acclaim for the production and for my vocals, so I decided to release a bunch of them, along with a few self-penned songs, in 2016 as a CD, WHY I CHOOSE TO SING THE BLUES. I hired a publicist…best decision I’ve ever made, next to marrying my wife…and the record was incredibly well reviewed and played internationally.
Tell us about the writing process for your songs and where your inspiration comes from-is any of it autobiographical or personal in nature?
Music has always come easier for me than lyrics. When I started working with Terry, I knew right away I had found an amazing storyteller. We like to believe that we’ve hit upon the kind of chemistry that only the best songwriting teams have. I do still occasionally write one from my own lyrics, but I already have a backlog of the prolific Terry’s tunes! And we are finally starting to see some success with our songs being picked up by other artists and organizations. In addition to our Blues tunes, we are both inspired to write what we call our Artist Activist Series songs… tunes that focus on social and political subjects such as gay rights, PTSD, Immigracism…(our term), and freedom of speech.
Tell us a little bit about the musicians that are on the record.
The record is mostly me on vocals, keys and harmonica with a number of tracks utilizing drum and bass plug-ins. I did enlist a lot of guitar help from Bob Baglione, Alex Smith, Dave Steffen, and Zoey Witz. Real drums on some of the tracks provided by Jack Skalon. I also had the good fortune to have a few blues legends help out. Howlin’ Wolf’s sax player and band leader, Eddie Shaw, sang a duet with me on THE WOLF WILL HOWL AGAIN. Muddy Waters’ longtime guitarist, Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, played some mean slide on EYES OF MISSISSIPPI. And Chicago harmonica legend, Billy Branch, wailed on BACK IN THE GAME.
Anything else you want to add regarding your new release or other things you are up to?
Hoping to get a little more of a presence and love in our hometown with my hot new original music band, Derrick Procell & the Redeemers. We do most of the music from the record as well and a bunch of soulful original tunes.
I’m also working on a new concept for a tribute show. It’s a little too early to crow about it, but it’s very exciting and will be a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
And, of course, I’m looking forward to bringing the party to life as the leader of Chicago Groove Collective this coming wedding season.
Interested in having Derrick Procell and Chicago Groove Collective perform at your wedding or event? Let us know! And keep up with Derrick Procell at his website to get his record or know when to catch him perform live in Chicago.