International harmonica star Sugar Blue and his wife Ilaria show off baby James, age 4 months, near their new home in Forest Park.Photo courtesy SUGAR BLUE

If you hear the sounds of bluesy but atonal harmonica floating through the air and suddenly start thinking about the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls album, don’t be fooled. It’s probably international blues star Sugar Blue practicing his harp at his new home in Forest Park.

The Grammy Award-winning blues artist has lived all over the world — in New York City, Paris, Zurich, Milan and Chicago. But he and wife Ilaria (originally from Milan, Italy) and their four-month-old son James chose Forest Park for their new home because it’s a “friendly peaceful neighborhood,” Blue said in an emailed press release.

“I like Forest Park because it is a diverse, quiet, yet vibrant community full of smiling faces and the laughter of children,” Sugar Blue, 63, said.

A new album called Raw Sugar Blue has just been released. Originally from Harlem in New York City, Sugar Blue (born James Whiting) met up with the Rolling Stones in Paris in the 1970s. He blew harp on the album’s theme song, “Some Girls,” and on “Send It to Me.”

But his most famous recording is probably the iconic harmonica on the Stones’ song “Miss You,” which was a hit in 1978. He performed as a sideman for the Stones for a couple of years, then moved to Chicago where he hung out and polished his skills with James Cotton and the late Junior Wells and Big Walter Horton. He joined Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All Stars and won a Grammy in 1984 for best traditional blues album with Blues Explosion.

Sugar Blue and his wife married Feb. 16 at an all-star ceremony at Blues Heaven, 2120 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago, site of the former Chess Studios. Minister Rose Reed, daughter of Jimmy Reed, was the celebrant. Other guests were Marie Dixon, Willie Dixon’s widow and daughters of Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed, as well as Cookie Taylor, daughter of Koko Taylor. Corky Seigel, Eddy Clearwater and Deitra Farr were also in attendance. The after-party at Rosa’s Lounge was a “fusion of heritages,” according to press accounts, with the bride and groom jumping a broom — a ritual honoring Sugar Blue’s Cherokee grandmother — and a meal of prosecco, biscotti and carbonara, prepared by Ilaria, who also played bass in her wedding gown.

According to his publicist, Sugar Blue will perform at Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago this weekend and at Kingston Mines, Dec. 26-27.

The new couple is comfortably moved in and can’t wait to be part of Forest Park.

“I spend most of the year traveling around the country and overseas, and I find it comforting to come home to a friendly, peaceful neighborhood,” Blue said.


Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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