Studebaker John Grimaldi was born in an Italian-American section of Chicago and started playing harmonica at age 7. Under the spell of music he heard on Maxwell Street, Chicago’s famed blues melting pot, Grimaldi began performing as Studebaker John and the Hawks in the ‘70s. The band name referenced the Studebaker Hawk, a car Grimaldi still owns today, and was also intended as a tribute to his friend, J.B. Hutto and the Hawks. John began playing guitar after a life-changing experience of seeing Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers perform. “…Hound Dog started playing, hitting notes that sent chills up and down my spine. He was versatile and powerful and would play rhythm as well as leads. I left there knowing what I wanted to do. I had to play slide guitar.”
Over the next couple of decades, John played every chance he got, sometimes sitting in with the cream of Chicago blues players, such as Big Walter, Jimmy Johnson, Buddy and Phil Guy, James Cotton, Jr. Wells and Hound Dog Taylor. He built a reputation as a performer with an exciting, propulsive guitar style, and also developed into a fine blues harpist and vocalist. He became a sought-after sideman and session musician. For example, when the remnants of The Yardbirds and the Pretty Things came to Chicago in the early ‘90s looking to make a blues album, they tapped John to provide guitar and harp backing. Shortly thereafter, he was asked to join the reformed Yardbirds, an offer John tuned down in order to record his own music. He realized that he wanted to stop playing cover versions of others’ music, and to develop his own voice as a songwriter. “Writing songs is the most satisfying part of my job. I write a song to make myself feel better, and I hope it makes others feel better, too.” Since then he has put out more than a dozen albums of all original music, recording on the Blind Pig, Evidence, and his own Avanti labels. It is fitting that Studebaker John is now with Delmark, the oldest existing Chicago-based blues label. He is a Chicago blues original, who plays from the heart and always takes his own distinctive approach to contemporary blues.