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Artie ‘Blues Boy’ White, a master of Southern Soul, dies at 76

Artie 'Blues Boy' White 2007.|  Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Artie "Blues Boy" White in 2007.| Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 23, 2013 6:47AM

Artie “Blues Boy” White was one of the last colorful purveyors of Southern Soul.

The longtime Chicago resident had engaging storytelling hits including “Leaning Tree,” “Don’t Pet My Dog” and “My Dessert.” Mr. White died Saturday in a Harvey hospice after battling Parkinson’s Disease for years. He was 76.

Southern Soul singers like Bobby Rush (who headlines this year’s Chicago Blues Festival), the late Little Milton Campbell and Mr. White departed from 12-bar blues and deployed saucy use of horn sections. The most authentic sound is raw and loud, devoid of elaborate electronics. Many Southern Soul singers, like Mr. White, grew up in the church but also found a commercial home for ribald material that played well in urban nightclubs.

Mr. White was a well-known headliner at clubs such as East of the Ryan and the White Rose in Phoenix, Ill. During the early 1970s, Mr. White owned Bootsy’s near 22nd and Cottage Grove. He also appeared at the Chicago Blues Festival, his most recent set being in 2006.

Mr. White was born in Vicksburg, Miss., and moved to Chicago in 1955, where he became a truck driver delivering goods to area department stores.

Mr. White’s “Don’t Pet My Dog,” composed by Chicago songwriter Bob Jones, told of an old-school gentleman who left his wife at home with his dog. “The hook was, ‘Don’t pet my dog, and please don’t hold my woman’s hand,’ ” Jones recalled in 2007. “If you can hold a lady’s hand and pet the dog, you’ve made yourself too familiar. Something else has gotta be going on.”

Jones also wrote “Leaning Tree” for Mr. White. Why was Mr. White such an effective conduit for his material?

“Style and delivery,” Jones said on Sunday. “Artie was a soul blues singer. He wasn’t a traditional blues singer. Swagger was part of his profile. It was part of him, period. It was like, ‘I’m still your friend, but I’m it. I’m the thing.’ ”

In his book “Southern Soul-Blues” (University of Illinois Press, 2013), David Whiteis wrote, “White is pretty old school, his thick, vibrato-heavy vocals reflect his early gospel roots and he’s made few concessions to modernism.”

Mr. White’s death comes just a week after the passing of iconic Southern Soul songwriter George Jackson, who wrote hits for the late Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle and Little Milton as well as Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock ’n’ Roll.” Mr. Jackson died of cancer at the age of 68.

Mr. White was preceded in death by his wife Emma Lee. He is survived by his wife Betty and several children from his first marriage.

Service arrangements are pending.

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