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In 1993, an ad was placed in the classified section of a Chicago entertainment periodical. "Blues singer wanted." For several months after, a parade of oddly diverse candidates appeared at the door of the apartment listed. Many came - but none sang the blues. What kind of fool expects to start a blues band with a classified ad?

Then, there appeared a diamond in the rough. Her name was Sharon and her sole experience was as lead vocalist for the in-house band at her office Christmas party. In her 'promo' shot she appeared singing (she proudly announced) Led Zeppelin's 'Black Dog' and playing tambourine. That was the guitarist's idea.


But her soul experience was vast and she knew the blues through that experience. She knew Little Milton, Bobby Blue Bland, Etta James and Muddy Waters. She knew Robert Johnson songs before she even knew who Robert Johnson was. Truthfully, when she belted 'Black Dog' it WAS a blues. When she opened her mouth to sing - what came out was big, unpolished, heartfelt, and undeniable. And extremely blue. In the end, God was merciful and a blues band was born. They were dubbed Under the Gun and Sharon Lewis was their voice.

The original idea was to provide a vehicle for a backlog of original material. The tunes spanned all corners of blues past present and future. The idea was to meld genres, ideas, vocabulary, styles - all on a foundation of established blues tradition. The goal was to find an authentic voice that could interpret and project that ambitious blend ? and most importantly to find a voice that could make it credible.

Mission accomplished.

Since that time, together and apart, Sharon Lewis and the various members of Under the Gun have opened for or performed with a wide range of other artists including Koko Taylor, Son Seals, Denise LaSalle, Robben Ford, Coco Montoya, Billy Branch, Melvin Taylor, Sugar Blue, War, the Divinyls, Robin Trower, B.B. King, Albert Collins, Dion Payton, Michael Coleman, Dushon Mosley, and the Creative Arts Collective among many others.

They've played all of Chicago's major Blues clubs, including Kingston Mines, Buddy Guy's Legends, Rosa's, Blue Chicago, Famous Dave's (now Isaac Hayes), and B.L.U.E.S. They?ve also covered most of Chicago?s better known rock clubs as well as New York (Cat Club, CBGB?s), Memphis (BB King's club) Florida, Texas and most of the Midwest. They?ve also performed across the country at various festivals and events.

They have recorded a slew of little known recordings on labels big and small. None of these were done as a group, none fully expressed the original concept, and none ever really saw the light of day.

For her part, Sharon Lewis has enjoyed a very successful solo career playing venues from Chicago to Luxemburg. Her first major international tour in 1998 with The Next Generation Band blazed through the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Holland and Belgium. She now has several successful European tours under her belt.

Separately, and as a unit, they've come a long way since those early ingenuous and wildly optimistic 'Black Dog' days. Some times have been bright and others very dark. In the end, the blues always exacts its dues. But they have emerged with their vision intact, and their craft finely honed.

Their debut group effort is now available on Sleeping Dog Records.

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