Ann Rabson
Blues Piano / Guitar / Vocals
Photo of Ann Rabson by Marc 
April 12, 1945 - January 30, 2013

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Liz Schnore (Ann's daughter) and Bob Margolin accept the BMA for 2013 Acoustic Album of the Year.
Photo © 2013 by Marilyn Stringer
Liz Schnore (Ann's daughter) and Bob Margolin
accept the BMA for 2013 Acoustic Album of the Year

Ann's last album, Not Alone with Bob Margolin, won the 2013 Blues Music Award for Acoustic Album of the Year.

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"Blues & Barrelhouse Piano"

The folks at Hal Leonard have added a book to Ann's instructional video, "Blues & Barrelhouse Piano." This book includes the written music to go with the DVD. Some people learn better by ear, some with the printed music, so this should make it useful to more people.


Here's what the publisher, Hal Leonard, says:

In this intimate instructional DVD, Ann personally teaches her own brand of blues and barrelhouse piano with six in-depth lessons based on left-hand grooves. With each groove, you'll learn to play tasty fills, turnarounds, soloing ideas and much more. Topics covered include: two-beat shuffle; box shuffle; linear Boogie Woogie; round Boogie Woogie; Yancy/Domino-inspired groove; New Orleans-inspired groove. 1 hour, 45 minutes.

While Ann uses songs made up specifically to illustrate these grooves, fills, soloing ideas and turnarounds (turnsaround?), the figures will be familiar to anyone who has heard her play.

Click here to order.

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You can catch Ann performing some tunes on YouTube. There are four solo performances, and one with Steve Mitchell and Andy Seal (The Annimators). Thanks to Arnie Reed and Andy Seal for making these happen.

"Music Makin' Mama"
"Another You"
"Hopin' It'll Be All Right"
"He Really Makes It Hard for Me to Sing the Blues"
"Little Red Wagon," live in Italy with The Annimators

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Photo of Ann Rabson by Marc Norberg.

Ann Rabson

Blues Piano / Guitar / Vocals

Ann Rabson began playing and singing the blues in 1962. She performed solo and with various bands, including ad hoc ensembles known as The Annimators. For 25 years she was a member of Saffire—The Uppity Blues Women.

Ann toured Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, and Switzerland, performing solo, with Saffire, and with piano legend Erwin Helfer.

Ann was nominated nine times for a Blues Music Award (formerly W.C. Handy Award) as Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year. In 2008 she was nominated for Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year; her first solo album, Music Makin' Mama, was nominated for Album of the Year in both the Traditional Blues and Acoustic Blues categories; her composition Elevator Man was nominated for Song of the Year; and her last album, Not Alone, with Bob Margolin, won the 2013 Blues Music Award for Acoustic Album of the Year.

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Ann Rabson albums

(Click on an image for details.)

Pic of Not Alone album cover.
Not Alone
Pic of In A Family Way album cover.
In A Family Way
Pic of Struttin' My Stuff album cover.
Struttin' My Stuff
Pic of Music Makin' Mama album cover.
Music Makin' Mama

Ann can be heard on all of Saffire's albums:

Ann can also be heard on:

  • Ninth Annual Blues & Boogie Piano Summit (2007, Newport, Ky.), 1-2-3 Records 2008
  • Shoulder to Shoulder, Cephas & Wiggins, Alligator Records, ALCD4910
  • Ladies Man, Pinetop Perkins, M.C. Records, MC0053
  • Takin' It Easy, E.G. Kight, Blue South Records, BSR0904
  • Fifth Annual Blues & Boogie Piano Summit (2003, Newport, Ky.), 1-2-3 Records 2004
  • Too Much Is Just Enough, Armand & Bluesology, New Moon Music, NMC0126
  • Everything I Need, Armand & Bluesology, New Moon Music, NMC9718
  • Dealin' The Blues, Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band, Sharks Tooth Records, ST1212
  • Harder than a Freight Train, Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band, Sharks Tooth Records, ST1211
  • High Test Blues, Skeeter Brandon, New Moon Music, NMC9301
  • Takin' A Stand, Deborah Coleman, New Moon Music, NMC9406
  • Puddle Dive, Ani De Franco, Righteous Babe Records, RIG004
  • Tellin' Lies, Wanda Lu Green, Fried Okra Music
  • On Fire and Ready, Niles Hokaanen, Mandocrucian Digest MD003
  • Art and Grit, Steve James, Antone's Records, Discovery 74706
  • Up Against the Wall, Madcat & Kane, Hit Records
  • 88 Reasons, A.J. Salas, Bloojae Records, AJ-2700
  • Awakening, Carla Sciaky, Green Linnet Records, GLCD2115
  • King of the Boogie Sax, Noble "Thin Man" Watts, Wild Dog Records, DOG9102

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Pic of Not Alone album cover.

Not Alone
Ann Rabson
piano and vocals
Bob Margolin
guitar and vocals

I'm Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Song - Let's Get Drunk and Truck - How Long Blues - It Ain't Love - Guess I'm a Fool - Caledonia - Let's Go Get Stoned - Let It Go - Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby - Anywhere You Go - No Time for the Blues - River's Invitation

Click here for sound clips.

On VizzTone (VTAR01). Available at your record store, or

click here to order now.

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Pic of In A Family Way album cover.
In A Family Way
Ann Rabson

piano, acoustic guitar, and vocals

Mimi Rabson, violin
Dave Harris, trombone and organ
Kenji Rabson, bass
Steve Rabson, piano
Liz Rabson Schnore, guitar

Little Red Wagon - See See Rider - I Can't Get My Mind Off Of You - Little Chickee Wah Wah - Do Your Duty - Blindsided - Hopin' It'll Be All Right - I'd Rather Be Alone - Midnight Hour Blues - I Want To Hop On Your Harley - Go Where The Bad People Go - Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy - A Better World

Click here for sound clips.

On Emit Doog Music (EDM 0008). Available at your record store, or

click here to order now.

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Pic of Struttin' My Stuff album cover.
Struttin' My Stuff
Ann Rabson

piano, vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and kazoo

Richard Crooks, drums and percussion*
Marty Ballou, upright bass*

Beggin' For You, Baby* - The Blues Don't Care* - Hassle Attack - Let Me Go Home, Whiskey - Struttin' My Stuff - School Days* - Sportin' Life* - Love Song (Ode To George) - Pigalle Love - Barnyard Boogie* - Not As Sorry As I Used To Be - Late November Afternoon - What's Good For The Gander Is Good For The Goose - Check Mr. Popeye* - Baby, When I'm With You - Careless Boogie

Click here for sound clips.

On M.C. Records (MC 0041). Available at your record store, or

click here to order now.

        Most of the cuts are me solo on piano and vocal. One is solo piano. A couple are solo vocal and guitar. Several of the songs feature two wonderful musicians, the astounding Richard Crooks on drums and percussion and the legendary Marty Ballou on upright bass. On one song that I do with the fellows, I play electric guitar - a first!

Pic of Marty 
Ballou, upright  bass.
Marty Ballou
Pic of Richard 
Crooks, drums and  percussion.
Richard Crooks
Pic of Chris Murphy, 
recording  engineer.
Chris Murphy

        I sure had a ball working with the guys and with my co-producer, Bonnie Tallman. I was also thrilled to work with engineer extraordinaire Chris Murphy again. He's the same genius who engineered my "Music Makin' Mama" release. It's always a pleasure to work at Cue Studios, and I LOVE that piano they've got. Listen for a great bottom end! No jokes, now.

        I know you're going to enjoy listening to the album as much as I enjoyed making it!


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Pic of Music 
Makin' Mama album cover; photo by Marc Norberg. Music Makin' Mama
Ann Rabson

piano, acoustic guitar, and vocals

John Cephas, Acoustic Guitar
Big Joe Maher, Drums
Bob Margolin, Electric Guitar
Greg Piccolo, Tenor Sax
Mimi Rabson, Violin
Jeff Sarli, Bass
Phil Wiggins, Harmonica

Baby, Every Once In A While - Givin' It Away - No Later On - One Meatball - Snatchin' And Grabbin' - Gonna Stop You From Giving Me The Blues - He's Got Me Goin' - Music Makin' Mama - Another You - What I Don't See Can't Hurt Me - Serial Love - Ain't That A Shame - Hallelujah, I Just Love Him So - Skin And Bones - I Haven't Got A Clue - Blue Boogie

Click here for sound clips.

On Alligator Records (AL 4848). Available at your record store, or

click here to order now.

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Pic of songbook cover; photo by Marc Norberg.


The songbook is currently out of print.

Play along with me! My songbook, Music Makin' Mama: Songs by Ann Rabson, contains 13 of my compositions, with score and words.

Included are Annie's Blues, Don't Treat Your Man Like a Dog, Don't You Tell Me, Elevator Man, Hopin' It'll Be All Right, I Haven't Got a Clue, Music Makin' Mama, Prove Me Wrong, Rocket Ship Blues, Serial Love, Tomcat Blues, You Better Fly Right, and You'll Never Get Me Out of Your Mind.

Whether you're just getting acquainted with blues piano, or would like to try some four-hand and play along with my recordings, I think you'll enjoy Music Makin' Mama: Songs by Ann Rabson.

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Drawing of upright piano and guitar by Scott Howson.

Piano Influences

People sometimes ask me for recommendations of blues piano recordings, especially for someone trying to learn to play. I've compiled a list of some albums by people who helped shape my playing. There are many wonderful albums out there, so it was really hard to narrow it down -- I've set myself a limit of 10. I've tried to find ones that are available (what's the point if you can't get them?).

I'm not including the boogie woogie players (Smith, Lewis, Ammons, Johnson, et al. -- with one exception) nor the New Orleans players (with one exception) nor those wonderful, jazzy, sophisticated West Coast guys I love so much (the Charleses -- Ray and Brown -- etc.) and limited myself to the low down blues. I'm not including the wonderful players I listened to on the juke boxes of my youth -- Little Richard, Johnnie Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ivory Joe Hunter, Smiley Lewis and Huey "Piano" Smith etc. -- with one exception. Any of these categories could produce its own Top Ten and write-up.

I'm horrified that there are no women piano players on my list of 10, except for one song. I was very inspired by several women players, most notably Mary Lou Williams (in her Boogie days) and Georgia White. My folks had 78s of them. The women players' work that's still available has them buried in bands, so they don't make the cut. I guess Louise Johnson and her sisters weren't considered much worth recording. Our loss! I'd sure love to hear an album of Katie Webster solo.

This would be my recommended 10. Many of these are solo or very sparse recordings where I could really hear the piano. So after all that BS, here's my list in no particular order:

BIG MACEO MERRIWEATHER - "King of Chicago Blues Piano" (Arhoolie)

A must! Worried Life Blues to Chicago Breakdown and every single note in between is golden.

TUTS WASHINGTON - "New Orleans Piano Professor" (Rounder)

OK, so he's from New Orleans -- but he fits right in with the rest of my gritty favorites. He's universal!

OTIS SPANN - "Walkin' the Blues" (Candid)

Everyone's hero.

JIMMY YANCEY - "Complete Recorded Works Vol 1-3" (Document)

OK, I cheated a little -- I just couldn't leave anything out. Mr. Yancey's my main man. If you want to start with one, you might want to start with the 3rd volume.

SUNNYLAND SLIM - "Chicago Jump" (Evidence)

Sunnyland has lots of releases. My favorite is "Live At The DC Blues Society" on Mapleshade, where he is solo, but this is no longer available. I like "Chicago Jump" partly because it's the band I know him with and love.

HENRY GRAY - "Lucky Man" (Blind Pig)

Henry makes deep blues completely unfettered by those mundane musical rules. I admire his music tremendously.

MEMPHIS SLIM - "Lonesome" (Drive Archive)

I love this album. I have at least 6 or 7 versions of the same LP with different covers. Just started collecting them for a lark. It's now available in CD. For those of you who've heard me perform the tune Pigalle Love, here's where it comes from.

on the SIPPIE WALLACE album "Women Be Wise" (Alligator)

I've heard a rumor that this lovely album may no longer be available. That would be a shame. This is what accompaniment should be. Miz Wallace's singing is lovingly enhanced and enriched by Mr. Montgomery's and Mr. Sykes' playing. One cut features a charmingly idiosyncratic accompaniment by Miz Wallace herself.

LEROY CARR (with Scrapper Blackwell) - "Blues Before Sunrise" (Portrait)

A great artist -- I never found him easy to learn from, but just love to listen.

AMOS MILBURN - "Down the Road a Piece" (EMI America)

OK, so he's kind of West Coast/kind of boogie woogie and he was on my juke box. Still he makes the list.

There are many others who have been a huge influence: Cripple Clarence Lofton, Georgia Tom Dorsey, Walter Davis, Alex Moore, and on and on.

There are also some wonderful contemporary players you can hear in person like Joe Krown, Deanna Bogart, Erwin Helfer, Omar Sharriff, Marcia Ball ... to name a few. It's a big, beautiful piano world out there!

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       For ages I've complained bitterly to anyone who would listen about the lack of available recordings by the outstanding Chicago piano legend Erwin Helfer. Now I want to let you know about the release of a wonderful new recording by Mr. Helfer.

       The CD is called "I'm Not Hungry But I Like to Eat—Blues," which is the title of one of Erwin's five delightful originals. Whenever I hear Erwin play his charming composition "Pooch Piddle," I think, for some reason, how nifty it would sound played by a Mariachi band. Another original, "Stella," which is a moving tribute to Estella "Ma" Yancey, is a lovely duet with saxophonist John Brumbach, whose soulful, tender playing graces four tracks. Other than that, the CD is ALL Erwin's superb piano.

       In addition to the originals, Erwin covers a variety of tunes. He starts with his take on the rollicking Pete Johnson classic "Swanee River Boogie." He makes Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love" sound far more traditional than I could have imagined. Another high point for me is Erwin's take on "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans." I never thought much about that tune till I heard the Helfer version. It's so wistful. It feels like missing something lovely, lost and long ago.

       I could go on and on. There are no duds here. There are fifteen numbers in all and each one is a gem. The recording quality is really excellent. The piano sound is very real. I know nothing about recording sound but I hear the clarity, warmth and depth. Oddly, I love the way the empty spots "sound," like in the tunes "Dirty Dozens" and "In A Sentimental Mood," which have lots of sonic space. I may not be expressing this real well, but listen and you'll see what I mean.

       I would highly recommend this CD to anyone who enjoys blues and/or traditional jazz piano -- even those who don't know they do.

       Unfortunately, you probably won't find this CD at your local mall, but you can get it from Erwin if you're lucky enough to catch him live. You can get it at the big Tower store on Clark in Chicago, or from, or directly from The Sirens Records:

The Sirens Records
P.O. Box 1997
Highland Park, IL 60035-1997

And take a look at Erwin's new Web site:

Best wishes,

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       I want to tell you about an organization which is vitally important for the blues today, called the Blues Foundation. It's an bunch of fans, artists, and people involved with all aspects of the blues. It has provided a real leg up to many blues musicians, including me as a solo performer and including Saffire, and has enhanced and elevated the blues world in general.

       I want you to consider joining or renewing your membership. It costs only $25 and there are many benefits for us blues lovers. Of course, if you've got a little extra money there are extra benefits for various higher levels of giving, but the basic $25 will get you all the following:

       DISCOUNTS - Many of the best blues venues give discounts on food, merchandise and cover charges. This can really add up!

       HAVE YOUR SAY - You get a ballot so you can vote for the Blues Music (formerly W.C. Handy) Award winners. It allows you to have a say in who receives these important and prestigious awards. I've been nominated often for various awards. SAFFIRE has been, too and Saffire's own Gaye Adegbalola won Song of the Year one year for her popular composition "Middle Aged Blues Boogie" (which everyone knows as "Young Young Man").

       ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS THE BLUES - You get a very interesting and informative quarterly newsletter.

       BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE (party) - You have first chance for tickets to the Blues Music Awards show. A wonderful cavalcade of blues stars held in Memphis every year. Kind of like the Emmys or the Oscars with a better groove, better clothes and a whole lot more fun. LIKE A BIG HOUSE PARTY!

       The Blues Foundation is "on a mission" to preserve Blues history, celebrate Blues excellence and support Blues education.

       Please check them out at or call 800-861-8795 and join up today.


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School Daze—Trolling for Future Blues Fans

I've been spending a lot of time in the past few years playing shows at schools in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and in Canada in Ontario and New Brunswick. I'm having an amazingly good time. I've played shows for students in grades K through 12, and I'm delighted to say that the blues are a big hit at every age.

Click here to see a wonderful drawing that a student named Shawn Briggs did for me and that I wanted to share with you. It's of the two of us hanging out! Very bluesy, don't you think?

BluesAlive in the Czech Republic

    To see some snapshots of my trip to the beautiful town of Sumperk, in northern Moravia (Czech Republic), where I played at the BluesAlive festival in November 2000, click here.


Liz Schnore

Mimi Rabson

E&R Music Engravers

Saffire—The Uppity Blues Women

Gaye Adegbalola

Andra Faye

M.C. Records

Alligator Records

Erwin Helfer

The Sirens Records

RetroFret - New York String Service

The Blues Foundation logo.

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© Ann Rabson
Email: webmaster @