Napoleon "Chico" Chism, one of the most well traveled and busiest blues drummers of the 20th century, passed away Jan 28, 2007 at age 79. His health had been in decline since he suffered a stroke in 2002 in his adopted state of Arizona where he had resided in Phoenix since 1986.
Chism is probably best known as Howlin’ Wolf’s last drummer, but he managed to play, tour, and record with practically every major blues artist as well. Here’s just a small sample of the vast array of performers Chism was associated with: TV Slim (that’s Chico on "Flatfoot Sam" from 1957), Little Junior Parker, Sonny Boy Williamson 2, Rosco Gordon, Sunnyland Slim, Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, Lowell Fulson, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, and Freddy King.
After the Wolf passed away, Chism moved to Eddie Shaw’s Wolf Gang. In 1979 Chism traveled to Europe as part of the Blues Legends Tour along with Eddie C. Campbell, Willie Davenport, and Billy "The Kid" Emerson. Its’ not exactly clear when Chism first moved to Chicago from his Shreveprot La home, but he sure managed to stay extremely busy in the Windy City, hosting blues nights at places like Rosa’s and Kingston Mines right up untl the mid-80’s.
After settling in Arizona in 1986, Chism became an important link to the past for every area blues musician. Harmonica player/producer Bob Corritore made Chism the first call session drummer for every major blues talent who recorded in Phoenix, including the likes of Bo Diddley, R.L. Burnside, Henry Gray, Mojo Buford, Louisiana Red, Jimmy Rogers, Smokey Wislon, John Brim, and many others.
I’ll leave the final words to Chico himself and they make for a perfect epitaph: "I’m the house rocker and the show stopper, the woman’s pet and the man’s threat. I’m Chico, the Boogie Man."