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Tip Jar and Barrelhouse Blues Archives


Tip Jar Stars



The Tip Jar Stars

The Tip Jar Stars are a blues and roots music ensemble dedicated to the liberation of dimes, quarters and, yes, even dollar bills, from the suffocating constraints of pockets and purses.   How do we go about this campaign of fiscal emancipation? 

We've discovered that deep blues and snappy shuffles are enticing lures of lucre.  Nothing calls coinage like a rolling, thunderous boogie.  The piano and harmonica seem to roust currency from its monetary slumber, drawing it into the tip jar, especially when knocking out a happy jump blues or even a wistful song of lament.  We especially like to honor the classic Chicago blues of the 1940's and '50's, when a dollar in the tip jar bought breakfast at 3am.


We at the Tip Jar Stars Organization are often asked, "Do you only play for gratuities?  Is it possible to hire the Tip Jar Stars for a paying gig at a bar, brewpub, restaurant, coffee house, private party, corporate event or festival?"   


The answer is Yes!  The Tip Jar Stars would be delighted to leave the jar at home and bring their brand of Chicago blues, jazz and roots music to any venue where folks are looking to put some distance on their day and leave their blues behind.   Check out our Contact page to get in touch with us about bookings for your venue or event!

John Jochem
Harmonica & Vocals

John Jochem has been playing and singing the blues in and around Chicago for forty years.  He is a two-time blues challenge winner in Illinois for his vocal and harmonica talents, representing the state twice at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.  He has contributed to a number of recording projects and performed locally in a variety of blues/roots bands as well as in Italy and Switzerland, bringing the Chicago blues to European audiences.  

John's longest musical partnership has been with guitarist/photographer, James Fraher, whose photographs can be found in the Barrelhouse Blues Archives.   The two have performed in clubs and festivals throughout Chicagoland and brought their acoustic blues to Italy, Switzerland and Ireland.


John is especially excited to be working with pianist Scott Grube, guitarist James Fraher and, on occasion, other musical pals in the Tip Jar Stars.  Together, they celebrate a broad range of songs & styles: Chicago blues, jump blues, hokum shuffles, gospel, jazz, original tunes and other great roots material.  

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Scott Grube is a founding member of the Chicago jump blues/R&B ensemble, The Vanessa Davis Band, with whom he handled keyboard duties for the past 40 years.  The band has been a staple on the Chicago scene, performing throughout the Midwest playing clubs, festivals, and special events.

Scott Grube

Discovering blues piano in high school, Scott honed his style by mining the varied history of blues piano- ranging from the classic blues style of the 1920’s, the rough and tumble barrelhouse styles of the Mississippi Delta, boogie woogie, the more sophisticated styles of jump blues, New Orleans bounce along with and classic Chicago blues piano.

Scott plays with a crisp, rollicking right hand while anchoring his playing with a deep boogie or gospel left hand that draws influence from ragtime and Texas lumber camp stomp.  Scott's solid keyboard work is featured on several recordings including One More Kiss (1981) by the Vanessa David Band, his own release, Grube's Blues (2015) and Remembering the Masters (2016) by Barrelhouse Chuck.

Scott Grube and John Jochem met some 40 years ago when Scott was gigging with a blues band in John's hometown of Quincy, Illinois.   Since that time they both migrated north to the city, eventually crossing paths again on the city's blues circuit.   

James Fraher
Guitar & Vocals
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James Fraher is a former Lake County, Illinois resident now living in Ireland.  Since he spends most of his time abroad, Jim might best be considered a Tip Jar Star Emeritus. An accomplished and award-winning photographer, his photographs have appeared on over one hundred fifty music recording covers and in numerous publications. He is the author of The Blues is a Feeling: Voices and Visions of African-American Blues Musicians (1998) and collaborated with Houston writer Roger Wood to produce two books: Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues (2003) and Texas Zydeco (2006).  Jim was recognized by the Memphis-based Blues Foundation, which presented him with the Keeping The Blues Alive Award,  and his photographs are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian and the Blues Archive of the Harold Washing Library.

As a guitarist, Jim has put down his camera and performed with many of his subjects including Barrelhouse Chuck, Willie Kent, Otis “Big Smokey” Smothers, Jimmy Lee Robinson and Johnny Mae Dunson. His playing can be heard on two recordings, Walk On (1998), recorded with John Jochem and, also, his own release Now Or Never (2011).  He has performed with John Jochem for over 30 years.

Blues Archives


About Barrelhouse Chuck
and The Archives

Many visitors to this site will have known or heard the music of Barrelhouse Chuck Goering.  Perhaps you saw or met Chuck at a gig, maybe you were fortunate to visit his basement blues museum or perhaps you gigged with him yourself.  He was a dear friend of Tip Jar Stars members Scott Grube, James Fraher and myself.  If you knew or heard Chuck, you knew him to be a remarkably talented pianist and vocalist with a passion for the blues like few people you've ever known.  Of course, if you are not familiar with Chuck's music or career you should stop reading this right now, order one of his CD's or check out his youtube channel! For a quick intro to Chuck's history and music you might want to see this short video produced by Chicago PBS station WTTW in tribute to Chuck.  


Chuck arrived in Chicago in 1979 at 21 years of age with the sole purpose of meeting the blues piano masters who were his inspiration.   He not only met them, he soon became a member of both their personal and musical families.  He was especially close with Little Brother Montgomery, Sunnyland Slim, Pinetop Perkins, Detroit Junior, Erwin Helfer and Hubert Sumlin, among many others.   Chuck quickly became sought after as the blues pianist who could play classic Chicago blues which was both fresh and true to musical traditions.  Bo Diddley said of him, "Chuck, you've got that Chess sound!" and indeed he did.  Chuck was active on the Chicago blues scene for some 40 years, produced or performed on many recordings and toured the world, playing with too many heavy-hitters of the blues to mention.  Chuck put out 16 recordings under his own name or in collaboration with others and a discography can be found here.   The label, The Sirens Records, has produced a number of terrific blues, gospel and jazz recordings with an emphasis upon Chicago-based pianists, including Barrelhouse Chuck--check out their catalog of recordings.   We lost Chuck in 2016 but he made his mark through his recordings and all of the lives he touched.   He also left behind a large collection of blues memorabilia, which is being shared here as the Barrelhouse Blues Archive. 



It was James Fraher--whose photography is prominent in this collection--who first introduced me to Chuck in the mid 1990's.  I remember sitting in with him at a gig and being amazed by his piano wizardry.  Chuck and I lived near one another and it was easy to hang out together at his house.  Chuck was a serious collector and the keepsakes he cherished were the blues collectibles he'd acquired in his musical travels.   Over the years he'd built an impressive trove of musical artifacts. 


Some of the  items in the collection are souvenirs collected by Chuck-the-blues-fan.  But a number of items signify the friendships Chuck formed with fellow musicians, who happened to be pioneers of Chicago blues.   It's rare to have an extensive collection such as this which was built by someone who was an insider--a fellow performer and friend of the blues legends that Chuck, himself, so admired.

I knew Chuck to be a soft, sentimental guy.  He usually concluded a phone call or text by saying, "Love you, man!".  His knowledge of blues and jazz history seemed limitless and he had great personal stories from his career in music.  He would call me to join him on his local gigs--sometimes just the two of us, sometimes a full band--and I also spent lots of time down in the basement, marveling at his huge cache of musical artifacts.  I would tell him it was a claustrophobic and cramped Sistine Chapel of the blues.  Check out photos of Chuck's basement which are included in the Special Items album of this collection.  



Altogether, the online Barrelhouse Blues Archive has over 1,000 photographs of stuff related to the blues, especially Chicago blues.  I think this collection tells two stories.  One story is about the music, itself--the artists, their gigs, their lives, their creativity, their reach and impact upon popular culture.  The other story told here is about Chuck: his passion for the music, the relationships he developed and his growth from the skinny, scraggly kid seated next to Sunnyland Slim to a sophisticated and accomplished artist, himself, both preserving and advancing the blues.  I hope you enjoy the exhibits in this online collection.   Be sure to page through Chuck's scrapbooks.  They are beautiful folk art, a glimpse into the Chicago blues scene of the 1980's from the vantage point of a starry-eyed young blues enthusiast who would develop into a remarkably talented pianist and also a curator of this vibrant and visceral African American musical tradition.  As you look at the autographs, business cards, photos and posters in this collection imagine that you are wandering through Chuck's basement with a shot of bourbon or a can of Schiltz (or a seltzer, if you prefer) as he shares stories about the masters of Chicago blues.   That's how I spent time with him--I enjoyed it and I'm sure you will too.

Prior to Chuck's death, and since his passing, I have acquired some blues-related collectibles, myself--these items are also included in the Barrelhouse Blues Archive.  However, most of the items included here come from Chuck's own collection.  The provenance of many of the exhibits is clear because they are often endorsed to Chuck and commemorate a memory, an experience or a relationship.

After we lost Chuck I started to sort through the basement to inventory everything but then, several months after his death, a flood wiped out a large part of the collection.  Some friends of Chuck's came together to salvage as much as possible and these items are presented here in the Barrelhouse Blues Archives, in honor of Chuck's memory. 


These notes  and all annotations in the Barrelhouse Blues Archives by John Jochem.

Visiting the Barrelhouse Blues Archives

In the sections below you will find several categories of blues memorabilia.  These are google photo albums--click on the link to access the album.  You do not need to log-in with a google account.  Some items, such as an autographed poster, might be included in both the "autographs" section and the "posters" section--this will be noted in the item number.  Each item is numbered and some are annotated--click on the "information" icon or the caption to bring up additional information about the item.  You may use the arrow keys of your keyboard to advance to the next item. If you have questions, comments or especially if you have information about an item, feel free to get in touch by email.  Enjoy your visit!



Many blues fans enjoy collecting autographs of their musical heroes.  When you look through the 180 autographs included here you'll find some which were obtained by Chuck-the-entusiastic-fan.  But many of the autographs in this collection represent Chuck's personal relationships--they memorialize a friendship or musical encounter.

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Business Cards

Most of the business cards in the collection come from the era before cell phones or email addresses.  Musicians used business cards to exchange contact info with one another and they were often exchanged at gigs.   We have these cards and autographs because Chuck was both a music artist as well as a collector.  The cards included here served a few different purposes.   Often, Chuck would exchange cards for utilitarian reasons--to provide contact info in arranging a future gig.  Other cards included here are momentos of a special musical encounter or serve to memorialize meeting a musical hero.  There are more than 200 cards and autographs included in this gallery, covering a lot of musical styles in addition to Chicago blues.



Chuck's basement blues museum was so packed with blues memorabilia that it didn't leave much space for posters.  Sadly, many of the posters he had in his collection were stored on the basement floor and lost in the flood of 2017.  However, this collection still includes more than 130 posters, most of which come from Chuck's stash, others which come from the John Jochem collection.


Antone's Posters

Collections of blues memorabilia will often include posters from the famed Austin blues club, Antone's.   Chuck had some great Antone's posters and this portion of the collection also includes pieces collected by John Jochem.  Antone's posters show the broad reach of Chicago blues, as Chicago-bases blues pioneers made the trek to Texas to perform at the famous Austin club.  This collection includes some 50 Antone's-related items.   



Chuck had a large collection of blues-related photos.   There are four photographers whose work is espcially prominent in this collection:  Raeburn Flerlage, D. Shigley,  Peter Amft and James Fraher.  The collection includes original prints from these photographers as well as a number of promo photos and other materials, such as photos taken by Chuck himself.  The collection holds over 170 photographs.   


Photos of Chuck with...

There is an old Woody Allen film from 1983 titled "Zelig" in which the title character shows up in photos with many historical figures.  Unlike this fictional character, however, Chuck naturally fits into the nearly 50 photos included in this part of the collection.   You'll see Chuck in a various settings, with many friends, fellow musicians and people whom he admired.


Special Items from Chuck's Collection

I spent a a lot of time with Chuck in his blues basement and came to know the collection well.  However, when I took on the task of making an inventory of all of the stuff he had down there I was surprised by some of the artifacts I discovered.  This portion of the collection includes photos of blues-related items which were part of Chuck's collection along with pictures of Chuck's collection in its pre-flood glory.

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The Scrapbooks of Barrelhouse Chuck

Chuck moved to Chicago in 1979 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional blues musician.  He was, by nature, a sentimental guy and during the first ten years or so of his entry into the blues world he maintained scrapbooks.   They include candid photos of blues musicians and friends, autographs, newspaper clippings, obits, flyers, ticket stubs--they are a whirling hodgepodge of the Chicago blues scene during the 1980's.  Some of the older masters who pioneered Chicago blues were still active on the scene at that time while a number of younger players--who would become masters, themselves--were just coming up.   Chuck's scrapbooks include materials featuring both the elder masters of the genre and the then-younger blues upstarts.  Most of the materials in the scrapbooks come from the early years of Chuck's career and it's clear he was cherishing the musical experiences and relationships he was developing.  If you're a fan of Chicago blues you will no doubt enjoy and learn from Chuck's scrapbooks.   I present them here in no particular order.  I've tried to identify many of the persons shown in the candid photos and welcome you to get in touch with me if you happen to have additional information.

Scrapbook #1:      click HERE

Scrapbook #2:      click HERE

Scrapbook #3:      click HERE

Scrapbook #4:      click HERE

Scrapbook #5:      click HERE

Scrapbook #6:      click HERE

Scrapbook #7:       click HERE

Scrapbook #8:       click HERE

Scrapbook #9:       click HERE

Scrapbook #10:     click HERE

Scrapbook #11:     click HERE

Scrapbook #12:     click HERE

Scrapbook #13:     click HERE

Scrapbook #14:     click HERE

Scrapbook #15:     click HERE

Scrapbook #16:     click HERE

Scrapbook #17:     click HERE

Scrapbook #18:     click HERE

Scrapbook #19:     click HERE

Scrapbook #20:     click HERE

Scrapbook #21:     click HERE

Scrapbook #22:     click HERE


It is an honor to dedicate these blues archives to the memory of our dear friend, Barrelhouse Chuck, who was an inspiration for us all.  Many thanks to Chuck's wife, Betsy Pyle, for her help and support with this project.  Thanks to Glen Moss, MIchael Schwartz and Scott Grube for their help in rescuing Chuck's collection from the flood.   Special thanks for help with documenting the archives go to:  Justin O'Brien, Jim O'Neil, James Fraher, Erwin Helfer and Steven Dolins.  All photos of items featured in the archives by John Jochem, with loving assistance by Josh Jochem and Hannah Jochem.   When people see the size and scope of the blues archives they say, "John, you must have a wonderful wife" and they are correct--many thanks and much love to Bonnie Jochem for her support, tolerance and enabling of my blues obsession.  The Tip Jar Stars are deeply indebted to our friends and family for supporting our humble musical adventures.  Special thanks to Rich Siegle for his illustrations.  Finally, thanks to Cristine Furbino for assistance with website design.  

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