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Delmark Records Label & Studio Manager Steve Wagner Exits after 33 years


Steve Wagner, Label & Studio Manager

From 1987 to 2018, Steve was involved in the production of over 500 albums. Since May 1st 2018, the date in which Julia A. Miller succeeded Robert G. Koester at the helm of Delmark, Steve has participated in the production of 18 blues, jazz and classical music albums. Steve also has been instrumental in launching the new era for Delmark, in which the label has multiplied the number of its releases and expanded into the audiophile market with the release of reel to reel master copies of some of the most coveted Delmark albums. Additionally, given the relevance the label grants to the history and traditions of Chicago’s blues & jazz scenes, Steve’s knowledge in that regard has been greatly appreciated.


In Steve’s own words: “E'ryday bring bout a change. Congratulations to me on a 32 1/2 year run at Delmark Records! Thank you to everybody who I've collaborated with especially the great artists. Best of luck to Delmark Records going forward. Take care.”


In her farewell remarks to Steve Wagner, Delmark’s President & CEO Julia A. Miller says: “Steve Wagner’s business acumen and ‘Blues Radar’ are well known. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Steve’s work with Delmark as a label manager, and as an engineer, and I am sincerely grateful for the time and attention he has given to me personally, and to the new Delmark. Best wishes, Steve - Peace & Blues!”

“Working with Steve in the studio, in recording sessions, mixing as well as having conversations about Delmark’s history, blues & jazz facts and mythology has been very productive and a lot of fun. I will miss him”, says Delmark’s Artistic Director Elbio Barilari.


About Steve Wagner

Steve got hooked on music after seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show and live at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in August of 1965. Straight out of college he got his first professional job in radio as a jazz program host for WBBY-FM in Columbus, Ohio. In 1987 Steve began his long-standing role at Chicago’s venerable jazz and blues label Delmark Records where he signed, produced and recorded musical artists.


Some of the blues artists that Steve has worked with include Little Milton, Dave Myers, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Pinetop Perkins, Billy Branch, Eddy Clearwater, Barkin’ Bill, Bonnie Lee, Dave Specter, Linsey Alexander, Toronzo Cannon, Byther Smith, Willie Kent, Tail Dragger, Mississippi Heat, Syl Johnson, Jimmy Johnson and Mike Wheeler. Steve produced Robert Ward’s New Role Soul, Shirley Johnson’s Killer Diller and Johnny B. Moore’s Rockin’ In The Same Old Boat all listed by Living Blues magazines in “Thirty of the Very Best Blues Albums of the 2000s.”

On the jazz side Steve has worked with Red Holloway, Nicole Mitchell, Kahil El’Zabar, Roscoe Mitchell, David Murray, Fareed Haque, Fred Anderson, Eric Alexander, Roy Campbell, Zane Massey, Billy Bang, Frank Catalano, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Von Freeman, The Fat Babies, Gary Bartz, Harold Mabern and Corey Wilkes.


Overseeing the production of over 500 albums Steve was also deeply involved in the re-issuing of classic jazz and blues recordings. Steve re-mastered and re-packaged two all-time classic Chicago blues albums – Junior Wells’ Hoodoo Man Blues featuring Buddy Guy (1965) and Magic Sam’s West Side Soul (1967). Both of these albums were included in Living Blues magazines “Top Ten Desert Island Blues Albums.” Steve has also produced re-issues by Little Walter with Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, J.B. Hutto, Speckled Red, Big Joe Williams, Sleepy John Estes, Roosevelt Sykes, Junior Wells with Elmore James, Memphis Slim with Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Robert Nighthawk.


Jazz re-issues include artists Coleman Hawkins with Dizzy Gillespie and Ben Webster, Dinah Washington, Arnett Cobb, Sir Charles Thompson with Charlie Parker, Jimmy Forrest, Willis Jackson, Sun Ra and His Arkestra, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Earl Hines, Art Hodes, Franz Jackson and Illinois Jacquet.


As recording engineer at Delmark’s Riverside Studio Steve has recorded almost every kind of music including jazz, blues, reggae, African, zydeco, cajun, rock, punk, metal, funk, soul, R&B, dance, doowop and Indian music.

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