By Jacob Elliott
June 23, 2017
The Lincoln blues community is mourning the passing of Chris D. Siefkes, who died at the age of 62 on Sunday.
Dave Robel, a past bandmate, said that Siefkes’ relationship with the harmonica began in 1974. He was inspired to pick up the harp from the playing of Carey Bell Harrington, a blues musician who played alongside Willie Dixon.
Siefkes was also inspired by a variety of artists from the Midwest. One of the biggest was Madison Slim, whose styling and look Siefkes based his own works on. He was so inspired that, according to former bandmate Jared Alberico, he purchased Slim’s harmonica, amplifier, and microphone, which he used throughout his career.
Siefkes was an active member of at least two bands, Jared and Chris’s Goodtime Blues and Dance Party (with Alberico) and Blues from the Five. He could also regularly be found sitting in with various blues artists at the Zoo Bar. According to Stephanie Reed, a close friend, Siefkes was very supportive of the local music community and would be willing to lend his harmonica to any set.
For example, Siefkes frequently played with Lincoln’s Emily Bass on her weekly Monday evening shows at the Zoo.
“He played a really personal blues,” Bass said. “He really taught me how to lay down a rhythm that he could play over. He taught me the conversational aspect of playing with someone else. He’d toss something at you and you’d kind of toss it back at him and play with it a little bit. It taught me how to play with another player.”
According to several of his friends, Siefkes’ life wasn’t always easy. He suffered through divorce, alcoholism, and homelessness. But he was always looking for a way to help others, which he did through volunteering at the Lincoln City Mission and appearing at AA meetings.
Siefkes was also an accomplished athlete and was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame as part of the state champion Spartans basketball team of 1971.
On June 19, Bass and Jeramie Beahm played a set at the Zoo Bar to honor Siefkes, leaving an open microphone on stage to honor the bluesman and his harp.
It’s clear just from the response online already this week that Siefkes was a loved and respected member of the music community and made a whole lot of friends during his 62 years. As one of the many tribute posts on social media this week said of Siefkes: blow on, bluesman. Blow on.
Jacob Elliott is one of KZUM’s summer editorial interns. Interested in interning at KZUM? Find more information and apply here.