Alligator boss recalls scary start that led to 45 years in business

Bruce Iglauer
Bruce Iglauer

Alligator Records boss Bruce Iglauer has recalled the label’s scary start 45 years ago.

He launched what was to become an iconic blues marque in 1971 with a leap of faith, after leaving his job with Delmark Records and signing Hound Dog Taylor and the House Rockers.

Iglauer tells Chicago Tonight: “I had just enough money to make one record and press 1000 copies of the LP – and if I didn’t sell those I was done.

“I had never produced a record before. I knew the band very well – I’d seen them many times and I wanted to capture that live energy that I’d heard.

“So we recorded everything live. There was no over-dubbing involved and we mixed it as we went. There was no coming back on anything.”

Since then, Alligator have released more than 300 albums. Iglauer recalls: “When I came to Chicago, they said, ‘You listen to the blues to get rid of the blues.’

“Blues is about squeezing all those bad feelings out of you and making you feel better – blues is happy music.”

A 45th anniversary Alligator compilation album – featuring Johnny Winter, Mavis Staples, Elvin Bishop, Shemekia Copeland, The Holmes Brothers and many others – is on sale now.