Bob Koester's six decades of jazz and blues, Chicago style

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Bob Koester

Bob Koester owner of the Jazz Record Mart. (May 14, 2013)

As he looks back on 60 years in the music business, he says, "I'm sort of proud of the artists that we've recorded and brought on to better things." He cites "Hoodoo Man Blues" and "West Side Soul" as particularly meaningful achievements, and not only because both maintain "stupendous" sales (by indie label standards).

"What bothers me is that other Junior Wells records, which I think are just as good, don't sell nearly as well," adds Koester. "One's doing 6,000, the other is doing 400."

As for the future, Koester harbors no illusions. He's "not terribly" optimistic about the business, he says, but that doesn't mean the sky is falling, either.

"I think we can survive," he says. "I think it'll carry on after I'm gone, at least for awhile.

"The family," adds Koester, referring to his wife Sue and son Bob, both of whom work alongside him, "might want to sell it. I tell them to do whatever you want.

"I'm not going to retire. To what – watch television?"

Decidedly not.

"Delmark Records 60th Anniversary Celebration" features Big Tim Sarah & the BTS Express, with guests Demetria Taylor and Sharon Lewis, 6:30 p.m. Sunday; and the Linsey Alexander Blues Band with guest Willie Buck at 6:30 p.m. June 2; at the Old Town School of Folk Music's Szold Hall, 4545 N. Lincoln Ave.; $20; 773-728-6000 or oldtownschool.org.

To read more from Howard Reich, go to chicagotribune.com/reich.

hreich@tribune.com | Twitter @howardreich

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