5 Questions: Alligator Records Owner Bruce Iglauer

B.Iglauer01_by-ChrisMonaghan_crop Bruce Iglauer | Photo credit: Chris Monaghan

Bruce Iglauer (b. 1947) is the president and founder of Alligator Records, the largest contemporary blues label in the world. Iglauer founded the independent, Chicago-based label in 1971, at the age of 23, operating it by himself from a one-room apartment. Now Alligator has grown to 15 people, and its catalog contains over 300 CDs, over 130 produced or co-produced by Iglauer. His productions include albums by Hound Dog Taylor, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Shemekia Copeland, Carey Bell, Saffire—The Uppity Blues Women, Son Seals, Johnny Winter, Roy Buchanan, Michael Burks, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Toronzo Cannon and many more. Twenty-six of the albums he’s produced have been nominated for Grammy Awards, with one winner. Alligator releases have won dozens of Blues Music Awards, the highest award the blues world presents.

Twenty-six of the albums he’s produced have been nominated for Grammy Awards, with one winner.

Iglauer has served on the board of directors of The Blues Foundation and of A2IM, the American Association of Independent Music. He was a founder of The National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufacturers, the independent labels organization that preceded A2IM, and served on its board for 26 years. He is also a co-founder of Living Blues, America’s oldest blues magazine, and is a founder of the Chicago Blues Festival, the world’s largest blues festival. Iglauer is also a founder and co-director of the Blues Community Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting blues music education and assisting blues musicians and their families who are in need.

Iglauer was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2002, Chicago Magazine awarded Iglauer its Chicagoan Of The Year Award. In 2014, A2IM awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Iglauer has traveled worldwide with his artists, and prides himself on his road management abilities. “I want to be remembered as the blues’ best roadie,” he says. “And I want Alligator to be the label that carries the blues into the future and turns new generations on to the power and joy of the blues.”


1.What’s been keeping you up at night?

I’m an insomniac (for real). But beyond that, I’ve been working on finishing my book, “Bitten By The Blues: The Alligator Records Story”, co-written with Patrick Roberts and published by University of Chicago Press. It will be out at the end of October. I’ve also been working with Toronzo Cannon on preparing his songs for his upcoming album, as well as working (by long distance) with the engineer in California who is mixing our upcoming live Tommy Castro album. And I also lie awake worrying about the steady decline in sales of CDs and downloads (although not so much for Alligator as for more pop recordings) and the fact that streaming, the wave of the future, isn’t very popular with lots of adult blues fans. So it’s damned hard to make even a modest profit recording the blues. And I think about finding the right artists who will carry the blues into the future, with a contemporary vision and a veneration for the tradition.

2. What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or heard lately?

Lots of great sets at the Chicago Blues Festival, including of course our own Selwyn Birchwood (a true ‘future of the blues’ artist) and also the more traditional The Cash Box Kings, as well as two non-Alligator artists–young Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and the very intriguing Fantastic Negrito.

3. What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?

Just getting ready to release “Tough As Love”, the Alligator debut by Lindsay Beaver, a very soulful and passionate singing drummer originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia (not known as a blues capital) and now living in Austin. I love introducing new artists to the world!

4. If you could add anyone, alive or dead to your team, who would it be?

I have a great team at Alligator for producing, publicizing and marketing blues and roots recordings. So I guess I’d want to add musicians. #1 choice would be Elmore James, my ‘ground zero’ artist. And I’d love to have Lillian Shedd McMurry, the amazing woman who ran Trumpet Records in Jackson, MS in the early 1950s. She’s one of my great heroes in life.

5. When the movie of your life is made, what will it be called?

Apparently it will be called “Bitten By The Blues”.