Harlan Lee Terson started playing bass in 1966—his first bass was a 1966 Pelham Blue Gibson EBO. He played in various bands while in high school and college, and after receiving a Bachelor of Arts in music from the University of Illinois-Chicago, he began playing professionally on the Chicago scene.
For the last forty-five years, Harlan has been a familiar figure on Chicago’s musical landscape. His steady “in the pocket” groove has kept him working on the competitive Chicago blues circuit, recording and touring internationally with some of Chicago’s greatest blues artists. He has played bass on more than forty- five recordings and jingles, and Bass Player Magazine has described him as “…one of Chicago’s great blues bassists.”
His influences include all styles of blues, as well as the recorded sounds of Stax/Atlantic and Motown. James Jamerson, Carole Kaye, Tommy Cogbill, and Duck Dunn are just a few of his favorite bassists.
Harlan’s career highlights include playing with the Lonnie Brooks Blues Band where he played on five recordings, two of which received Grammy nominations.
During his time with Lonnie, the band played three European tours, including Hamburg, Germany, 1981 Blues Estafette in Utrecht, Holland (with Jimmy Rogers and Walter Horton), and 1982 Chicago Blues Giants tour (with Lefty Dizz, Eddie Shaw, Ken Saydak, and Melvin Taylor).
He has also appeared, recorded and toured extensively with many other artists, including the legendary Otis Rush, Bo Diddley, Magic Slim, Albert Collins, Sunnyland Slim, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Rogers, Kim Wilson, Duke Robillard, Eddie Shaw, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Big Mama Thornton, Lurrie Bell, Steve Freund, Tad Robinson, Dave Specter and the Bluebirds, Jimmy Johnson, Sharon Lewis, Bob Margolin, The Chicago Rhythm Review, The Blue Coast Band, and Chicago blues rockers, The Fabulous Fish Heads.
In addition to his gigs, Harlan performed at the internationally famous Kingston Mines in Chicago for more than twenty years, and at Rosa’s Lounge. He has been on the teaching staff at The Old Town School of Folk Music since 1999. Notable alums of the Old Town School include Roger McGuinn and John Prine, among others.
These days, you can catch Harlan playing one of his Fender Jazz or Precision basses with the Rockwell Avenue Blues Band, made up of many veterans of the Chicago blues scene, including Ken Saydak (Big Shoulders, Lonnie Brooks Blues Band), Steve Freund (Sunnyland Slim, Big Walter), Tad Robinson (Dave Specter and the Bluebirds, Solo), and Marty Binder (Albert Collins, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells). The band recently released an album on the Delmark label, Back to Chicago.
You can also catch Harlan with The Blue Coast Band, whose members have also worked with many of Chicago’s greatest blues artists, going back to the vibrant Chicago Blues Scene of the 1970’s. Blue Coast has released a CD Lake City, and includes Mark Wydra (Eddy Clearwater, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells), Ron Sorin (Hubert Sumlin, Willie Kent) and Jon Hiller (Jimmy Johnson, James Burton and Charlie Musselwhite).
Being a busy player, you can also catch Harlan with Dave Specter and the Bluebirds, which also includes Marty Binder from the Rockwell Band, and Chicago Blues Legend, Brother John Kattke. Harlan has recorded multiple records with Dave Specter.