Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music




A blues band formed as a concept in 1991. At first it was called Mississippi Knights, but Pierre Lacocque’s 9-year-old son suggested the name change. The band’s manager has always been Pierre’s brother Michel.

Songwriter, producer, bandleader and harmonica player Pierre Lacocque (b 13 October 1952, Jerusalem, Israel) had a nomadic upbringing. Before he was born the family had hidden Jews from the Nazis, who murdered one of his uncles. Though the family were Christians, they were steeped in Jewish history and theology, and the children went to Jewish schools. His father became a world-famous Old Testament scholar, and they lived wherever he was studying, in Israel several times, in France and in Germany, and in their native Belgium, moving to Chicago in 1968. Scholarship and intense study were encouraged, and popular music (and soccer, a passion of Pierre’s) were seen as frivolous. But Pierre’s father did enjoy listening to jazz. There were musical members of the family, some of whom had played French folksongs on the harmonica; Pierre’s father had given him a green plastic harmonica when he was a child, and he adored the sound of it, but he had never heard of the Blues until moving to Chicago. His life was changed forever by Big Walter Horton.

Pierre lived for several years in Montreal, completing his French education (because it was difficult and he had to prove he could do it) and attending McGill University. He also continued to study the Blues; the local musicians were following the British scene, and Pierre was influenced by John Mayall. He played in local bands, then gave up music because of a personal crisis of lonesomeness and depression: everywhere he had ever lived he had been a foreigner. He solved these problems with the help of friends and by studying philosophy, especially the Existentialists. He returned to Chicago in 1976 and continued his studies, getting a Ph.D degree in psychology and becoming a psychotherapist, finally returning to music in the late 1980s, realizing that he needed that freedom for his soul. He still kept a day job in a psychotherapy practice.

As of 2005 Mississippi Heat had toured the world and made six albums, and then a live album and a DVD, with changes in personnel; in 1996 there was an almost complete change. The female singers over the years included Dietra Parr and Katherine Davis; Sam Lay, Bob Stroger, and Barrelhouse Chuck have all passed through; Billy Boy Arnold has often been a guest. They have lost much-loved members such as bassist Sonny Wimberly (d 24 August 1991), guitarist George Baze (d 9 October 1998), and drummer Robert Covington, as well as local Chicago friends and mentors such as Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Rogers and Junior Wells. But the memories of these loved ones serves to make the music even more meaningful.

Their albums are Straight From The Heart '92, Learned The Hard Way '94 and Thunder In My Heart '95, all on Van der Linden Recordings; Handyman '99, Footprints On The Ceiling 2002 and Glad You’re Mine 2005, all on CrossCut; One Eye Open: Live At Rosa’s Lounge 2005, CD and DVD on Delmark. On the 2005 CDs the personnel includes vocalist Inetta Visor, bassist Spurling Banks, Chris Cameron on keyboards, and Kenny “Beady Eyes” Smith on drums (son of Muddy Waters’ drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith). On CrossCut the guitarist is Carl Weathersby; on Delmark it is Lurrie Bell.

For more discographical info and a long interview with Pierre Lacocque, go to