TRADITIONAL BLUES WITH A UNIQUE SOUND. . . As band leader and composer, Pierre's vision has never wavered since he founded his band in 1991. His mantra is clear and focused. The band has always had an ensemble sound: all musicians are featured and welcome to contribute on stage and on recordings. His music is traditional because it is steeped in Chicago's golden sounds of the 1950's, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Jimmy Rogers, all the great harp players... Big and Little Walter, The Sonny Boy Williamsons, Junior Wells, George Smith, and many extraordinary contemporaries such as Kim Wilson, Rod Piazza and Paul deLay. On the other hand, Pierre's blues is unique because he dislikes to tread on old beaten paths. He always writes new stuff.
MISSISSIPPI HEAT emerged in 1991 on a night at the Cafe Lura in Chicago. Guitarist Jon McDonald invited Pierre to play harp for him with Robert Covington on drums and vocals. It was a great night, with a raucous crowd in this Polish neighborhood. Pierre looked happy, and the band played with such inspiration that his brother Michel was drawn to say he would find gigs with little efforts. A man of his word, Michel did find gigs for the band. He was wrong about the effort part, but was right about the fact that he could manage such a band. ... Pierre and the Heat have now finished 7 CDs (as well as a DVD for Delmark Records in 2005).
Some of their recordings have won awards such as "BEST CHICAGO BLUES CD OF THE YEAR" and "BEST BLUES PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR" (e.g., Handyman, and Footprints On The Ceiling by Real Blues Magazine ).
Over the years., MISSISSIPPI HEAT has been the subject of several TV and movie features. French TV has released a documentary on Blues featuring the band., and our vocalist for a prestigious program called ARTE. Soon after a concert was filmed in Montreal., Canada., and was sold to an Italian TV company. French Canadian TV also featured Pierre and his brother-manager Michel on one of their regular programs called "BAISERS D' AMERIQUE". This half-hour segment was viewed in 35 countries worldwide. MISSISSIPPI HEAT has also been featured in countless trade magazines such as Living Blues and Blues Review.
On the back of Mississippi Heat's CD Footprints On The Ceiling, there is a photograph of a man with his eyes closed, playing the harmonica with such passion, that one is almost stunned by the actual silence of that frozen moment. Yet when he is heard live or on record on his harmonica, the listener is caught up by its fervent, inspiring presence. The man behind the harmonica is Pierre Lacocque, Mississippi Heat's band leader and song writer.??Pierre was born on October 13, 1952 in Israel of Christian-Belgian parenthood. However, shortly after his birth, Pierre's family moved to Germany and France before going back to Belgium in 1957. By the age of 6, Pierre had already lived in three countries. A preview to his future musical career on the road.
Pierre's childhood in Brussels resonated with the intense and impassioned skriptural upbringing of his father, a Protestant minister, now living in Chicago, who became a world famous Old Testament scholar. Pierre, his brother Michel (Mississippi Heat's General Manager) and his sister Elisabeth (who did the artwork design on the Heat's first three CD's) went to a Jewish Orthodox School in Brussels. After the Holocaust, Pierre's parents and paternal grandfather (also a minister) felt that their children and grandchildren should learn about the suffering and plight of the Jews, as well as about Judaism in general and its philosophical and theological depths.??
At the Athénée Maimonides (Brussels) the 3 Lacocque children were the only non-Jews ever (and since) to ever attend. At the Athénée Maimonides they learned old and modern Hebrew, all the religious rites and prayers, as well as studied the rabbinical commentaries on the books of the Old Testament. With the devotion to his studies, there was little time or room for much else. The family culture and priority was on intellectual pursuits, not on play such as soccer or music (two old interests of his).
Serious studying, the reading of existential philosophers and theologians, were the only worthwhile activities condoned and encouraged by Pierre's parents, his father in particular. But thanks to the radio in young Pierre's room, there was just enough opportunity to unravel the subtle auditory endowments of Destiny. From the radio he heard and was moved by such soulful singers as Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin. He also enjoyed the legendary clarinetist/alto saxophonist Sidney Bechet who had made a big name for himself in Europe. Pierre was careful to keep the volume down. This is where he began to appreciate African- American music. ?
The sound of the harmonica was first introduced to him when he lived in Alsace, France. His father was then a minister in a small village called Neuviller (1955-1957), not far from Albert Schweitzer's birthplace in Gunsbach. Pierre's father had bought him a green plastic harmonica toy. He was about three years old at the time. He remembers blowing in and out of it and feeling a surge of sadness that felt so familiar. As he experimented with the toy he often cried listening to its plaintive sounds. It was not until he came to Chicago in 1969, however, that he finally detected his destiny: Playing the blues on the harmonica. He had never heard the blues saxophone-like amplified harmonica sound until then.? In 1969 Pierre's father received a full-time Old Testament professorship at the Chicago Theological Seminary, located on the University of Chicago's campus. The family decided to move permanently to the Windy City and leave Belgium for good. Pierre was sixteen years old.?The golden era of the 1950's electric Chicago sound was still having a vibrant impact on local bands. Luminaries such as Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Little Walter, Junior Wells, Elmore James, James Cotton, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Rogers, Jimmy Reed, and so many others, were still dynamic forces to reckon with in the late 1960's. Unfortunately some had died by the time Pierre arrived in Chicago. Little Walter, Pierre's mentor and main influence, died in 1968 following a head wound he acquired during a fight. ... Otis Spann, Muddy Waters' long-time band member and perhaps the best blues piano player ever, had also recently died of cancer.??
On a Saturday night in the early Fall of 1969, Pierre decided to go to a concert being held at the University of Chicago's Ida Noyes. He had no exposure to Chicago Blues before then, and had no expectations as to what he was about to hear. As he listened to the band playing, he became overwhelmed with emotion and excitement at a sound he never heard before: A saxophone-sounding amplified harmonica!
Nowadays Pierre plays exclusively through a Sonny Jr. Amplifier (The Cruncher) with an Astatic or Turner microphone (built with Shure Magnetic elements). He uses a Kender Anti-feedback device, reverb with delay, and ALWAYS mics his amplifier. Either from the amps Line-out and/or from the front of the amp. His favorite harmonica is the Hohner Golden Melody.
Being heard loud enough can be a problem. However with age and experience -mixed with the fact that after all, he is the band leader- this issue is less of a concern than in the past. To deal with loudness problems he is known to bring his own PA system. This way he can amplify his harp to his hearing content!