Erwin Helfer was introduced to piano blues as a young teenager growing up in Chicago in the early '50s, the heyday of the city's blues clubs and the fortunes of labels such as Chess Records. A native of Chicago's south side, he haunted the clubs as a boy, but he also took the time to attend school and completed college with a degree in music, which he followed by spending three years in New Orleans in the late '50s, where he played jazz. Among the musicians who influenced him most were Jimmy Yancey, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, and Speckled Red, and Helfer counted himself a good friend of guitarist Big Joe Williams. Helfer became a performer and teacher, touring Europe as a blues pianist and also training college students in Chicago throughout the 1970s. His style is equally adaptable to blues and jazz.