Chicago prodigy honors his father through music

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -- There's a kid on the South Side of Chicago who's marching to the beat of a different drum.  He's a musical prodigy who has already graced the stage with some of Chicago's most iconic musicians.

But the story doesn't end there.  The music he makes comes from a very special set of drums.

In concert and at home, practicing in his mother's front room, it's easy to see CJ Knowles has a gift.

"I can't believe that this young man is only 17, because he plays with so much authority, musically he's much older than his age," said iconic harmonica player Sugar Blue.

Words of high praise coming from a man who has played with the Stones, Prince, Bob Dylan and now, CJ.

This high school senior was spotted by music royalty and it all started with his dad.

"My dad was a musical genius, I didn't realize until I got older, and I started to understand," said Knowles.

"'I worked with his father for more than 25 years and when I heard this young man sit down behind a set of drums I was like whoa…’ James, you've got a monster on your hands here,’" said Blue.

CJ's dad, James Knowles, made his name not only playing the drums, but also making them.  When he couldn't find a set that made just the right sound, he started crafting his own.

"As you can see this is a result of some of the drums that we still have before his passing," said Dmetra Knowles- CJ's mom.

In 2014, James passed away of head and neck cancer.

"He would go and get chemo, radiation and then go to the gig and play and people were amazed, they couldn't believe that he was playing, even though he was fighting through that battle," said Knowles.

But his music did not die with him.  CJ performs on a drum set his dad made.  The music is alive and well because of CJ.