Dr. John & The Lower 911
Emens Auditorium, Ball State University, Muncie
Friday, Oct. 29, 8 p.m. $25
A road trip to Emens Auditorium on the Ball State campus on Oct. 29 will show that modern blues is strong, young and funky. Dr. John, Charlie Musselwhite and Shemekia Copeland will bring the blues to Muncie.
Musselwhite was part of the blues renaissance of the 1960s. With over 40 years of experience, he still keeps fans guessing on what his next album will sound like.
“There are people who do the same album over and over. I figure if I make it interesting for myself, then it’ll be for the listening. I take the listener on an adventure with me,” he said.
His latest adventure is Sanctuary, which was released on Peter Gabriel’s Realworld label. It’s one of the best albums, blues or otherwise, of 2004.
“I’ve always wanted to show how blues is not just 12 bars and three chords like some insist it must be. It’s a feeling. You can put it in anything. You can play 12 bars and three chords all day long and have no feeling. That’s why I’m always experimenting. New ways of being traditional. I never did see the point of playing it safe,” he said.
Musselwhite was born in Kosciusko, Miss., (“Dead center of the state”) and moved to Memphis at age 4. The musical melting pot of the city is what got him started playing harmonica and guitar.
“Memphis still has the best gospel on radio ever. They play tapes of live services and they are rockin’. There’s that, blues and R&B and soul and hillbilly. I was there for the birth of rockabilly. Johnny Burnett lived down the street from me. Johnny Cash was in my neighborhood. We used to go to parties with Elvis.”
Musselwhite got his first serious guitar and harmonica at age 13 and learned his craft by watching Will Shade, Furry Lewis and Willie B. He moved to Chicago in 1962 at age 18 to get a factory job.
“We had guys that would leave town in a old jalopy and they came back a year later in a brand new red Oldsmobile. I wanted to get me one of those,” he said laughing.
The first live blues he saw in Chicago was in the daytime thanks to piano great Little Brother Montgomery.
“I was walking down the street and he was playing in this one place, I peeked in the window, he looked up at me and smiled. I knew I had arrived,” he said.