ARTIST PROFILE BLUESMASTER
I had the recent pleasure to sit down with
the Duke and discuss the many aspects of
his World Full of Blues.
Your playing style incorporates blues,
jazz, rock, pop, as well as numerous
subgenres – probably more so than
most other guitarists. Where in the
musical spectrum do you find yourself?
Well, the blues is the root of everything I
do. When I was very young, I was inspired
by my brother’s 45s, back in the ‘50s and
early ‘60s. Chuck Berry was a big influence
on me. I discovered that the flipsides of
some of his records had these slow tunes,
like “Deep Feeling” and “In the Wee, Wee
Hours.” I didn’t know what they were, but
they really moved me. They happened to be
blues. I really grew to love this music that,
for quite a few years, I didn’t even know
what it was.
At the same time, I heard country music
– guys like Hank Williams. It was different,
but I could see the similarities in the overall
sound and chord progressions in relation to
other music and to the blues. I even heard the
correlation in some jazz. To me, all pre-1980s
American music is based in the blues. Whether
it is rock, heavy metal, blues, jazz, country,
bluegrass or R&B, I hear the blues in everything. That’s why I’m so diverse, as people say
– because to me it’s almost all the same.
42 PREMIER GUITAR DECEMBER 2007
The music of T-Bone Walker has been
significant throughout your life, correct?
Of course – he’s a giant influence on me.
When I heard T-Bone it all came together,
because he’s all of the above. He’s jazzy
and bluesy at the same time. He had
some sophisticated phrasing in double
timing and stuff that only jazz players
had done before him. So that became an
instant influence on me; I took to it immediately like a fish to water.
Do genre boundaries in blues and jazz
Well, there are boundaries within every type
of music and that’s pretty much because of
business. The boundaries are commercial,
rather than musical. I mean, there are musical boundaries, but the reason they’re divided up so much is because of marketing.
How do you break through those?
You can blend and make your own sound
out of anything. I mean, in today’s world of
incredible media you can experience everything, so why not? Whatever works is the
way to go – there are things that you blend
that don’t work sometimes, and there are
things that do work. For me, it’s been fun to
touch on all of the bases, mix up the stew,
and put my own twist on things. It has
been a great thing for me, and it has kept
me very excited about music over the years.
Who has been the most influential
guitarist on you, as a teacher and as a
The guitarists who have been the biggest influences on me are the ones I’ve
never met. Most have died before I got
a chance to meet them. Some of the
biggest ones are T-Bone Walker, Charlie
Christian, B.B. King, Freddie King and
Gatemouth Brown, along with Guitar Slim,
Johnny Guitar Watson, Lowell Fulsom, Tiny
Grimes, Kenny Burrell and Herb Ellis. There
are so many!
I was lucky to be able to play with Herb
Ellis, make two albums with him and get to
know him. He is a personal hero of mine
because of it – he’s a very nice, warm
guy who made me feel like I was doing
something. When I recorded with him I
was extremely nervous. I was afraid I really
wasn’t at his level and that I shouldn’t be
recording with him. We went into the studio
to cut two songs together and it ended up
being two albums.
How gigantic is the honor to have
been a founding member of Roomful
of Blues? Easily New England’s longest
running premier blues band, Roomful
is on a pedestal with the best predomi-nantly-white blues bands of all time.
Well, you know, it’s so far in my past. I’m
proud of the group and the work I did with
them, and I’m glad that they’re still going.
It was my beginning in a lot of ways, so
it means a lot to me. It was my first band
out of high school, so when I started that
band I was really intent on creating the
sounds that I loved. I wasn’t concerned
with commercial success. The fact that it
has remained and done well for so long is
a great thing.
I’m actually working on a CD now that is
80% material that I did in the early version
of Roomful of Blues. It’s kind of a tribute
to my heroes back then. It is a jump blues
album, which is something I wanted to
explore. That’s why I added the horns to
Roomful of Blues, to explore the ‘40s jump
blues sound. This CD is kind of going back
to the beginning for me. It’s kind of fun, but
weird at the same time. I had Rich Lataille,
the sax player from Roomful, play on quite
a bit of it. It’s just funny how, after all these
years, we played the same way together
as we did back then – it’s like getting into a
time capsule. [laughs]
What was it like to replace Jimmie
Vaughan in the Fabulous Thunderbirds?
Jimmie and Kim [Wilson, vocals] and I
were friends, all the guys really. Before they
were really known, they came up to the
New England area. We used to hire them
to open for us at gigs because we wanted
our crowd to hear them. We got to know