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Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



Early Blues Interview
Jack Blackman, guitar/vocals

ARW   What are your first musical memories?

JB    When I was six I was taken to a couple of huge gigs, Paul McCartney at Earls Court in London and then the Beach Boys at Warwick Castle. At home there was always music and a guitar, and I watched my Dad's bands frequently.


ARW   Have you always wanted to become a musician?

JB    Since I realised that I'd have to do something to eventually earn a living being a musician seemed like a good idea.


ARW   How did you get started in music?

JB    I found an old Jedson Telecaster copy in the loft which belonged to my dad. He said I could have it, and when I could play ten chords ... and change them quickly and smoothly he'd buy me a decent guitar. About a week later I played the chords and we went and bought a better Strat copy.


ARW   Tell me about your musical journey so far.

JB    I started out learning the drums at school, and later got into the guitar. I had lessons at school and passed exams up to grade 8 on the guitar, (I'm doing the grade 8 drums later this year) At Primary school I was in a band and we played some bluesy stuff at assemblies etc. Later I auditioned for the Warwickshire County Rock band, Red Kyte and played with them until earlier this year. Along the way I was lucky enough to play with some professional musicians and learn a few tricks. Playing with Dave Kelly encouraged me to try some solo work, and I have performed around 100 gigs so far plus lots of great festivals including The Upton Blues Festival , The Gloucester Rhythm and Blues festival and The Acoustic Festival of Britain. I also sit in with other bands whenever to chance comes up.


ARW   Who are your favourite blues artists (both old and new)?

JB    My favourite blues artists range from the early Piedmont and Delta players such as Blind Blake, Rev Gary Davis, Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell, and Leadbelly, through to '60s folk artists such as Bert Jansch, Davy Graham, Paul Geremia, Roy Book Binder. Electric players such as BB King, Albert King, Albert Lee, Otis Rush, and Sonny Landreth are also favourites of mine.


ARW   Who has influenced you the most in your playing?

JB    I guess the biggest influence in acoustic playing is Paul Geremia because of his great rack harmonica playing, six and twelve string finger picking.... and his great songs and  interpretations of old songs.


ARW   What first attracted you to the blues?

JB    It's the feel of the songs and the great differences in styles each individual player can have, the history and the evolution of the style into so much great music


ARW   What was the best blues album you ever had?

It's probably "Ragtime Guitar" by Rev Gary Davis on Kicking Mule records... (It's a vinyl LP!)


ARW    What is your favourite instrument?

JB    Right now it's probably my Fender Telecaster '52 re-issue.


ARW   Are there any particular songs that you play that have special meaning to you?

JB    "Anji" by the late Davy Graham. It turned out that the first night I played it live at a show was the night he died. I also always enjoy playing ragtime blues numbers such as "West Coast Blues" and "Long Tall Mama".


ARW   You had a session with The Blues Band last year, tell me more about it.

JB    After writing to Paul Jones, he phoned up on my 14th birthday and invited me to the gig in Stratford. He said to bring the Tele! When I arrived he wasn't there, but Dave Kelly and the others made me welcome and invited me to join in at the sound check. We watched the band work up the crowd, then Paul invited me up to the stage with these words, "This is a song I recorded with Eric Clapton... so no pressure Jack!" We launched into "I want to know" the Otis Rush number. I took a couple of solos and it went down really well. In the second half of the evening I was invited up again and stayed on for about six more songs including "Walkin' to New Orleans" and "Slippin' and Sliding". It was a great experience. Dave Kelly invited me to play with him at the Upton Blues Festival later in the year which was also a fantastic opportunity.


ARW   You have some forthcoming gigs in Clarksdale, USA, how did these come about?

JB    We've travelled in the States a lot, and decided this time to go down to the South - from Atlanta down to New Orleans and up the Mississippi to Clarksdale and then Memphis. We contacted WROX radio in Clarksdale who were keen for me to go and play some blues. We also got in touch with the people at the Shack Up Inn who also run the Juke Joint Chapel also in Clarksdale and they offered me a gig. Then we looked at the Hopson Commissary website and contacted them successfully for another gig!


ARW   How do you see the future of blues music?

JB    There are a lot of people playing some solid blues-rock in the spirit of SRV and Hendrix, but it would be great to see more young guitarists playing the early '20s and '30s acoustic blues and expanding on that.


ARW   What are your future plans / gigs / tours / albums?

JB    I have got lots of gigs and festivals lined up and often it feels like I'm on tour, especially when I do four or five gigs in a row during school holiday times. I'm really keen to record an album of my songs, alongside some interpretations of obscure and some better known acoustic blues. I'm also doing a lot of local and community radio and would love a slot on national radio (and also on Later!). However I also have to bear in mind that I need to pass my school exams simultaneously!


ARW   Thank you Jack, I really appreciate your time.

Alan White  -  earlyblues.com


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