Interview by Danny Coleman
“My mother and father got me into the blues, that’s my point of reference,” said Joe Louis Walker as he explained the roller coaster ride of popularity or lack thereof associated with blues music. “Everybody’s is different but we’ve all been exposed to them at some point. People think Stevie Ray Vaughn and relate to his version of, “Mary Had A Little Lamb” but people don’t know that Buddy Guy did it first. People don’t understand that it all came from a funkier place but that’s their point of reference.”
A Decorated guitarist, songwriter and a multi-award winning performer, Walker has seen and lived the struggles so prevalent in the very lyrics of the blues, yet has no regrets. When he speaks, he is forthright and refreshingly honest about blues music, race, the genre itself and more.
“I call’em Facebook musicians,” he started with a hint of sarcasm. “They say that they’re musicians but in reality they are a watered down version. All blues musicians paid their dues, some of us more than others. We’ve never been mainstream but yet we keep returning there. Again, it’s point of reference. Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton all caught the interest of white kids by playing the blues. Heck, I sat in a room with Stevie Ray showing him how I played certain things; you think anyone knows that? The blues keeps influencing new generations yet I’m not sure that everyone knows how we got there. Thank goodness for Elvis because he exposed the blues to a whole new generation of kids at a time when things were a lot different in America, Pat Boone too. You wonder what was it like playing Beijing China or in Israel? We’ve done so and blues musicians have been doing that for years. Hell, Howlin’ Wolf played behind the Iron Curtain when relationships weren’t good. Guys like Albert King, BB King and Chuck Berry could play the same seven notes here in the U.S., in Rome, anywhere in Europe and get the same response because it’s an appreciation for the blues. Today’s music and musicians are appreciating the blues in essence without the blues, it all tends to come full circle.”
A recent trip to San Paolo, Brazil yielded large crowds and another invite back. The band will be heading over to Europe, then Canada and back to the U.S. as well, allowing this Blues Hall of Fame inductee to bring his great brand of blues, funk, gospel to the world once again. “We had a great time in Brazil and being asked back is always positive. I was home for several days then we’re headed to Poland, Canada, Duluth, MN, we’ve got some east coast dates and BB King’s in New York City towards the end of July.”
One of those east coast dates is July 21 in Sellersville, PA at the Sellersville Theater. Opening for Walker will be Chicago Blues-man Toronzo Cannon. Then it’s off to the “Roadhouse Bluesfest” in Magnolia, DE on July 22 and to the aforementioned July 26 gig with Dylan Doyle and “Special Guests” at BB King’s Blues Club & Grill in Manhattan, NYC.
Walker works with multiple charitable organizations but perhaps his most notable is the work he does with, “The Blues Foundation” and their many branches which help people and blues musicians themselves. “I’m always doing benefit shows for them. They do good things for a lot of people. I have one on September 6 at BB King’s that Jimmy Vivino puts together, they’re always a good time.” Joining Walker on that bill will be, William Bell, Shemekia Copeland, John Sebastian, Ruthie Foster, Eric Krasno, Bill Sims, Bob Margolin, Scott Sharrard, Marcus King, Tash Neal, King Solomon Hicks, Danny Clinch and Chris Scianni.
Never liking to sit idol, the San Francisco born Walker is always working as is evident by his nomination for “2017 Most Outstanding Musician (Guitar) Award” from “Living Blues Magazine;” an award that he captured in 2015. Along with the nomination he has begun work on yet another new album with an eye toward a late 2017 or early 2018 release. “Yeah, I’m going to start cutting a new one in September or October. I’ve got the songs written so now it’s just a matter of putting things together and getting the players that I want based on everyone’s schedules; its been about two years since my last one and I usually don’t go that long.”
Past “Players” on Walker releases have included Branford Marsalis, Tower Of Power, Bonnie Raitt and blues legends such as Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal and the recently passed away James Cotton.
No matter who he performs with or for, Walker earns respect and admiration as he is a true ambassador of the blues. Recently, someone redefined the term “Professional” to include, “One who continues to maintain a high level of dedication to their craft no matter what the outcome.” Joe Louis Walker is a true professional in every sense of the word no matter what the meaning because no matter where the blues have taken him, be it the good, the bad and possibly even the ugly over a decades long career; he has prevailed and at a high level.
To discover more about Joe Louis Walker, please go to www.joelouiswalker.com.
Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)