Joe Louis Walker’s credentials speak for themselves – Grammy nominee, member of the Blues Hall of Fame, and a man who’s played with the likes of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker.
The 67-year-old blues icon is bringing his credentials, as well as his heart, soul and band, to Chatham Oct. 14 as a guest of the Canada South Blues Society, Chatham-Kent. He’s performing at the KBDC Club on Byng Avenue in Chatham.
Walker, 67, despite being born in San Francisco, has the blues in his blood. He first picked up a guitar at the young age of eight.
“What got me into music was my mom and dad. They loved music,” he said. “He (Dad) wanted to do that (perform), but he had a family. He weaned me on music.”
Walker said his blues sound is “all over the place,” and is an amalgamation of all the influences he grew up with, from gospel music, a variety of blues, and rock ’n’ roll.
“I’m a product of my generation and my environment and I’m proud of it,” he said.
Blues music has come a long way over the years, and increased its listener base.
The blues trace back to the 19th century, birthed on southern plantations along the Mississippi River. Its roots are embedded in the soil tilled and worked by African-American sharecroppers.
“It’s really survivors’ music. It’s the original rebel music,” Walker said. “You could say things in a blues song you couldn’t say to your boss or of your position in life.
“The playing field was equal. It was cathartic for people who invented it because they didn’t have a voice.”
The Beatles and the Rolling Stones first broke into the music business playing blues covers.
“They were rebels,” he said of the British bands. “Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry – they spoke to their souls.”
Today, Walker said all races, genders and cultures are blues fans, as “it transcends language.”
Walker said once a blues fan, always a blues fan.
“Popular music is the latest record. Blues is different. Once you like Muddy Waters or you like Howling Wolf, you are always a fan,” he said. “You like their style and the people who play like that. It’s one of the few music genres where not only does the originator of a style become well respected, but the people who can imitate that style become well respected as well.”
The veteran musician said performers can go full circle with the blues as well, as it remains in their roots.
“Blues is a starting ground for a lot of music, and a finishing place,” he explained. “You start with the blues, move to something else, and go back to the blues – just like the Rolling Stones. They started with the blues and eventually went back to it, putting out a blues album 50 years later.”
Last year, the Stones released “Blue & Lonesome”, a selection of blues cover songs. It was the first Stones album that didn’t feature any originals.
The blues delivers in its simplicity. But Walker said all good songs start simple.
“A good song – a Muddy Waters song or a John Lennon song – is usually just written on an acoustic guitar. The rest is just icing on the cake. It should sound good in any other format,” he said. “But the truest form is the voice and the guitar – an organic sound.”
Walker has travelled the world playing the blues and looks forward to performing here in Chatham.
“Canada has a rich history with blues music. Everybody who has played in Chicago, New York or in Mississippi has played in Canada,” he said. “To see the effect this music has on people and how it brings people together – it’s a powerful medium.”
Walker said over his career, he has called Canada home at times, living in Vancouver and Toronto over the years.
He plays the KBDC Club Oct. 14, with guests the Moondog Howlers. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at the club, or Hip Entertainment in Chatham as well as the Kakoon Spa in Ridgetown.