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Christone "Kingfish" Ingram Carries the Blues Foreward

Catching up with the 20-year-old blues guitarist, singer and songwriter ahead of his show with Buddy Guy at the Ryman

RON WYNN - Original Article

APR 30, 2019 2 PM

Music was not just an ideal career path but also the most logical one for 20-year-old blues sensation Christone "Kingfish" Ingram. The native of historic Clarksdale, Miss., began performing in church as a child, with his father Christopher Ingram and mother Princess Pride (who is a first cousin of legendary country vocalist Charley Pride). The younger Ingram was playing drums at 6 years old and bass at 9. By 11, he'd switched to guitar and began writing songs.

Ingram chose a different direction than most of his peers. The sound and fury of the blues, rather than rap or R&B, greatly attracted and fascinated him. Though he's quite familiar with the style of numerous other performers from Jimi Hendrix to Prince, his first love was the music of electric blues greats. 

"When I saw that PBS film on Muddy Waters, there was just something special there," Ingram tells the Scene, speaking by phone ahead of his show on Wednesday at the Ryman, where he’ll open for Buddy Guy. "He had everything: Power. Imagination. Storytelling mastery. I couldn't believe it. I knew right then playing and singing music like that was what I really wanted to do. Even though there weren't guys my age who were doing that, we had neighbors who played in juke joints and I followed what they were doing."

It didn't take long for Ingram to make an impression. By age 11, he was playing at Clarksdale's Ground Zero Club, backing both local and national blues musicians. Bill "Howl-N-Madd" Perry, one of Mississippi's finest contemporary blues players, gave Ingram the nickname "Kingfish" while alerting the blues world about this young kid bringing 21st-century swagger to a vintage idiom. 

A triumphant appearance at the White House in 2014 as part of a delegation of young blues artists from Clarksdale's Delta Blues Museum helped spread Ingram’s reputation far and wide. After he received the 2015 Rising Star Award from The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, he began appearing on national TV programs and landed a part in the second season of the Netflix series Luke Cage and playing at festivals across the country. He also gained the appreciation of musicians like funk icon Bootsy Collins (who gave Ingram’s videos on YouTube a boost by sharing them) and rap legend Rakim (with whom Ingram played a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR). Touring with Guy, another one of his heroes, is only going to raise Ingram’s profile even further.

Kingfish, Ingram’s debut LP for Alligator Records, is set to be released May 17, and it has extensive Music City ties. It was recorded locally and produced by multi-Grammy-winner Tom Hambridge, who Ingram says encouraged him to emphasize his compositions. 

"We talked early about what we wanted to do, and Tom insisted it be mostly my songs," Ingram says. "We both felt it was important to focus on new material because what most people had seen and heard from the videos and other things are covers. I wanted to make it a signature thing, spotlight my writing."

Ingram co-wrote eight of the 12 cuts. “Fresh Out,” featuring Guy, was a strong choice for a first single, and the song "Outside of This Town" has generated significant buzz with its ferocious lead vocal and searing guitar accompaniment. Still, the disc's most potent singing comes on "Been Here Before" and "Before I'm Old," two numbers that blend confessional and autobiographical references with intense and flashy (but far from excessive) accompaniment. You can hear the influence of B.B. King in Ingram’s preference for crisp, tight, disciplined lines rather than high volume and flamboyant licks. Nashville great Keb’ Mo' provides delightful vocal asides and accompaniment on the track "Listen" and adds his distinctive resonator sound to six cuts. 

Ingram is also thrilled about touring with Guy, even though the rigors of the road haven't always allowed them the time together he'd like. 

"A lot of the time I've just watched him from backstage, and it's been an incredible lesson and experience," says Ingram. "He's told me a few things when we get a moment, but the biggest lessons I learn from him are about stage presence, how to present your music to an audience, and how he continues to do fresh and surprising things every night. And when we get a chance to talk, the stories are incredible.

Ingram rejects the widely held notion that only older music fans can appreciate the blues. He's participated in various Blues In the Schools programs nationwide, and says his audience is more diverse than what you’d expect from the stereotypical perspective on the blues. Still, he's aware blues that isn't played on urban radio, and says exposure is the main challenge in keeping the art alive. 

"I've found the biggest problem isn't young people don't like the blues, but that they really haven't heard them," Ingram says. "They haven't seen or heard a lot of people in their age group who are singing and playing the blues, or applying them to their experience. But once they do, I've seen them really enjoy and appreciate it. That's the key for me now. I’m taking the music that the greats have made and making it work for my generation. I'm talking about my experiences and the things I've seen and heard, and doing it through the blues. I've found that it appeals to all types of people and their age doesn't matter."

Guy and Ingram play Wednesday, May 1, at the Ryman. Tickets start at $35 and are available right here.

Juke Joint Festival Attendees Travel to North Delta Museum


WED, 04/17/2019 - 3:23PM

FRIARS POINT — History in Clarksdale and Coahoma County extends well beyond the blues.

Residents of Friars Point attempted to show some of that history during the Juke Joint Festival on Friday when two shuttle bus tours went from the tourism office in Clarksdale all the way to the North Delta Museum in Friars Point.

Flo Shackelford led the shuttle tour and passed out a packet of information for everyone to be able to read and learn about Friars Point.

“We just love history and I love everybody’s history and so I hope I’m going to be able to entertain you,” Shackelford said.

The shuttle stopped by the Mississippi River in Friars Point, which Shackelford said was the No. 1 tourist attraction in the United States.

“You all came because of the blues. Robert Johnson played on the bench in front of Hirsberg in the ’30s, but I’m going to take you back 100 years,” Shackelford said.

Some of the information Shackelford provided said the town of Friars Point was located deep in the Mississippi Delta in the heart of the cotton belt and on the banks of the Mississippi River. It was founded in 1836 as a major steamboat port, shipping the cotton grown on the rich Delta soil to Memphis to be sold.

Also included in the packet was information showing Friars Point was the county seat of Coahoma County from 1858 to 1935.

It continues, “During this time, the War Between the States broke out; and February 16, 1861, Friars Point organized the ‘Coahoma Invincibles’ which became Company B of the famous Eleventh Mississippi.”

The pamphlet shows the old Coahoma County Courthouse was once in Friars Point and the old Suddoth Hotel faced the river on First Street and accomodated steamboat travelers.

Willie Giles runs the North Delta Museum and, in his experience, many individuals do not know as much history as they should.

Tourists are able to learn some of that history at the museum.

“They can look for things their parents should be teaching them that they don’t know,” Giles said. “Children can learn so much by attending the museum. Every time a group attends, I tell them about things they didn’t know about. It’s great for children to say they have learned something.”

Giles’ father, Profit, was a World War I and II veteran.

“He told me a lot of things,” Giles said.

“I was too young at the time. He taught me a lot of things in the later years he had to go through in the war.”

Giles learned how his father protected himself during the wars. He used guns such as the Italian carcano carbine and German mauser.

When those guns are out of bullets, he was able to protect himself by stabbing someone with a knife at the end of the gun.

“They had some kind of a gun,” Giles said. “They had a sword-looking thing.”

Those guns are on display at the museum.

Expect One Big Damn Party This Weekend at Juke Joint Festival


WED, 04/10/2019 - 3:25PM

No stranger to the Juke Joint Festival, Clarksdale anticipates one of its favorites, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, with two opportunities to experience their vibe: Saturday night at New Roxy at 8 and 11 a.m. Sunday at the Cat Head Mini Blues Fest.

In light of pure irony, the band is comprised of three members — not “big” in size, but definitely in style and sound. Around  the age of 18, Rev Payton had a habit of saying, “That’s a big damn car” or “That’s a big damn chair.”

“It kind of just became a thing. I thought it was funny to call the band that and have there only be guitar and percussion,” he said. “I still laugh about it!”

Married since 19, Reverend Peyton’s wife, “Washboard” Breezy Peyton, brings a unique percussive sound and on the other side of Rev on stage is Max Senteney on drums.

Inspired by legends like Charlie Patton, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Herb, Rev’s band began to commit more to their music, and it took off in a major way. People responded.

The band sold everything and lived in a van for two years when they were starting out.

“From the gate, it was just a belief that we were onto something and had a story to tell and that this music needed more people continuing it and keeping it alive by taking it to new places,” Reverend says.

Known across the nation for their hit song, “Clap Your Hands,” the front porch blues band cherishes the Juke Joint Festival and Clarksdale being one of the first places to embrace them and really understand what they were doing.

“As long as we can, we’re gonna keep coming back,” says Reverend, the group’s lead songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist.

Robin Colonas, owner of the New Roxy, expects quite the turnout for the show as it's their busiest night of the year.

“Sometimes we have tables and chairs out, but for this show, we remove all furniture for Rev’s band, because it’s just that crowded — standing-room only,” Colonas said.

As an original holder in the lineup, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has been coming since the fest began and will bring history, showmanship and respect for Clarksdale and the people who have made it special.

“We have a ton of respect for this music and this place,” Reverend said. “For us, this is more than a show. This is like coming back home and basking in the energy. It’s gonna be the biggest, wildest show of the fest. Guaranteed!”


Getting to Know Reverend Peyton

We asked three random questions of Reverend Peyton, the lead songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist for Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, which performs this weekend at the Juke Joint Festival.

What are your three favorite movies?

“A River Runs Through It,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” and “Captain Ron.”

Who would you pick to play you in a movie?

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

What’s a product or service you love so much that you’d be happy to be its spokesperson?

National Guitars

What is your favorite day of the week, and why?

Tuesday. As a musician, every day is Saturday. But we get a lot of Mondays and Tuesdays off, and when you have the day off on a Tuesday, you can go anywhere you want (museums, stores, parks, etc.) and everything’s quiet. No one’s there.

What are the three most memorable things from high school?

#1. I had this busted 1979 El Dorado Cadillac I got from a friend by only paying the impound fee that I just absolutely loved.

#2. I had a blues band in high school. We would have big shows, and it seemed like the whole school would come. It was a lot of fun.

#3. Hanging out late at night at Steak-N-Shake

Thousands Ready to Party at the Juke Joint Festival This Weekend

Thousands ready to party at the Juke Joint Festival in Mississippi

By: Tom Dees

Juke Joint Festival on Fox

CLARKSDALE, Miss. - Thousands are ready to party in Mississippi this weekend. The highly anticipated Juke Joint Festival starts this Thursday in Clarksdale.

Officials said the festival is set to bring in a record crowd this year.

Krista Sweetser and her husband came to the Juke Joint Festival two years in a row. This year they got here early and plan on staying in a camper - because hotels are booked up.

"We just loved it, all the street musicians, the music, the variety of music - it was just wonderful," Sweetser said.

City leaders said 10,000 people a day are expected. The exact dollar figure has never been calculated, but it is estimated to bring millions to Clarksdale.

Blues fans from 28 foreign countries, 46 states, and 52 Mississippi counties have made the trip for the festival.

Music store clerk Frank McKenna said the festival continues to grow.

"It's gotten more and more popular we have a hundred playing," McKenna said.

Sweetser said most of the money she spends during the Juke Joint Festival will go to the musicians.

"All the musicians you see - you need to tip. That's how they make their money."