Young blues master Christone 'Kingfish' Ingram performs in Seattle on May 9
KNKX "All Blues" host John Kessler caught up with Christone “Kingfish” Ingram while the young guitarist was on the road to his next gig.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, 23, won a Grammy for best contemporary blues album for his "662" album, released last summer.
“662” references the telephone area code in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a town that lays claim to being the home of the blues.
Clarksdale is where Highways 61 and 49 meet, the legendary crossroads where a bluesman could trade his soul to the devil in order to become the best blues guitarist in the world. Muddy Waters grew up in Clarksdale, as did John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke, Ike Turner, and Ingram.
Surrounded by gospel and blues as a child, Ingram was inspired to play the blues the first time he heard Muddy Waters’ slide guitar.
“It made me say ‘I got to do something like that,’” said Ingram. “Growing up in Clarksdale, which is pretty much a blues city with a rich blues history, I was surrounded 24/7.”
“I lived next door to a blues band and I started learning at the Delta Blues Museum Arts Education Program. So it came naturally to me to have a feel for the blues,” he continued.
Ingram possesses a maturity in his guitar playing and a thoughtfulness in his lyrics that set him apart other young players.
While his classmates were listening to rap and hip-hop, Ingram was the only one in his circle with an interest in blues.
“The other kids didn’t tease me or anything, but I felt that they just didn’t understand it,” he recalled. “To them, B.B. King or Muddy Waters, that’s something that old people are supposed to listen to.”
His first break came when B.B. King’s long-time drummer Tony Coleman connected Ingram with Buddy Guy, and with Guy's producer Tom Hambridge. That collaboration resulted in six songs for his first album, “Kingfish” in 2019, with Guy as a guest artist.
Then came opening spots on the road with Buddy Guy, and a chance to learn from the elder statesman of the blues on a daily basis. “Each night before we played I would go into Buddy’s dressing room, and he taught me some basic things, and not always about the music,” Ingram said.
The successful songwriting collaboration with Hambridge continued with the Grammy-winning “662,” and Ingram says more songs from those sessions are in the pipeline.
Right now, Ingram is on tour with his band in the U.S., and they will be playing several dates in Europe this summer.
Catch Christone “Kingfish” Ingram at Seattle’s Moore Theatre on Monday, May 9.
Listen for “Too Young to Remember” and “Another Life Goes By” from his album “662” on "All Blues" this weekend.