WEEKEND: Bluesman Joe Louis Walker to play Port Townsend roadhouse Saturday

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

People like to call Joe Louis Walker a blues man. But one brief conversation affirms that for this artist, music is bigger than any label.

True, Walker’s singing and guitar playing got him inducted in 2013 into the Blues Hall of Fame, alongside Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor and Etta James. But right after he comes to Port Townsend’s Highway 20 Roadhouse this Saturday night, Walker will jet off for an April 25 gig at New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage Festival, where he’ll share the bill with Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen and Santana. Then it’s away to Osaka, Japan, for International Jazz Day on April 30.

Walker has been busy playing gigs since he was the 16-year-old house guitarist at the Matrix in San Francisco, his birthplace.

Today, at 64, he rides the wave of “Hornet’s Nest,” his 25th album, playing cuts from it and from the rest of his catalog. Saturday’s 8 p.m. show at the Roadhouse will be “an overview of Joe Louis Walker,” he promised in a recent interview from his home in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Tickets to the show, an Upstage Presents event produced by Mark Cole of the shuttered Upstage theater and restaurant, are $25 for general seating and $30 for reserved seats via 360-385-2216. Remaining tickets will be sold at the door of the Highway 20 Road House, 2152 W. Sims Way, which is an age 21-and-older venue for this concert.

As for that overview, if Walker’s history is any indication, could range from Memphis funk and R&B to electric blues and jazz. He came up surrounded by it all, going to school one block from the Fillmore West, one of San Francisco’s fabled venues.

“We used to have our [school] battle of the bands at the Fillmore Auditorium,” Walker recalled.

“The Fillmore District was like Harlem in the 1930s: a lot of blues, a lot of jazz,” he said, adding that well before the hippies arrived in the City, the scene was hot.

“I saw the real Temptations, James Brown doing ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,’” Walker said. “I saw Little Richard. I took my grandmother to see him on Easter Sunday,” circa 1964.

Walker still crosses paths with the musicians he met during the 1960s.

“It’s good to see different generations of people turned on to the music” of that era, he added.

When asked what advice he’d give a young musician today, Walker paused for a beat.

Then: “Let’s see how I can put this.

“Say you put Yo-Yo Ma, Herbie Hancock and Ronnie Wood in the same room.

“Everybody there says, ‘I am a musician,’” not a rocker, not a jazz man, not a classical virtuoso.

The players Walker knows don’t squeeze themselves down into a category. So to that young person: “Be as well-rounded as you can.

“Just be a musician.”

Last modified: April 17. 2014 5:32PM
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