Some say that “The Blues” is a dying art. Regional music scenes used to flourish with dozens of blues bands vying for venue spots. I mean, literally EVERY modern form of music…Rock, Jazz, Country…would never have existed if it weren’t for the evolution of African-American work songs and spirituals blending into society and culture in the 1800’s jumping into modern, post-industrialization America of the very early 20th Century.
So, no matter how hard these new generations try to squash out The Blues in favor of EDM or Red Dirt or K-Pop or substanceless post-Pop… as long as we have a soul, The Blues will find a way to our ears. The Blues is more than just the words, the rhythm and the melodies. It’s an experience and an emotion being conveyed. While some heady folk might scoff at The Blues as “boring” or “too simple” for their tastes, it was never really about its musical virtuosity. Although some blues tracks can be quite complex and actually performing the genre with authenticity can be more challenging than one thinks, it’s never been about that. It’s quite literally about the “feel” and the emotion and the story…
or the ”message” which is the lineage of the aforementioned spiritual.
Having the opportunity to hear a world-class blues performer can alter one’s perception
of the genre. How would a blues performer
be considered “world-class”? Well… yes,
there would be some element of virtuosity, but not in the mathematical technical sense. But rather in the way the performer can convey the emotion of a song…that can deliver a noticeable tone that makes one take pause for reasons beyond the music itself. Buddy Whittington is one such “world-class” performer.
Buddy Whittington, a Texas native around
the same age as Stevie Ray Vaughan,
grew up under the influence of early 60’s
rock pioneers like the Rolling Stones and
The Beatles. However, he was pointedly taken by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers featuring
a young Eric Clapton whose 1966 self-titled album was hugely influential to Whittington
and scores of other aspiring guitarists.
was etched. Even having his rhythm section formed by Mick Fleetwood and John McVie
who, along with Peter Green, would go
on to form Fleetwood Mac.
Over the course of his development, Whittington would ultimately find his own band, The Sidemen, opening for John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1991 when then, guitarist, Coco Montoya was holding the chair. When Montoya left in 1993, John Mayall called Buddy Whittington to fill that spot for the next
15 years. The Bluesbreakers featuring
Buddy Whittington recorded 8 albums
between 1993 and 2008.
Whittington is one of those that can really deliver. His guitar tone has that “something” that conveys a voice that can deliver
a message without lyrics, but it’s the choice
of note placement with the hands that
are clever and exciting. If that weren’t
enough, Buddy Whittington has a strong
and charismatic vocal delivery that brings
songs to life. Rich and powerful. On February 11th, 2022, Northwest Arkansas was treated to a show featuring Buddy Whittington performing in celebration of our own regional guitar hero, Gary Hutchison’s 69th birthday. The show featured Whittington on guitar and vocals, Gary Hutchison on guitar and vocals, another legend, Earl Cate on guitar, Hutchison’s Oreo Blue rhythm section (Stephen Boudreaux (drums and vocals), Rick Endel (keyboards and vocals), and Vince Turner (bass and vocals)), and guests, John Moss (guitar and vocals) and Annie Walser (piano and vocals). For Blues lovers, it was a bit of a Nirvana if Nirvana was where great guitar players are showcased. Despite no rehearsals or pre-planned set lists,
it was a magic of spontaneity that proved
out a stage-full of professionals leaning
on a combined thousand years
of having “been there.”
Atop the great performances, Buddy Whittington proved to be just a great human. And the stories told between his experiences and those of Earl Cate, Gary Hutchison, and John Moss were the stuff of (sometimes seedy) novels. Word is that there might be another opportunity to bring Buddy Whittington
back to Northwest Arkansas for a second chance for those that missed this show to see what the fuss was about. I, for one, will be there…drumming or not.