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HUNGARY FOR THE BLUES? - Little G. Weevil
Little Gabriel Weevil is a very talented young Blues performer, who I had to learn about via suggesting stuff to go out and see to my fiancée who lives in Birmingham, Alabama. This guy was based in London until recently yet I had never heard of him on these shores...
Fill me in on your background starting when/where you were born, if anyone in the family was musical, what age you got into the blues etc.?
Originally both of my parents were raised in farmer families but their lands were taken away by the communist government in the late 50`s. So they had to move to the capital where I was born in 1977. I grew up in the south side of Budapest, in a kind of suburb area with a country town feel to it. We kept chickens, pigeons, ducks, cats, dogs, rabbits and even pigs in the back yard.
I was a 'whatever' type of guy, did not really know what I wanted from life although I always was into music. I started playing drums at 11. My brother played bass at the time for a local rock band, and I would go out with him every so often see them practising. I was crazy about that drum and the beat. Back then I listened to this head banging heavy metal music, until one day my brother showed up with a John Lee Hooker record. I was 16 or 17. That record changed my life. I didn’t speak any English, had no idea what John Lee was singing about, but I did understand the music – if you know what I mean. I just felt it. From that day I knew what I was born to do. I sold my drum kit; got me a part time job (paper boy) and a few months later I bought my first guitar.
Is there much of a Hungarian Blues scene, how does it differ etc.?
Hungary is a small country with an even smaller blues scene. We got one band with a New Orleans style, one with a West Coast feel, maybe two or three traditional blues and boogie bands, some acoustic players and pretty much that’s it. However, all these guys are professionals, excellent players that deserve much more attention. I learned a lot from each and every one of them, which I am very grateful for.
When and how long did you live in Memphis, and how much did it bring you on musically, and who you met etc.?
In September, 2004 I moved to the South of the Unites States to - like I usually say, 'Learn the Blues'. I got lucky in Hungary, as from the age of 22 I made my living as a professional blues musician, and created quite an alright life for myself. However, musically I was not satisfied at all; I didn’t like my own style and started loosing inspiration. My love for the Afro American music and culture became so strong I found it harder and harder representing something that had no clue about. I mean lots of European blues guys think that they know everything about the Blues, but they have never been in the South. I know what I’m talking about because I was one of them. To me the blues is not only a music that you just go ahead and play. There is this beautifully rich heritage and culture behind it that we Europeans hardly know. By reading about it or learning others guitar licks is not enough for me. I remember when I met Willie King down in Alabama he said, “Well, I don’t know where Hungary at, but let me tell you something”. “Now you here, you can smell the Blues, cook the Blues and live the Blues, and whenever you go back to your country, you will never be the same”.
Well, he was damn right! Though back to the question, I spent nearly two years in the South, eight months in Birmingham, Alabama and the rest in Memphis, TN. In Memphis, I rented an apartment only four blocks from Beale Street, two minutes walk from the mighty Mississippi river and five minutes walk from the place where Mr. Martin Luther King got killed. So I was right there in the middle of the Blues. It wasn’t easy at all, but I finally made it. I became the very first European blues artist who received a long term contract on historic Beale Street. I played three to four times a week on Beale, and began touring with different projects in the States of Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. I met so many `big names` from Pinetop Perkins to Bob Margolin, John Hammond, etc…I played with the legendary Big Jack Johnson and this wonderful man called Lonnie Shields. I could go on and on as there are so many stories to tell. Anyway the time I have spent in the South has changed me musically and mentally. I learned a whole lot, I found my own style, and I know that I became a much better person. Yes, I found my home there.
What kind of challenges do you face breaking into a new area, as I know you play in the Southern US, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and London?
The blues is not the most popular music in the world. It seems that we all face the same problems everywhere. Hard to make a living by playing this music no matter where you come from. However, like I said I’m happy, not rich but happy. This music is my healer it keeps me positive it keeps me going. I just got back from a 30 day South US tour and in June I’m heading to Canada. My first solo album (Southern Experience) came out last April featuring the US Blues Music Awards nominee Billy Gibson and former Albert King organist Charlie Wood. I’m not that type of person who just sit at home wondering why ain`t nobody call. I work hard, and I’m enjoying every second of it. Ain`t nobody can stop me playing.
Is it harder to please the venue owners or the audience?
Well, I guess London and England is the toughest place ever.
I see you play both in a band, and solo. Do you use pick-up bands as you travel quite a bit?
Well, yes usually I have pick up bands, but fortunately once I’ve played they tend to call me back, so I work with pretty much the same guys over and over again. I just gotta call them and say “Hey I’ll be in the area”, and they make time for me. I so appreciate that.
What styles of Blues move you most, and what musicians give you goose bumps?
I like all kind of Blues, really. Goose bumps? Hmmm…don’t hate, appreciate. L.O.L.