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Charlie Musselwhite main image

May 2006. Interview by David Atkinson

When was the first time you met the blues?

When I was 7 years old my father took me to see Big Bill Broonzy

Who or what has most influenced your blues career?
The Tremendous depth of the blues tradition. Artists going back to the twenties (Blind Lemon, Lonnie Johnson) etc. Thirties (Robert Johnson, Son House, B.B. Fuller, Charlie Patton) etc. Forties (Lightning Hopkins, Thunder Smith etc.) Fifties (Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Little Walter etc)...

What do you think is the state of the blues right now?
Blues will always be - It's life

You seem to be making some of the finest albums of your career – do you feel like you’re just getting started?

You've perhaps been seen as a interpreter – putting your own stamp on classic tunes – but you’ve been including original material on your albums of late – why is that?
The Blues is a traditional music, many views of the same reality - the basics of life. I have 44 years on the road and on "Ready For Love" I composed my first song in 43 years. I credit my wife Marla for encouraging me to make my own song.

Your new album is relatively stripped back compared to Ready For Love And Wicked Grin, was that a conscious decision?

Your recent albums all have a great atmosphere and sound really weighty. How do you approach a new recording?
With the right people: A great engineer who knows what you’re about and players who I feel great playing with. And lots of ideas!

Much is made about the question of authenticity in blues – whether such and such is authentic or knew or learned from someone in particular. How much weight do you give it?
Anyone who loves blues music is into the tradition of it. The respect is inevitable because the art is inherent. Talent and technique also helps.

How about the 'Authenticity' of us Brits playing the blues?
Some of the best blues artists are British…

How long have you been coming to London to play? Do you remember the places you've played over here?
My first tour of the UK was in 1965. Over the years I have done many tours.

Is the blues atmosphere here in London significantly different in London/UK compared to US/rest of world? Has it changed in the time you've been coming here?
London is a musical Mecca. It compares well with anywhere in the world.

How do you see the blues evolving in the future? Any new blues artists you’ve been listening to?
Blues persists. There are so many new artists that it is hard to name them all.

What is the most important lesson the blues has taught you?
To be honest

John plays the The Jazz Cafe on Thursday 25th May 2006

Read our review of the latest album 'In Your Arms' here

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