Charlie Musselwhite talks about blues, booze and Beale Street

charlie-musselwhite.jpg The Jerusalem Post caught up with world-class harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite before a concert next week in Tel Aviv. The 67-year-old bluesman, who grew up in Memphis and honed his craft jamming on Beale Street before moving to Chicago in the 1960s, talks about the musical hothouse that this city was in the '50.

"Johnny and Dorsey Burnette, the rockabilly pioneers, used to live right across the street from me, and I used to see people like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash at neighborhood parties," said Musselwhite, whose father was of Choctaw Indian descent.

"Music was my comforter from the harsh realities of life, and I was fascinated by the street blues singers I would see when I went to downtown Memphis.

Musselwhite also talks about his ongoing recovery from alcoholism, his days in Chicago playing with the likes of Muddy Waters, and his recent collaborations with Cyndi Lauper, including on her recent Memphis Blues album. And there's this great quote about how he developed his own unique style of playing:

"I always had the feeling that you play your own blues," said Musselwhite.

"I used to go out in the woods and make up stuff on the harmonica, just to play something. I listened to everybody and sometimes would cop a lick off of a record, but mostly I was trying to play what I felt. I'm still trying to figure out how to do that - there's no end to learning."

Side note: Musselwhite figured pretty prominently in the excellent multimedia blues package we recently produced. Check it out here.


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