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February 09, 2018

Mahindra Blues Spotlight: Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington And His Unique Mix Of Funk And R&B

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

“I was born to be a musician, mostly because I knew I didn’t want to do any hard labour”

On his humble beginnings “Like many African-American musicians, I discovered my vocal talents in school and at church. As a teen, I formed an a cappella spiritual group called True Love and Four Gospel Singers. My first job, way before that stint, was laying bricks and concrete. In retrospect, I was born to be a musician, mostly because I knew I didn’t want to do any hard labour.”

On the evolution of the blues as a genre “Much progress has been made in the technical department. There is more electronic stuff going on than there was in the early days. When I had started out, the only equipment that was amplified were the microphones for the singers – and not even that, sometimes!”

On joining iconic R&B singer Lee Dorsey’s band “I knew Richard Dixon when we were working at the Dew Drop Inn on LaSalle Street in New Orleans. He introduced me to Lee, who hired me to go on tour with him when I was 19 years old. I was mostly a background singer until I met Johnny Adams. He was the one who discovered that I could hold a tune together when it counted the most.”

On a promising upcoming artist “Cristian Duque of Soul Project. He is a fine guitar player and an incredible singer.”

His ode to the blues “The feeling comes from the heart, and the blues is how you share it with the world.”

On what’s keeping him busy right now “I’m excited about my new album called My Future is My Past that is coming out in the spring. On the side, I’m working on a new funk CD with the Roadmasters as well.

On his most memorable concert “I’d have to say my first gig with Lee Dorsey at the Apollo Theater in New York. We drove to the venue in a red Cadillac. It was the first time I had really been away from home and I had the time of my life!”

On his favourite recording moments “My new album has a duet where I sing with Irma Thomas, accompanied by David Torkanowsky, which is wonderful. Working with Jon Cleary on the album was very special — we share a lot of history since he was my first keyboard player with the Roadmasters. I also get a kick out of playing with some of the heavy musicians from New Orleans.”

On his collaboration wish list “I regret not having worked with B. B. King and Wayne Bennett, who was the guitar player for Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland. Given a chance, there are certain techniques I would have liked to have learnt from them.”

The Mahindra Blues Festival will take place at Mehboob Studio, Mumbai from February 10-11, 2018.

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