JEREMY SPENCER: In conversation

 Asking the questions: editor Fran Leslie.

You have been invited to play at the Chicago Blues Festival and I see that you are doing a workshop entitled The Art of Slide. How did that come about?

In July of last year (2008), I was playing with the Norwegian band at Fitzgerald’s, a blues club in Chicago, and while the band did a number to give my voice a rest, I went to the bar. A well-dressed, bearded gentleman of about my age was sitting there and he told me that Elmore James wasn’t the one who originally recorded “It Hurts me Too”  (I had introduced the song earlier as being recorded by him). I said, “I know. It was Tampa Red.” That seemed to please him. It turned out he was Barry Dolins, who works for the mayor’s office and organizes Chicago’s arts and cultural events. He is a great slide guitar fan and told me that part of the 2009 Chicago Blues festival was to be in honour of Robert Nighthawk’s centennial and that he wanted to book me for it.

Months passed and it wasn’t until about February of this year that I heard anything more about it. Details followed and it turned out that, besides the main show on Sunday evening, on Saturday afternoon, I am to do a slide guitar workshop alongside Elmore James Junior, Lil’ Ed and John Primer. That should prove to be interesting. I have done some workshops during my concerts in India about ten years ago, so I am not as freaked out as I could have been! They are actually fun to do.

Actually, it wasn’t until recently that I began to appreciate him and his influence on electric slide players. I had long appreciated the old country acoustic blues sliders like Blind Willie McTell, Furry Lewis and Son House, but I had had the blinders on for many years regarding other electric slide players beside Elmore and Homesick James!

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