The baby of Chicago blues speaks truth

James Brown, Otis Redding, John Lee Hooker, and, of course, Muddy Waters all talked about it. But Jimmy D. Lane grew up listening to it. "You know the blues got soul," Muddy Waters would croon, letting go of the neck of his guitar to wag his index finger.

James Brown, Otis Redding, John Lee Hooker, and, of course, Muddy Waters all talked about it.

But Jimmy D. Lane grew up listening to it.

“You know the blues got soul,” Muddy Waters would croon, letting go of the neck of his guitar to wag his index finger.

“Well, you know, the blues got pregnant and they named the baby rock n’ roll.”

With Jimmy Rogers as a father and a childhood home full of the fathers of Chicago blues, that must make Lane, rock n’ roll.

As Lane gets ready to perform in the Yukon this week, the 46-year-old explains in a telephone interview how he was literally born into some of the best blues music in history.

“A lot of times I wished they would all just go home because they were so noisy and loud,” Lane said of his famous blues father’s friends like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King and Little Walter.

“It was just like anybody else’s father. If you work on a construction site, those friends would come over sometimes and hang out and play cards or whatever, watch a game together. It was just, in my case, these were all musicians. Friends of my old man from his work.”

As a kid, Lane didn’t really know who – or how important – all those guys were. They were just boisterous and often scary friends of his “Pop.”

“But I grew up listening to those guys and they actually taught me a lot of things about life, music, a lot of different things. I refer to all of them as my fathers,” Lane said with a chuckle.

With an upbringing like this, and a famous father who later admitted he spent Lane’s childhood secretly hoping his son would pick up the guitar, you’d think Lane would’ve been touring and playing with the guys as soon as his mother let him.

But that wasn’t the case. Not at first, at least.

“I actually wanted to play baseball,” said Lane.

“I was pretty good. That’s what I wanted to do, you know. But the music thing, that bug bit me when I got out of the military.”

Lane described himself lying on his bed, headphones wrapped on his ears and a “boom box” on his lap, when Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe came on the radio.

“I heard that song, that particular day, and I haven’t heard it that way before or since,” he said. “If you’ve talked to a man of the cloth or a clergy person, they explain how they heard their calling, as they say. I guess that’s the closest thing I can describe to that moment.”

Lane did end up spending a decent chunk of his professional career playing lead guitar with his father in the Jimmy Rogers band.

He carried his own bands from time to time too – mostly Jimmy D. Lane and The Hurricanes and Blue Train Running – before debuting as a solo recording artist in 1995. But Lane is honest about the shade he was born under.

“It is heavy to be in the shadow of someone like that, I mean, the things that he and Muddy Waters did will never be equaled or surpassed in my mind,” said Lane.

“They laid the groundwork. Those are a pair of big shoes to even stand beside, let alone try to fill. I know I will always be in his shadow but that’s cool with me though because I am very proud of what he did.”

And while Waters’ lyrics leave Lane in the realm of rock n’ roll, his guitar’s screams and spasmodic solos still hold a heavy hint of the blues his “fathers” perfected.

“It’s a primitive form of music, but at the same time, it’s a very complex form because you can play notes all day long … but if those notes have no feeling, it’s just notes,” Lane said of the genre.

And an audience can tell when you’re faking it, Lane professed.

“If you know a million notes, and you play ‘em within 10 minutes of a whole show, what have you said?” he asked.

Lane offered his “fathers” as an example.

Albert King rarely wandered away from the bottom two strings on his guitar, said Lane.

“But when he would hit a note on those strings, it said so much. In just one note, he would have so much soul and conversation. You could feel that.

“And when Muddy would run the slide down the neck of his guitar or the old man would play a certain rhythm chord or pattern that he played or when (Little) Walter blew a certain note on the harmonica, or B.B. (King) would squeeze Lucille … It’s all about the feeling and truth. It’s real.”

It is that ability to take a single note and, with feeling, make it sound like something different, which keeps the blues alive.

It means new musicians can “reach back” and put down their own fingerprint, Lane said, pointing to The Black Keys as a great example of modern day blues-fusion.

“Even though it’s an old form of music, every individual has an input. You can bring something to the party – so long as it’s real.”

After making his own musical fingerprint with legends like his fathers, Lane began jamming with guys like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Robert Plant and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

“They’re just beautiful cats,” Lane said. “Down to earth. Each one of those guys are very humble, very respectful musicians and they know their craft well. It was fun. I mean, what can you not say about Clapton? The man is a phenomenal guitar player and one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, just a very humble, nice guy.”

Now Lane has moved from Chicago to B.C. and the blues baby even has some kids of his own.

But he isn’t quite done with the blues.

“I haven’t filled up my cup with that yet,” he said.

Lane will be playing at Foxy’s in Whitehorse on Thursday, March 15 at 10 p.m. before heading up to Dawson City for the weekend. Tickets are $12 at the door, or $10 in advance at Mark and Paddy’s Wondrous Music Emporium.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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