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Is Gen Z guitar wiz Christone 'Kingfish' Ingram, 25, the heir apparent to Buddy Guy and B.B. King?

George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Ingram was 11 when he began playing bass, not guitar, in nightclubs with local bands in Clarksdale, his Mississippi hometown. He credits that time as pivotal for his six-string approach and how he leads a band now.

"I think that because I started out as a side guy before I went in front, I know what's needed for a band to sound good," Ingram said.

"So, even with me being a front guy now, I can't go overboard. My days being on stage under the tutelage of older musicians, while being a student member of the Delta Blues Museum Band, taught me what not to do.

"Playing bass hasn't affected me, as far as (guitar) soloing. But it gave me a foundation of being able to play in the pocket, because — even when you are playing guitar — you have to be in the pocket to lock in with the other players.

"With guitar I don't want to be playing easily identifiable stuff — the same riffs other guitar players play. I like playing over chord changes and adding more interesting lines. That makes me happy. But I always feel I can get better."

Many songwriters believe experiencing heartbreak is essential for being able to write a truly great love song. Does the 25-year-old Ingram agree?

"Well," he replied with a chuckle, "when I was younger, I would have said: 'Oh, no, you don't need your heart broken to write a love song!' But these days, since I've had more experience, I feel the experience helps."

He chuckled again, then added an admonition: "All love songs don't have to be about heartbreaking!"

'Live in London'

Ingram's most recent album, last year's two-CD "Live in London," captures him in peak form. He is now exploring ideas for his next release, which he hopes will draw a broader audience without making any qualitative compromises.

"It's definitely going in a different direction," Ingram said. "I want to do more music that showcases my vocals, more of an R&B style, but still with that blues essence and those same sounds on guitar."

His bigger goal is to inspire a new generation.

"I've always thought that kids who look like me and sound like me when they talk, they're just not into the blues," Ingram said.

 

"So, I just want one to say to them: 'You can be a young Black kid, from the hip-hop era in the 2000s, and love blues music.' One of the reasons you don't see too many kids like me doing this is because they don't see people like them doing it. They don't have many young (musicians) to look up to and be inspired by.

"I want to be one of the people who shows them that we love this style of music. I want to be a vessel for the blues, but not conform to just that sound."

Ingram was featured on a recent episode of TV's "60 Minutes." It focused on the famously deep blues legacy rooted in his Mississippi hometown, Clarksdale, which has a population of less than 15,000.

The Clarksdale region produced Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Pinetop Perkins, Ike Turner and other pioneering pioneering blues artists. The sound and style they developed became the foundation for rock, hip-hop and an array of other styles.

"It was great to be featured and it opened up a lot of doors for me, as far as new listeners," Ingram said of his "60 Minutes" appearance.

"With the concerts I've done since it aired, a lot of the attendance has been a result of that. People tell me they saw it, even younger people who saw it with their parents."

Beyond his homeland, the past few years have seen Ingram increasingly embraced by audiences across Europe.

It's an experience that has made him realize how much more the blues, like jazz, is cherished by listeners abroad than it is here in his homeland.

"Seeing how all the different cultures react to blues, and knowing how they love it and treat it, is different than they do over here," Ingram said.

"Over here, they kind of see the blues as yesteryear's music. Over here, it's about: 'What is 'hottest,' right now?' Blues is not mainstream music here. Over there, they treat blues as a music of the world and they have a deeper appreciation for the art."

Ingram is a tireless road dog whose upcoming tour itinerary includes more dates in Europe this summer and extends into 2025. He laughed when asked how he spends his time on a rare day off.

"I have a pretty boring life outside of music," he said." I have difficulty even answering that!"


©2024 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit sandiegouniontribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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