By Steve Newton
Louisiana slide-guitar legend Sonny Landreth sent me an autographed copy of his latest CD the other day, and man, was I happy to get that.
And not just for the John Henry–the music’s wicked, too!
On the album’s title track, Bound By the Blues, Landreth pays lyrical homage to some of his musical heroes, including Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Jimi Hendrix, but there’s one verse that left me a little confused.
Shortly after one of his typically scintillating slide solos Landreth sings: “Voodoo Chile and a white Strat/Baton Rouge, a bummer that/Noel said no lookin’ back/bound by the blues.”
That verse is obviously a reference to Hendrix, but I couldn’t figure out what the “bummer” in Baton Rouge was all about. So when I interviewed Sonny a couple days ago I asked him.
“Well he had a bad gig!,” he replied. “I was like 16 years old, and he had a bad gig. The amps crashed, they stopped working. And he got up to the microphone and said, ‘Don’t you ever buy a Sunn Amplifier.’ They got everything working again, and then some idiot in the audience said something that ticked him off. So they played two shows and jumped in the car and flew outta town.
“And many, many, many years later I got to be friends with [Hendrix bassist] Noel Redding,” added Landreth. “We played some gigs together, and I worked in the studio with him, and we stayed in touch. But he told me he remembered that gig! That they were terrified, they wanted to get outta there, ’cause that was back in the chitlin-circuit days, you know what I mean, with all the racial bullshit. So they hightailed it outta there.”
For my full interview with Sonny Landreth–who plays Vancouver on January 17–stay tuned.