ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 9, 2000
By Steve Newton
One listen to the new Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets CD, Change in My Pocket, and you can tell the guitarist is from the less-is-more school; his tasty, laid-back approach would put him in the same homeroom as Jimmie Vaughan. Both pickers are from Texas, and about the same age, so when I reach Funderburgh at his home outside of Dallas, I wonder aloud if he ever learned any tricks from Stevie Ray’s older brother. Or perhaps it was the other way round?
“Oh, I don’t think he picked up anything from me,” replies the ever-modest Funderburgh, “but I think we’ve just kinda listened to the same people all these years. I’ve learned most of the things that I’ve learned from just listening to records. I love Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Jimmy Reed, B. B. King. And all the guys that played behind the harmonica players—like Luther Tucker and Robert Lockwood. I’m a big fan of all of it.”
Speaking of old blues greats, 64-year-old vocalist-harpist Sam Myers—who’s been performing with the Rockets since 1982, and will join the band at the Yale on Wednesday (March 15)—used to back up none other than Elmore James. Myers, who’s been legally blind since he was a child, even claims to have dabbled in some illegal activities with James outside of Jackson, Mississippi.
“He’s a character,” says Funderburgh of Myers. “He talks about having a still and making moonshine with Elmore James. They must have really been something back then.”
As well as a handful of Myers-Funderburgh compositions, the new CD plumbs the blues vaults with tunes by Jimmy Rodgers (“What Have I Done”), Walter Jacobs (“Little Girl”), Willie Dixon (“Young Fashioned Ways”), and Buddy Guy (“$100 Bill”). Funderburgh has his faves among those in the band’s current live set.
“I like ‘Young Fashioned Ways’,” he says, “that’s a great old song. And ‘$100 Bill’, ’cause it’s a little different. I mean, Buddy Guy is wonderful. I love all the stuff he did for Chess in the early ’60s, late ’50s.”
Although he’s been playing professionally for 30 years now, Funderburgh doesn’t expect to reach the same level of popularity as a Buddy Guy.
“I don’t even think about it like that anymore,” he says. “I do what I do ’cause I really enjoy the music. Lotsa times people think that musicians make lotsa money—and I guess there’s a handful of ’em that make more money than we could count—but we kinda make a livin’, and it’s quite a bit of work. We just have a love for what we do, so we’re very, very fortunate.”