Harpdog Brown found a place where he belonged and he stayed there for 30 years.
The blues singer and musician can remember as early as age five roaming the neighbourhood and straying from home. School was close by – elementary at one end of the street, high school at the other – yet he craved adventure.
“Some of my friends got to take the bus to school,” he said. “I thought I was missing something.”
He said he thinks it could be a trait of adopted children, which he was.
“We really don’t have a feeling of root,” Brown said. “I kind of live the life of a gypsy.”
At age 16, he saw the blues legend James Cotton wailing on his harmonica. Brown was captivated by the emotion, passion and expression in Cotton’s playing.
“He really ruined me,” Brown said.
After the harmonica – referred to as a ‘harp’ in blues music – came the guitar.
It was the Rolling Stones which expanded Brown’s knowledge of blues as he found names like McKinley Morganfield and Ellas McDaniel in the songwriting credits, who turned out to be Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley, respectively.
In the blues, he found a place he finally felt natural, a place where he belonged.
Soon after school, Brown found himself discussing his future with a buddy and realized that he didn’t want to be a zombie worker who lived for coffee breaks.
“Music is the only way we can stay misfits,” his buddy told him.
“He was wrong when he said the Stones couldn’t go on forever,” Brown added.
Brown sees himself as a vehicle for songwriters, performing their message and reaching audiences with his interpretation, much like a teacher or a preacher, he said.
“My real gift is the bridge between the ears and the creator,” he said.
The message from the blues is one of empowerment, of shared burden of life’s miseries and the knowledge that others understand the struggle, too.
“That’s the power of the blues,” Brown said. “The blues isn’t always sad.”
His roaming continues as he tours across the country. Since mid-July, he racked up more than 12,000 kilometres driving from town to town.
“This is where I belong,” he said.
He is currently touring and performing with Graham Guest, who he describes as one of the best piano players in Canada.
Brown performs with Guest at Diners Rendezvous Sunday (Sept. 4) at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets $22/advance; $25/door. People with a ticket stub from last weekend’s Summertime Blues Festival receive $7 discount.
Please call 250-740-1133 for more information or for ticket reservations.