John Primer plays at 8:30 pm on Saturday, October 8th.
The Real Deal: As the title of his critically acclaimed album suggests, two-time Grammy nominee and 2016 Blues Music Award Winner, John Primer is truly The Real Deal.
At age eight, John borrowed his first guitar and started to strum. Before that he played a homemade guitar built with a broom wire, two nails, and two rocks to make it tight. With the sounds of Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Little Milton, Elmore James, BB & Albert King reverberating through his grandmother’s tube radio, John was instantly hooked. Early inspiration came from his family steeped in spiritual, gospel, blues, and R&B tradition. John’s mother knew he would be a singer; “he came out singing” she would say. John first appeared on stage at the local Baptist church, in his hometown of Camden, Mississippi.
At the age of eighteen, feeling restless and in search of further audiences, John migrated to Chicago in the fall of 1963. He quickly found work in an era when Chicago’s modern electric blues sounds were first taking shape. He formed his first band, The Maintainers,in 1964, and they made their rounds in Chicago blues clubs.
By 1968 John had left The Maintainers when the opportunity arose to front the soul and R&B group The Brotherhood. Jamming late into the night and practicing by day, John was forming his own unique style and expanding his repertoire. John’s success would lead him in 1974 to replace John Watkins in the house band at the world famous Theresa’s Lounge on the South Side of Chicago. Over the course of the next seven years, John would play with innovators sculpting the sound of Chicago blues.
In 1979, master songwriter and bassist Willie Dixon persuaded him to join his band The Chicago All Stars. Traveling through the United States, Mexico, and Europe, John developed his skills as a rhythm guitarist, a lead slide player, and a powerful singer. Another blues master who believed in John Primer was none other than the “Hoochie-Coochie Man” himself, Muddy Waters. Muddy recruited John not only as a guitarist, but also as an opening act and bandleader. John stayed loyal to Muddy until his untimely death in 1983.
Fresh off the heels of his success with the Muddy Waters Band, John signed on with the legendary Magic Slim. For the next 14 years, he toured with Magic Slim & The Teardrops, bringing tight, house rocking sounds to every corner of the planet. While John was the bandleader, they were voted the best blues band in the world year after year.
John’s days as a sideman were numbered, and in 1995 the veteran blues man released his major label debut The Real Deal, on Atlantic Records. Deciding to make it out on his own, John formed his own independent record label, Blues House Productions in 2008 and released his debut record All Original, followed by Blues On Solid Ground.
A living legend and Chicago’s Blues Ambassador, John has earned two Grammy nominations, two Lifetime Achievement Awards, a Blues Music Award for Best Traditional Blues Male Artist in 2016, with more than nine other Blues Music Award nominations, and in 2010, John won the Living Blues Award for Blues Artist of the Year. John Primer is one of the very last Traditional Blues Artist with original Mississippi roots.
Read more about the 2022 Oxford Blues Festival here.