John “Greyhound” Maxwell – The Nation Blues


John “Greyhound” Maxwell playing guitar
John “Greyhound” Maxwell at an outside music circle in Sebastopol CA. Picture by Roger Jones, 2023.

There’s a vibrant roots & blues scene within the Pacific Northwest of the USA, the place Steve James, Sheila Wilcoxson and Kelly Joe Phelps reigned. These days, there are nonetheless fantastic gamers in that space, like Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons, Lauren Sheehan, Terry Robb, Grant Dermody, and lots of extra. The epicenter of the blues in Washington State is Centrum – the famed Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Competition in Port Ludlow, the place acoustic musicians and college students get collectively yearly to study, train, and jam. The present music director there’s Jontavious Willis, a job held beforehand by many nationwide treasures, together with Phil Wiggins and Jerron Paxton.

There’s one other man up there value listening to, a daily at Centrum, who’s placing out some nice music, John “Greyhound” Maxwell, a very refined and eloquent slide and fingerpicking roots & blues guitarist and singer/songwriter. He’s initially from Chicago, and he got here to Washington by the use of San Francisco the place he lived for 30 years. He acquired round, as his father was an Episcopal priest, which meant a transient life for younger John, taking him to Minnesota, San Francisco, and St. Louis.

Like many gifted artists and musicians, he loved the safety of a gentle day job, from which he’s now retired after 20 years working for the Golden Gate Bridge and as a bus driver and a bus driver coach. He has performed music all through his life, however most of that point he was working a so-called “actual job” to assist household. He began enjoying guitar at age 15, 53 years in the past. By now he is aware of tips on how to play, and never just a bit.

He has issued two self-produced albums, Even Good Canines Get The Blues (2018) and Blues for Evangeline (2014). The Washington Blues Society named John “Greyhound” Maxwell the 2018 award recipient for Greatest Acoustic Blues Guitarist. For probably the most half, he has performed solo for the final seven or eight years. He principally performs domestically, and has performed in Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and down alongside the West Coast periodically. caught up with the 68-year-old bard by way of phone on Oct. 31, 2023 , to let him inform his personal story:

John “Greyhound” Maxwell: “ I hope is that my respect for the historical past of the music that I play is clear, each once I play dwell and when someone listens to me on a recording. I actually care in regards to the high quality and the respect for the historical past and the artwork kind and people folks that I’ve realized a lot from over time.

It began means again in Chicago once I was about 15. I went to the Previous City College of People Music to get my first guitar lesson, which was a primary people guitar form of strumming class, doing songs like Go Inform Aunt Rhody and issues like that. I went to 1 class for that, and as I used to be on my means out of the music faculty that day, I heard bottleneck guitar being performed and it turned out that it was Johnny Lengthy, who was instructing on the faculty. He was himself a pupil of Homesick James in Chicago. As quickly as I heard that sound, I knew that’s what I wish to do – not simply be strumming. I wished to play this lovely slide model. I took six lessons from him earlier than my household moved all the way down to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over time I acquired sidetracked into many alternative musical types however that unique acoustic blues that Johnny turned me onto simply has stayed in my coronary heart all these years. I performed rock ‘n’ roll, bluegrass, nation, and slightly little bit of jazz. I used to be in a band in San Francisco within the late ‘70s, however late within the punk scene. We weren’t a punk band per se, however we have been in that scene. However, like I stated, blues was at all times the first model in my coronary heart that made me completely satisfied. I used to be influenced by early Chicago gamers, like Robert Nighthawk, Earl Hooker, and Elmore James. Then I began going again and discovering Robert Johnson, Son Home, and Charley Patton.

I have a tendency to make use of resonators for probably the most half. I personal a 1929 Nationwide metal physique Triolian that I’ve had that for nicely over 50 years now. So far as wooden physique guitars, I play Chasson, fantastic guitars made in Bellingham, WA. The variety of guitars that I take with me to a present depends upon what number of units I’m enjoying. Usually, I’ve been doing opening units for nationwide acts. I’ll carry two Resonators which I can tune – open G and open D -and then I normally have a mandolin with me as nicely.

My units are in all probability 50% unique, after which some covers– periodically there’s Tampa Purple, Robert Nighthawk, and Blind Willie McTell, for extra fingerpicking model. I do a pair very previous conventional issues like Saint James Infirmary, however that form of association is one thing I do alone versus utilizing someone else’s association.

Lyrically it’s essential to me to remain true to myself and true to my expertise. I’ve one which I wrote after I retired from bus driving that covers my emotions of that fairly nicely; typical love-gone-wrong songs which are from expertise. Musically, I believe as a result of I’ve performed so many alternative types over time, I’m a strong combination of influences? Leo Kottke was a giant affect for me. I’m someplace between Elmore James and Leo Kottke so far as musical influences go.

I’m attempting lately to get slightly little bit of the previous nation model from the early songwriters within the style like Jimmie Rodgers, a crossover from blues and nation. I do have Piedmont parts to what I do however I wouldn’t name myself a Piedmont participant.

During the last 5 years or so, I began leaning in the direction of the listening rooms and the live performance halls. I did a number of years in bars and eating places. I actually recognize the listening room as a result of it permits you play with dynamics which in a loud bar scenario would have a tendency to only get utterly misplaced. I actually love utilizing a number of dynamics in my reveals. I’ve been doing fairly just a few opening act slots for nationwide acts in very nice halls or outside concert events. The final one I did was opening for Sonny Landreth for a few nights in Seattle – such an exceptional guitar participant and a sweetheart of an individual as nicely. We acquired on very nicely. I opened for Ruthie Foster final spring, and he or she was completely beautiful. We actually had a pleasant connection. It was an actual good present and a great mixture between the 2 of us. I additionally opened a few reveals for the late David Lindley. My largest success so far as a present that I performed would have been opening for Taj and Keb’Mo on the Saint Michelle Vineyard. That was a spotlight in my profession, performing in entrance of 4,500 individuals.

In a extra basic sense, once I play, I try for a reference to the gang, sharing the historical past of the music and exhibiting an actual reverence for that. I get a number of feedback from viewers members after that about how a lot they get pleasure from listening to the tales behind the songs and the origins. I’m very pleased with the best way that’s going. I believe that’s one thing that I’m happy with.”

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