My heart is heavy again today as I learned of the passing of Lucky Peterson. Lucky was only 55 years old and still had so much music left in him to give the world.
Although he was only 3 years older than me, he was celebrating 50 years in the music business! Lucky was a child prodigy, and at age 7 none other than the legendary Willie Dixon produced his first album. By his teens he was playing with stars such as Little Milton and Bobby “Blue” Bland. He performed on albums by Junior Wells, James Cotton and countless others. He was a “triple threat”, playing guitar, keyboards and singing. In the 1990s I heard his first albums on the Alligator label, and was just blown away by his singing. Like his old mentors Bobby Bland and Little Milton,his voice gives me goosebumps every time I hear him sing.
In 2012 he came to Israel and was backed by my band. I was so excited to meet and play with one of my favorite artists. If you are a reader of this Blog you may recall that I told of our first meeting - but I will tell it again : Lucky had missed his flight and spent nearly 24 hours in transit, arriving at our first rehearsal completely jetlagged and tired. When he arrived , I introduced myself. Lucky asked what instrument I play in the band and I said "Harmonica". Lucky gave me a skeptical sideways look and said "I don't usually play with harmonica players". I said nothing, since I knew exactly what he was thinking: "bad enough I have to play with a local band I'm not familiar with, now I need to deal with a harmonica too???". We started the rehearsal and after a few songs Lucky smiled and said "there are a lot of bad harp players out there, but I see you know what you're doing, so we're cool...".
Before our first show in Jerusalem I took him to see the old city. I had planned to show him all the holy sites (he was a church-going Christian), but we never made it past the first shop in the shuk….Lucky went in to buy souvenirs, then spent over an hour haggling over the prices with the shopkeeper. He got some good bargains, but by time he was done, we were out of time, and had to head to the show…
Like many Bluesmen, he could be unpredictable and all you could do was try your best to follow. On his last tour here, we had the misfortune to lose both our drummer and our bass player to illness just before he arrived, and of course Lucky’s plane was late and he arrived just in time for the first show - no rehearsal with the replacement musicians...we did our best to follow him, but you could tell he was frustrated by the guys not knowing his material.Suddenly he grabbed a guitar and started playing a Jimmy Reed rhythm. The band waited to see what was happening, but I picked it up immediately and played some Jimmy Reed style harmonica. Lucky turned at me and I could see his scowl turn to a big grin.“Yeah!’ he said, and we proceeded to play a Jimmy Reed song as he wandered into the audience, singing without a microphone (you could hear him a million miles away), one of the most soulful sounds you can imagine. I think that may remain my favorite memory of Lucky Peterson.
Rest in peace Lucky Peterson. I feel lucky myself, to have shared a few moments with you, and we are all lucky to have all the great music you made.
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