"The Blues is a Healer You doesn’t have felt blue to play the blues."
Chris Beard: The Prince of Blues
When you grow up in a house filled with the blues, when your father grew up on Beale Street, when music was in your DNA, then blues is who you are and what you do. Chris Beard is a modern blues guitarist and singer like few others. His personal connections to the blues were forged with the living blues men he’s sat with since childhood. Born in 1957, Beard is the son of Joe Beard, a fine blues guitarist who grew up on Beale Street in the 1950’s before moving to Rochester, NY. When family friends like Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Buddy Guy stopped by, young Chris became their willing pupil. After years playing the clubs in and around Rochester, Chris was offered the opportunity to record. In 1998, he released his debut recording, Barwalkin’, on JSP Records. That record earned Beard a W.C. Handy nomination as Best New Blues Artist.
Chris produced his follow-up disc, Born To Play The Blues in 2001 to the critical acclaim of the blues press and earned Beard the title, Prince of the Blues. Then, in 2005, Beard released Live Wire, a stirring combination of live and studio performances for Northern Blues. In 2010 "Who I am and what I do" backed by two different bands with musicians that Beard has toured and recorded with for many years gives Beard the confidence to stretch voice and guitar. Chris Beard is a world class modern Blues guitarist, with a unique and compelling voice. Using his dynamic combination assertive vocals and his exciting guitar. Following the 80’s model of Stevie Ray Vaughan which features a combination of traditional blues, high-energy guitar playing, and a contemporary edge, Chris Beard is able to traverse the recent blues past and propel his audience into the future. In 2015 released his latest album "Eye of the Witch". Early on , Chris Beard learned one essential detail about the music he plays: play it live. Since he first stepped on stage, Chris creates musical art unique to that moment in time. True to all artistic creations, Beard's art is powerful enough to share his intense emotion release with audiences or listeners who takes the time to hear what Chris plays. This is the core of pure blues.
How has the Blues music and culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
The Blues music and it’s culture has reflected the changing struggles and hopes of the world through the different generations. I feel Blues is real music that makes you think about all the changes in the world that have been made for the better and the one’s that remain the same. It continues to give me material to write about thinking about the old days and where my life is today; The more the world changes the more it stays the same. It has shown me that there is always hope and that you can be what you want in this world.
Chris, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?
I started playing guitar when I was 5 years of age. My first song was Green onion’s by Booker T and the MG's . My Dad was my first Idol, then as I grew older I started to listen to other’s Buddy Guy, Luther Allison, Albert King, Freddy King, BB King and Albert Collins.
"The Blues music and it’s culture has reflected the changing struggles and hopes of the world through the different generations. I feel Blues is real music that makes you think about all the changes in the world that have been made for the better and the one’s that remain the same."
What do you learn about yourself from the blues people? How do you describe Chris Beard sound and songbook?
Growing up surrounded by Blues people, I learned of the hardships of other people’s lives and what they were willing to do to keep the music alive, and to keep performing it. Being on stage with the Blues people allows me to express a side of myself that I never see, and highlights an emotional connection to my music. People joke about my ugly facial expressions on stage, which I am unaware of – I am in the zone! My sound comes through a combination and learning from the artists of my era who have touched my life; Joe Beard, Luther Allison, Lonnie Brooks, Buddy Guy, BB King, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, and the history of the blues. As far as guitar playing goes, I try to express the emotions I feel through the notes and sounds and not just play a bunch of strings. Playing with soul and feeling to bring the audience into the mood makes it a much better experience for both of us.
My song book comes from some my life experience. Some of the songs that I cover are sent to me from writers that I can relate to in my life and what others go through around me. My vocals and playing style have a distinctive sound which can take you from soulful heartbreaking blues to rocking up-beat blues. Just like my life, a mixture of happiness and sadness which I am willing to put to music and share with the world.
Why do you think that the Joe Beard music legacy continues to generate such a devoted following?
My Dad, Joe Beard, is the real deal. No watered-down blues, just straight blues, plain and simple. He stays the same no matter what. He’s true to the blues.
What age did you play your first gig and how was it like (where, with whom etc.)?
With my Dad it was great at a local club called the house of Blues in Rochester NY. I was 10 yrs. of age.
Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
The best moment of my career was when I played on stage with Luther Allison and he let me play his Blue Lucille. My worst to date is when my van broke down in Conrad Montana.
"I would love to go back in time with the masters all on one stage; BB King, Albert King, Luther Allison, Muddy Water’s, Albert Collins, Lonnie Brooks. Just to be on the same stage with them, to play the blues with them would be a great experience."
What does the BLUES mean to you and what does Blues offered you?
The Blues is a great art form and I’m so blessed to be given this gift, to play it and have known such great people who have contributed to the legacy. If it wasn’t for the Blues there would be no music. The Blues had a baby then they called it rock and roll.
It also gives me the opportunity to travel all over the world and spread the love of this wonderful music, to keep it alive.
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Luther Allison, Matt Guitar Murphy -Playing on stage with Luther Allison and just watching him perform the way he did, Playing with Matt Murphy and listen to some of the story he would tell about some of is travels. My Dad and Ronnie Baker-Brooks told me stay true to yourself and you can do this for a living. No matter what others say, believe in yourself; Determination and drive are key. Matt told me that the guitar needs to become an extension of your body.
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
What I miss most is that the masters are gone. I miss being able to tour the way we once did. The economic climate has changed, less clubs and a younger fan base who buy less CD’s and stream more single songs. My hopes for the future are that this great music continues and for people to realize that the blues have a great legacy of tradition and history from which all music can trace its roots. I hope to keep the blues alive and to increase its exposure to more and more people. My fear is that people young and old forget where this beautiful music came from and dismiss it as “old music”. I hope that all the great masters of the music continue to get recognition.
How difficult is to you “carry” this name – Beard - in blues business?
I feel very proud to carry this name it’s not hard. I just have to represent it properly.
When I was growing after playing with Father and being any many bands, my Father said to me I needed to decide if I was to play in a band as a side man or front my own band. I decided to front my own band. There were many thing’s, the one that I like the most was when I was 5 when I played my first song. My mother notices that I was playing something on the guitar and she brought it to my Father’s attention. He wasn’t surprise he said to my mother what do you expect? The boy’s 5 years old, as though he felt I should have been playing before that.
What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've had? When did you last laughing in gigs and why?
I always have fun when I play there’s always a laugh sometime in any of my shows. I’ve jammed with a lot of people but my most memorable was the time I jammed with Luther Allison and there’s always the time’s I jammed with my Dad and Matt and Ronnie Baker Brooks. I love jammimg with them all...
What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from the late bluesman, Luther Allison?
I remember the time I laughed when Luther Allison handed me is blue Lucille and told me to play the MF. It was a fun moment, I was nervous, and when I think about that time I get very emotional that I could be around him, to get encouragement and recognition from him. He was great player; when I think about him and the way he sang and played that guitar, the music really resonated with me. What a great performer. If I could be half the player he was, wow!
What is the impact of the Blues music and culture on the racial and socio-cultural implications?
Hopefully my blues and this great music helps to build a bridge to bring all cultures together. Music is the universal language that speaks to everyone. The blues reaches many races and cultures through Traditional and Blues Rock. There are such a wide range of blues that came from the fields of the south to transcend through the genres to everything including rap-music. New blues music of today is building on and talking about the world troubles and pain just like it did when it started.
Are there any memories from Matt Guitar & Buddy, which you’d like to share with us?
My most fondest memory is when I was a kid and I remember one time Matt Guitar Murphy was staying at our house and felt asleep with the guitar in his arms. The next morning I said to him Uncle Matt why did you go to sleep with the guitar? He said I was practicing and fell asleep but the guitar should become an extension of your body become a part of your body. Another great thing that Buddy Guy shared with me when I was in Chicago a few years ago and I was in Buddy’s club one evening He was there and we were sitting around talking and it was just before the band was getting to ready to start . I asked him why you are hanging around here man. He said how I’m I supposed to get better unless I watch young cat’s like you. Once I heard that I realized that I must constantly be open to learn and be humble and that I will never know all there is to know about the guitar.
Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?
My music comes from my heart and soul deep within.
What experiences in your life make you a GOOD bluesman?
Relationships, the trial and tribulation of being on this life experiences. The economy gas prices. It’s hard out here.
Why do you play GUITAR & what were your favorite guitars, effects and amps, back then?
I play guitar because nothing else make me feel the way the guitar does It’s better than sex. My favorite guitar is the Gibson Les Paul I’ve always played with Gibson. The first guitar, my Dad brought was a Gibson . When I was younger I used the wah-wah and a real fuzz tone effect.
Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES
The Blues is always going to be here it was the beginning of it all. Me and other like myself trying to carry it to the next level. The Blues doesn’t get enough recognition or support. I wish that the blues could get the recognition that it deserves. Until then and forever I will be playing it.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?
My advice to any inspiring musician in this field. Stay strong and believe in yourself. Be open minded listen to all criticism take the good with the bad and try and to correct any all. Practice is the most important thing you can never practice too much.
I've heard two sayings about the blues, which are a little bit confusing. One is "Blues is a healer". Another one "You have to feel blue to play Blues". If it's supposed to be a healer, why should it make one feel sad?
The Blues is a Healer You doesn’t have felt blue to play the blues. You have felt it as an artist in order to make the people feel it. Song writing is about making a song that people can relate to and they can see them self in your song. Blues is a healer it soothes the savage beast.
"My vocals and playing style have a distinctive sound which can take you from soulful heartbreaking blues to rocking up-beat blues. Just like my life, a mixture of happiness and sadness which I am willing to put to music and share with the world."
How you would spend a day with Luther Allison? What would you say to Jimi Hendrix?
If I had a day with Luther Allison I would just talk to him for hours picking his Brain for knowledge and experience. Most all I would have my guitar out asking for lessons. If I was with Jimi I would tell him how great he is and what a great impact on future guitar I would try to take as much from on the guitar as possible and let him know that he was years ahead of his time. That would be a great day...
Is it easier to write blues as you get older? How/where do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting?
I don’t feel like age has a lot to do with it. My inspiration comes from within life experience everyday life. Things happen to me sometimes thing come to me and then we have a song.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
I would love to go back in time with the masters all on one stage; BB King, Albert King, Luther Allison, Muddy Water’s, Albert Collins, Lonnie Brooks. Just to be on the same stage with them, to play the blues with them would be a great experience. It would be great to learn from them as they work on their craft and to talk with them afterwards about the blues, their guitars, just to be able to absorb all the knowledge, what a day that would be.
Looking ahead I would Like to be recognized as a great player and have audiences and peers value my contribution to the blues.
Comments are closed for this blog post