"To be honest, I am not sure where my creative drive comes from. Sometimes thoughts or phrases just pop into my head, or I will notice something in my every day life and that becomes a piece of the puzzle which later becomes the complete song. I hope people are moved by my songs."
Lew Jetton: Deja Voodoo in the South
Lew Jetton learned The Blues the old fashioned way, in the cotton fields, while growing up in the 60s and 70s between Trenton and Dyersburg, Tennessee. Along the way, he had two of the best mentors one could have: In the 80s, the legendary Carl Perkins, and in the 90s, the one and only Chicago Blues Legend, Snooky Pryor. In 1994, Jetton joined up with Paducah, Kentucky based blues band 61 South, which featured legendary harp slinger Colonel JD Wilkes, drummer Erik Eicholtz, and "Fast Layne" Hendrickson. Upon Hendrickson's departure for New Orleans in 1995, Jetton took over front man duties and the band hasn't looked back or slowed down since. Lew Jetton & 61 South are indeed, the real deal: a multi "Pick to Click" on XM/Sirius Bluesville, with multiple albums on the Blues and Blues Rock charts. They have cemented their reputation in clubs and festivals with their signature, critically acclaimed, Mississippi River Electric Blues sound. Erik Eicholtz continues on drums as the only original member of 61 South, joined by Sam Moore on guitar, Dan Bell on guitar and organ and Otis Walker on bass.
(Photo: Lew Jetton)
Over the years, Lew Jetton & 61 South has established itself as festival and club favorites throughout the Midwest, Midsouth and beyond: The Juke Joint Festival, Hot August Blues Festival, WC Handy Blues Festival, Ozark Blues Festival, Sparta Blues Festival, Riverside Blues Festival, Bear Creek Blues Festival, Missouri Blues, Bikes & BBQ Festival, Metropolis Blues & Ques Festival, Kentucky Blues Festival, BBQ On The River, Superman Festival & many more. Lew has continued to write and produce critically acclaimed blues music. "Deja Hoodoo" (2022) is the latest album on Endless Blues Records. Jetton has been at this for 30 years (1992-2022), so we know he’s got some stories. He’s got some songs, too – he’s released four albums over the years, and this one has 16 songs, and Jetton wrote and produced all of them. The songs were recorded at Paradise Studio and Coffee Street Studio in Paducah, Kentucky, and than remastered at Highland House Productions in Jackson TN by Wes Henley, Carl Perkins' longtime band leader. This is a near perfect blues album, includes guest shots by the like of Bob Lohr, Chuck Berry's longtime piano player, harmonica ace JD Wilkes of The Legendary Shack Shakers blasts on harp on seven songs, who is actually an original member of 61 South. Lew Jetton is indeed, the real deal.
How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?
I think some of it comes with maturity. I have a better understanding and acceptance of myself as a person and that helped me become a better artist. I've also become a better musician by practicing and also just by the repetition of doing it for so many years.
What has remained the same about your music-making process?
One thing that has always remained the same is my love of playing music myself. I just love playing my guitars and singing and songwriting. That has remained the same or even grown over the last 40 years.
Who are some of your very favorite artists, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music?
Some of the artist who have most influenced me or Carl Perkins, Snooky Pryor, Luther Allison, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King, and T-Bone Walker.
"On one hand, you need to make sure you have a good accountant, and you want to make sure you get paid, when you are supposed to, preferably in cash! On the other hand, I've learned that blues music fans are the best and most loyal fans in the world, and are the best people in the world. They are your friends for life and will always stick with you." (Photo: Lew Jetton)
Where does your creative drive come from? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
To be honest, I am not sure where my creative drive comes from. Sometimes thoughts or phrases just pop into my head, or I will notice something in my every day life and that becomes a piece of the puzzle which later becomes the complete song. I hope people are moved by my songs. Whether that be a laugh, a smile, or an acknowledgment that they have felt the same way the song is describing at one point in their lives. I just want people to be able to relate to my music and point to things in their own lives which relate to the songs.
How do you describe "Deja Voodoo" songbook? Do you have any stories about the making of the new album?
The songs on this album were drawn from four studio albums over a more than 20-year period. When I look back, I can see and feel the different stages of my life through the four albums. A lot of the inspiration for the songs in the first album were from the end of my first marriage. On the second album, Tales From a Two Lane, I was happily remarried and had become a better songwriter and player. Then there was a 10-year hiatus between that and my third studio album, Rain. During that time, I had been dealing with my wife's illness which eventually took her from me. There were times when I was caring for her and not playing as much music. There are songs on that album which are my tribute to her, although the main one is not included on a Deja Hoodoo.
For my fourth studio album, I wanted something really stripped down, so it was recorded mostly three-piece with my drummer and bass guitar player for most of the studio recordings, Greg Walker. Palestine Blues dealt with many dark themes, from mental illness to addiction to joblessness and despair. One of my most listened to songs is included on this album, "Will I Go to Hell." That song deals with people who judge others.
"I think some of it comes with maturity. I have a better understanding and acceptance of myself as a person and that helped me become a better artist. I've also become a better musician by practicing and also just by the repetition of doing it for so many years." (Photo: Lew Jetton)
What would you say characterizes Kentucky blues scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?
Obviously, Kentucky does not have the same history and traditions as other storied blues locations such as Chicago, Memphis, the Mississippi Delta, etc. That being said, there's still some good blues in Kentucky. In some areas it may be tinged with a little more rock, or southern rock than some of the places which are much more traditional, like the Mississippi river delta, for example.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
On one hand, you need to make sure you have a good accountant, and you want to make sure you get paid, when you are supposed to, preferably in cash! On the other hand, I've learned that blues music fans are the best and most loyal fans in the world, and are the best people in the world. They are your friends for life and will always stick with you.
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