Q&A with Spain-based Rev. Richard John, foot tapping blues which appeals to audiences both young and old

"Most people react to the energy of music and blues music is a very direct form of that energy. One of the most beautiful aspects of blues music is its ability to cross between the cultural perspective."

Rev. Richard John: Nothing But The Blues

The Reverend´s music is foot tapping blues which appeals to audiences both young and old. The Reverend's cutting vocal style blends perfectly with his deep south harmonica jive. His slide guitar has extreme attack and is fused with great touch and gentle tone. His dynamic rhythms are generated by a heartfelt dedicated wooden stomp box. Playing blues standards as well as original songs which incorporates his own unique style and sound. Providing a basic back beat with his feet using a wooden stomp box. In addition, on stage he uses 2 electric guitars as well as an acoustic 12 string and acoustic 6 string. His strong vocal delivery is accompanied by harmonica. After performing in the UK for many years he was interviewed live on the Paul Jones show on British Radio 2. He has been described as “a powerful, vibrant solo blues player with a stunning unique style of blues which is both full and rich, delivered with the feel associated with blues music.

(Photo: The Reverend Richard John, Spain)

After moving to Spain The Reverend toured the live blues circuit for around 12 years. He lived in a converted van between gigs which gave him the opportunity to write his songs and then perform the work in a live music environment polishing and adjusting according to audience response. He has featured at the prestigious Cazorla Blues Festival and the Winter Blues Festival at Almeria City. He performed at the Madma Bluesaroses Festival in Girona supporting the American blues player Sherman Robertson. He also performed at The Blues at Moonlight Festival, Benalmadena and Dia del Blues in Benicassim. After a long time working behind the scenes, Richard John released his new 15-tracks album Like White on Rice (2023).

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Roots Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

We pass this way but once, so I try to make it count. I think playing blues music has made me feel like that within my view of the world. Every journey I have taken within the blues vein has always brought me back to the beginning both culturally and within my own roots. If I were to rename the music, we know as blues for me I would call it the feel because playing it for myself or for other people is a reward I can find nowhere else.

How do you describe your sound and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My own sound is what it is – it sort of just came out like that. Playing other people’s blues doesn´t really ring the bell for me so I decided to create a songbook that reflects my feelings and my life. Performing live has been very important to me. Seeing people respond to blues music I have written is a drive in itself.

Why do you think that the One Man Band performances continues to generate such a devoted following?

It is traditional and closest to the original form of blues. For me the king of that discipline would be Jessie Lone Cat Fuller. We all have our own heroes. I think even those people who are new to seeing blues music performed live in this way are moved by it because of its intensity and energy.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?                      (The Reverend Richard John / Photo by Alvaro Fdez)

Introducing my then girlfriend Keeley (now wife) to life gigging on the road was at a festival in Colne, Lancashire, England. Always a rush to get on stage with my equipment between sets I asked Keeley and several of her friends if she would help to move some of equipment on stage. I did not know at the time when I set her off with 2 guitars, she would be going through the men’s toilets as that was the only access that wasn´t crowded which I think set off a bigger response from the queue of gentlemen lining up at the urinal than my actual performance. From a musical point of view supporting Sherman Robertson and Carvin Jones at Blues Festivals was very memorable for me.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

 My reflection of blues goes back to the Sixties seeing some of the greats play live in London. Me and my friend John caught Freddie King walking in the audience literally playing in front of me. An experience that has stayed with me always. Like most people I miss the music of my youth. I think the anthology of blues music runs through so many forms of popular music and the people that created that simple musical structure left us with a legacy that I think will continue without end.

What is the impact Blues on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Most people react to the energy of music and blues music is a very direct form of that energy. One of the most beautiful aspects of blues music is its ability to cross between the cultural perspective.

What's the balance in music between technique and soul? Why is it important to we preserve and spread the blues?

One constant I live by on stage or in the studio is that are no rules. One of the most important lessons I learnt on the road as a performer is to learn the ability to entertain. I find hiding behind technique can sometimes draw away from that ability, but paradoxically if played from the heart technique and soul can go hand in hand. Most of the songs I write usually come from accidents during the course of play and evolve from there.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Approaching live performance with entertainment uppermost in your mind is maybe the best form of giving. Learning to give has brought me closest to my soul especially when I am playing blues music.

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(Photo: The Reverend Richard John, Spain)

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