From years in legendary bands like Canned Heat and Bluesbreakers to a successful solo career, Walter Trout has seen and done it all. He’s fiercely talented and visibly passionate, which has led him down a long and interesting road in the music industry.
Trout will be playing for the first time in Newton on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Maytag Bowl for the South Skunk Blues Society’s 21st Annual Bowlful of Blues.
Trout’s a seasoned blues veteran from New Jersey whose brother introduced him to the blues-rock sound in the ’60s by playing a Paul Butterfield album. Shortly after that, Trout purchased his first Gibson Les Paul in Philadelphia and hasn’t looked back.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1973 and worked small gigs to purchase his famous ’73 Fender Stratocaster. The city presented Trout an opportunity to make his way into social circles with well-known musicians like Percy Mayfield and John Lee Hooker.
In 1981, he joined on with the established and influential Canned Heat. This period of time consisted of an unhealthy dependency and addiction to drugs and alcohol, Trout admits.
Three years later, John Mayall gave Trout a phone call and asked him to join his band John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, a well-known, respected and talented group that had included guitarists like Eric Clapton, Peter Green and John McVie.
“As far as being a blues-guitar sideman, that gig is the pinnacle. That’s Mount Everest,” Trout said. “You could play with B.B. King or Buddy Guy, but you’re just going to play chords all night. This guy features you. You get to play solos.”
In 1989, Trout decided it was time to take care of himself, do something more with his career and regain sobriety. With endless support from Mayall, he made the difficult decision to start a new path, continuing on his career alone. Trout developed a large international fan base and has released 23 albums to-date.
At the Bowlful of Blues, Walter Trout will play original songs, some traditional blues songs, and around half way through the set, he will play four or five Luther Allison covers. Other than the planned Allison mini-set, the band never goes on stage with a playlist.
“The whole show is very spontaneous. I’ll just yell out a chord and we’ll see what comes of it,” Trout described. “Blues is deceptively simple music because the complexity in the music is in the way you express yourself. It enables you as a writer, singer and musician, which makes it a great format because you can take the music in any direction you want.”
Besides an admiration for Mayall and Allison, guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Michael Bloomfield continue to be a source of inspiration for Trout today. He still returns to the same artists and albums he did when he was young because the music is raw and emotional, he said.
South Skunk Blues Society president Craig Peterson is looking forward to seeing Trout perform at the bowl and spoke highly of Trout’s reputation as a treasured, energetic and versatile guitarist.
“Walter Trout is an electrifying guitar legend. He is one of the best, and I am both glad and proud that we were able to bring him to the South Skunk Bowlful of Blues this year,” Peterson said. “People have been calling from all over the state wanting to come see Walter. He has been a real draw.”
His most recent release, “Luther’s Blues,” hit No. 4 on the Billboard blues chart this summer, “Blues for Modern Haze” is currently nominated for the Blues Rock Album of the Year, a prestigious award by Blues Blast online magazine, and Trout’s single “Blues for My Baby” was named Best Blues Song of 2012 by iTunes.
“We’re looking forward to getting to your festival and putting on a good show,” Trout said about coming to Newton for the Bowlful of Blues. “Everybody will have a cool experience and so will we. The goal is to move the audience and have them feel something.”
Former South Skunk president Denny Fowble had wanted to bring Walter Trout to the bowl for many years, according to Peterson, but in November of 2010 Fowble passed away before he could see his dream come true.
“It’s a real treat to be able to meet one of Denny’s dreams. Walter is going to rock the stage.”
The 21st annual blues event starts at noon at Maytag Park on Saturday, Aug. 31. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $15 at Mattingly’s Music and Books, at the Newton Hy-Vee or for $20 at the gate.
Staff writer Kate Malott may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 422, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.