‘The blues is coming to town’
Primer excited about playing 21st Bowlful of Blues on Saturday
The name of this year’s festival say’s it all: “Finally Legal.”
This Saturday, the 21st Annual Bowlful of Blues show kicks off in Maytag Park, and both co-headliner John Primer and members of the South Skunk Blues Society are ready for a good time.
“The most important thing is to be there and play blues for the people and have a good time,” Primer said. “Have fun, play some blues or whatever the people like. I’ll play anything to get the crowd up and going. Sometimes you have to work your way up with people. I’ll sneak a song that’s not scheduled for the show in there to get them going. Once they get going, you got ’em.”
Primer, native of Mississippi, is a Grammy-nominated singer and guitarist. He made his way up to Chicago when he was 18 and currently resides there. Growing up, Primer didn’t think he could make a living playing blues music but said it’s always been a part of his life.
“I’ve heard blues all my life, that’s what I grew up with,” Primer said. “My grandparents, my aunties, uncles — down in my home, down in Mississippi — I guess, it was something I was born with. Ever since (I was) a little kid, 2 or 3 years old, I liked the blues.”
“I was climbing up in the chair and playing some Charlie Hooker, some Muddy Waters, (just) something,” Primer said. “This was back on LP 78 records, so you had to put the (needle) on, and wind it up so it could play lots of songs. I remember playing them over and over, enjoying it. Been hooked on it since I was a kid.”
“John Boy,” the nickname his family affectionately gave him, always had a bigger destiny and one relative would encourage him to discover it.
“‘When he get old enough, he gon’ leave here, he going to go make something of himself,’” Primer said his cousin told him as a kid. “I always kept that in the back of my mind when he would say that to me. Because he had been to the Army and had been to the Korean War. He knew what he was talking about.”
Primer didn’t get his big break until he moved to Chicago, which he did to avoid working in the cotton fields like other members of his family.
“I didn’t come here to play music, I came here to get a job, man,” Primer said. “I didn’t think you could make a living, especially blues, you had all this other stuff (out). Soul music, rock and roll, and jazz was a thing. I never thought you could make it until B.B. King came around. I thought blues was a thing you played in a club or a house party. I didn’t think it would take you places.
“(Chicago) that’s where I really learned, learned that I can play,” he said. “When I was up here, that’s when I really, really, really got into playing, got my own guitar and stuff. I settled down with a guitar from a pawn shop.”
During his career, Primer has played across the globe and this Saturday he makes his return to Central Iowa and will perform during the 8 to 9:30 p.m. final set of the show. He had some words of wisdom he wanted to share with the audience.
“Keep on loving the blues, and the blues is coming to town,” Primer said.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.