Blues Guitarist Josh White Jr. On Being His Own Performer In The Spirit Of His Father

Jun 27, 2014

When blues guitarist Josh White Jr. started performing onstage with his father at the age of four, he had no idea it would charter a course for the rest of his life. His father, the late Josh White Sr., was a folk musician who worked with everyone from Woody Guthrie to President Franklin Roosevelt. He grew up performing alongside him, and has since developed a solid career as a singer/songwriter. In anticipation of his June 29th concert at Foundry Hall in South Haven, he shared his thoughts shunning the labels of the music world, and paying homage to his father's roots while developing his own cross-cultural sound. 

Josh White Jr.
Credit Courtesy of Douglas A. Yeager Productions, LTD
 Here is an excerpt: On honoring his father's legacy onstage:  "You know...before he died I remember him talking with our manager, and my dad was afraid that his guitar style would be lost because he didn't know if I was going to maintain it. Wherever I go I always make sure I have within my set two or three songs in a row that my old man did the way he did it and speak on him. Again it was something I was born into - I started doing it when I was three and a half. That which has happened has been a progression of. There was nothing else that was really pulling me that I wanted to do, and people started enjoying me doing my own stuff, and that's hard to beat."

On calling the state of Michigan home after being born and raised in New York City:  "When I became a solo performer it was here in 1961, and in 1963 there was a club that I started working, and it started giving me work to the point of working in Michigan 16 weeks out of the year and then if I included other gigs I worked in Michigan I was spending 20 weeks out of the year working in Michigan. And then there was a lady here whom I wanted to marry, and so I did. "It's not so much where you live in my business. I'm very glad that I was brought up in New York City. I tell people all the time "You grow up in New York City, you can live anywhere."  On playing folk, blues, and jazz throughout his career:  "I'm not crazy about labels. Like my old man said, 'You sing what you like and then people can categorize it whatever they want.' I enjoy singing Cole Porter as much as I love singing Bob Dylan. It's always been curious [to me] when somebody goes to sing a blues singer and all they do is blues. I couldn't do just one kind of music. I have to infuse it with different feelings that are provoked, and songs that bring out those feelings."