Charlie Musselwhite is the king of the harp. Not the kind angels carry, but the shiny, feisty, handheld harmonica. Growing up in Memphis when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis were hot, Musselwhite earned his blues nickname “Memphis Charlie” while pouring concrete, digging ditches and running moonshine in a 1950 Lincoln. He headed for Chicago as a young man to find a factory job, and continued his blues education on the Southside with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Big Walter Horton.
After success with his 1966 album Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s Southside Band (yes, he spelled his first name differently on the album title; no, we don’t know why), he relocated to San Francisco to mingle with the hippies as King of the Blues in the ’60s counterculture movement. Musselwhite hasn’t stopped playing the harp since. His long string of albums–30 to date–have won him 35 blues music awards and 11 Grammy nominations.
In 2013 he recorded Get Up! with Ben Harper and won the 2014 Grammy for Best Blues Album. It’s almost as if Musselwhite keeps getting better with age. That album combines Harper’s sweet vocals with Musselwhite’s gritty harp. This wasn’t his first time teaming up with other artists–he’s toured with Hot Tuna, Cuarteto Patria, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Waits and Bonnie Raitt. He’s also won several lifetime achievement awards for blues and jazz.
Musselwhite has said the key to his success has been finding the style music that suits and inspires him. His 2015 release “I Ain’t Lyin'” is testament to that. Its big bold bluesy sound is new and sentimental at the same time. But before you head over to iTunes to buy it, see Musselwhite live at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center this Wednesday, Nov. 25 for his debut show. You can buy his albums there in person.
Charlie Musselwhite and His Band
Wednesday, Nov. 25
Maui Arts & Cultural Center, Castle Theater
$35, $45, $55, $65