Luther Dickinson on Roots

May 18, 2005

“I encourage musicians to play with some older cats, and let them watch you and make fun of you. That’s how traditions pass. I learned a lot from R.L. Burnside, who played with Fred McDowell. When I went on the road with Burnside in ’97, his adopted son, Kenny Brown, showed me how to take a band on tour. I also got Burnside’s son, Gary, to give me insights into Junior Kimbrough’s music because Junior taught him personally—the same way my father taught my brother Cody and me how to play songs. The family factor is powerful in my experience. We named our band North Mississippi Allstars hoping that other musical families in the region, such as the Burnsides, Kimbroughs, and Otha Turner’s clan, would join the party. That vision was realized at last year’s Bonnaroo show when we all hit the stage together. R.L. is retired now, and Junior and Otha have passed on, so it’s up to the next generation to carry on the tradition. For Electric Blue Watermelon, I tried to write modern folk songs in tribute to these folk heroes who have had such a tremendous influence on my life.”

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