The pull of the music was the equivalent of a moth being drawn to a flame.
Try though he might, there was just no way young Dudley Harris could ignore the sweet sounds of the blues that poured out of the old country juke joint that resided in his neighborhood.
Even though he was nowhere near old enough to actually set foot inside (“I made it as far as the front porch; that was as far as I got,” he laughed), merely just being able to hear the siren song of the blues proved to have a major impact on his days from there on out, knowledge that the entire world is about to find out.
Because after a lifetime of playing the real-deal blues in and around his native stomping grounds of Henderson, Tennessee, 60-year-old Dudley Harris is in the process of laying down tracks for his very first record; and that certainly qualifies this as a classic case of ‘better late than never.’
“I’m gettin’ up in age and kind of wanted to put something down for the public to hear and to leave a mark in my life, you know? I just felt like it (releasing an album) was something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time and there’s not a better time than right now to do it,” Harris said.
“Dudley Harris is a voice that has been muted and silent too long. How no one has ever taken the time to record him just really astounds me,” said Elam McKnight, who is heading up and producing the project. “He’s a rare torch-bearer of a blues tradition linked all the way back to greats like Sleepy John Estes and Sonny Boy Williamson. He’s an artist on the fringe who deserves to be a part of the larger conversation.”
A crowd-funding campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/dudley-harris-help-blues-man-record-first-album-after-40-years-of-perfoming is currently underway to help take Harris’ project from a lot of hard work and sweat at magic Lantern Studios in Jackson, Tennessee to a fulfilled dream that should spread his music to blues loving fans all across the globe.
“By helping Dudley release his debut album, you will be getting some great music and with your contribution, we can give this man his moment in the spotlight, his own time to shine,” McKnight said.
In addition to singing, Harris will also play some guitar on the album.
“My style of guitar playing goes back to the old school – the old style of things like you heard on Muddy Waters’ and Sonny Boy Williamson’s records – that’s my style. That style just seems realistic to me and that’s the kind of stuff that’s always influenced me … that and cats like John Lee Hooker and Son House, so I try and take that and put it with my thing to come up with my own style,” said Harris. “I really like that old Mississippi kind of sound. My dad was raised in Mississippi, so I guess I picked up on a lot of that from him.”
While his style may be primal and steeped in the tradition of the masters, if the work he’s already laid down is any kind of indication, it appears that Harris’ album will have a healthy helping of the kind of treatment that R.L. Burnside, T-Model Ford and Asie Payton received toward the end of their stellar careers.
A couple of those tunes can be sampled here:
Dudley Harris-Hard Times: https://soundcloud.com/bigblackhand2/dudley-harris-hard-times
Dudley Harris- Love Me All Night Long: https://soundcloud.com/bigblackhand2/love-me-magic-lantern-studio
Harris’ album will contain a mixture of covers as well as a number of originals that he has penned specifically for this project.
“My songs are really about the environment that I grew up in and are also about the times that we live in and the trials and the tribulation that we all go through,” he said. “Most of them (his songs) are really just based on the life that I’ve lived … you know, all the hard times and the struggles that I’ve went through … stuff like that.”
“He has lived the life and has about a foot of bark on him. When he sings it, he means it for real,” said McKnight.
And the way that Harris sees it, rich or poor, healthy or sick, everybody has to deal with the blues at some time, on some level.
“You can have money, but you can still be missing something and still have to go through the blues from time to time. You go through struggles in your life, or your family members might have their problems and that’s where the power of this music comes in. It’s just my opinion, but I believe that this music can help people overcome those problems,” he said. “And for me personally, playing the blues helps to relive a lot of stress … it’s like a getaway from everyday life and all that it takes to make it through the day. It’s like a medicine that keeps me going.”
Finally in position to let those outside of Chester County, Tennessee know that there are still some authentic, real-deal deep bluesmen that have yet to be widely discovered, it still all goes right back to the first time he heard that mysterious, hypnotic music for the very first time.
“That old juke joint not too far from my house … man, I could hear those bands and hear the bass and the drums coming out of there when I was a little kid and that just struck me. Right then I knew that’s what I wanted to do. And now I’ve been playing them on and off pretty much my whole life,” he said. “I just got addicted to the blues, started playing them and really haven’t ever stopped. A lot of people ask me, ‘Dudley, you still doin’ it?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, man, I’m still doin’ it.’”
Visit Dudley Harris’ Facebook fan page at: https://www.facebook.com/DudleyHarrisWestTNBLUES.
For more information on Dudley Harris, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.