Mike Stephenson interviewed this Jackson, Mississippi based blues musician in his home city in October 2018. Many thanks go out to Peggy Brown of Hit The Road Entertainment who is also King’s manager.
Introduction: King Edward has spent a lifetime in the blues, from his home state of Louisiana to Chicago, and then to Jackson, mixing with and playing with some of the best in the blues and zydeco worlds. He tells his story here:
“I’m King Edward Antoine, real name Edward Antoine. I was born in Rayne, Louisiana. I used to drive tractors and was a sharecropper and my father was a tractor driver and I used to help him in the fields and I used to pick cotton, we kept rice and that was so hard. I stayed with him and worked in the fields when my brothers had left.
“I used to drive tractors at night and my brother in law would drive the tractor from 7 to 12 midnight and then I would drive from 12 to 5 in the morning. The moon was so bright you could see without lights on the tractor. I got hurt once on the tractor on my right arm and then I quit, as I wanted to play my music.
“I didn’t get the schooling like I was supposed to. After my brother passed in 1957 we quit sharecropping. I got into music early, as my cousins and friends had bands, and I wanted to play with them so bad that I followed them wherever they would go and practiced with them and I got good enough to get onstage with them.
“My first big gig was with Clifton Chenier playing zydeco music. This was the late 50’s and after I played with him for a while I got my own band and started playing, with all my jobs being in white clubs; I didn’t do too many black clubs back then. I was doing hardcore blues back then.
“After my daddy stopped calling me and stuff like that, I moved to Port Arthur in Texas and I played in Lake Charles, Louisiana. There was a d.j. there and he started having shows with Gatemouth Brown and Big Joe Turner and Guitar Slim, so that’s how I got to learn how to play ‘Things I Used To Do’, because we were all on the shows together and I was playing guitar behind Gatemouth.
“When he hit the road his daughter started playing with me and my band, she was a drummer and a singer. From there I moved to Portland, Oregon and I got me a little three piece there. I moved to Portland in 1960 and I stayed there a year and I got with an orchestra as a guitarist, that’s how I learnt how to play jazz.”
A move to Chicago in the early 60’s helped King Edward’s musical career and had him playing with some of the finest blues and soul acts around the city at that time.
“Then my brother Nolan Struck called me from Chicago, telling me I should go to Chicago, as that was where the blues is at and he was playing with Lonnie Brooks in Chicago at that time, playing bass and singing. As a matter of fact he was also playing with Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson. I moved to Chicago in 1961 and that’s when I played with Fenton Robinson and I think I recorded some stuff with him like ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ and I learnt the words to that and put it on my ‘Brother To Brother’ CD.
“Fenton was playing at Theresa’s Lounge and I was playing bass with him there. I played bass for him on a guitar. Theresa asked me what my instrument was and I told her I was a lead guitar player and she finally gave me a job on my own. I was also playing with Junior Wells because that was his regular job at the club when he was in town. I backed up Junior Wells and I got to play with James Cotton and he wanted to hire me to go on the road with him, but I was Junior Wells’ guitar player at that time so I couldn’t go with him.
“I played Theresa’s a long time and Muddy Waters would come in and he would sit in with us. We would then leave Theresa’s and go to Buddy Guy’s club The Checkerboard. We did a video there and I played with Nolan on that video. There was a horn player who got me hooked up with the Leaner brothers who ran the One-derful label, and I did some studio work for them and for their various artists.
“My cousin who was playing with me in Louisiana, he was already in Chicago, so when I got there we hooked back up. I got to play with Syl Johnson and Jimmy Johnson and I played with Billy Boy Arnold and Johnny Hi Fi. I was playing all over in Chicago, there was so many clubs in Chicago back then.
“When I left Theresa’s Lounge, that’s when I hooked up with McKinley Mitchell. Pervis Spann was booking McKinley so I became a guitar player for McKinley, but we didn’t use no band, what we did was use Redd Foxx’s big band, he had a sixteen piece orchestra. One time Bobby Bland’s band backed us, so I got a chance to play with them. I got a chance to meet The Temptations and Smokey Robinson. Aretha Franklin came to sit in with us one night in Chicago. After they left the Regal Theatre, the artists used to come out to the night clubs. I was a regular member of McKinley’s band.”
Another move, this time from Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi in the mid 70’s was the next step in King Edward’s career which takes us up to the present.
“I moved with McKinley to Jackson, Mississippi in 1975 and we started working for Malaco and recording there. I recorded a lot of his songs like ‘End Of The Rainbow’, ‘The Town I Live In’, ‘Trouble Blues’, ‘You Know I’ve Tried’. So I worked for Malaco then, and then McKinley went back to Chicago and he passed away in 1986 so I started doing my own thing in Jackson. I got with Ace Records and I did some recordings with my brother Nolan.
“Before that though, I did an album with all different artists on there, with artists like Elmore James Jr. and Sam Myers, Johnny Littlejohn, Bad Smitty, which was called ‘Genuine Mississippi Blues’. Those guys would come from Chicago to record, so we all got on the same album together. I was backing some of them up on guitar.
“So I got my own band together and played at places like the Subway Lounge in Jackson for a long time. Back then, blacks and whites were getting along and we used to have a packed house and we did the DVD ‘Last Of The Mississippi Jukes’ at the Subway Lounge. I was a member of the house band there for some time. I used to play one weekend and The House Rockers would play the other weekend. So there were two different bands playing there every other weekend. Levon Lindsey would sing with me and Patrice Moncell, although they would sing with both bands.
“I would play on Farish Street and that’s where I met Sam Myers, so we hooked up and played together for a while. I would play The Queen Of Hearts, Richard’s Playhouse, The Hideaway and I used to do a lot of house parties.
“I was doing a lot of my own bookings and then I met Miss Peggy Brown of Hit The Road Entertainment and I was looking for a manager and we talked it over and we signed the contract. My last CD ’50 Years Of The Blues’, Peggy got that together and she put me in touch with Brian Brinkerhoff who recorded that album in Nashville and Peggy put it out on her Hit The Road Entertainment label.
“Over the years I’ve played the Chicago Blues Festival with Nolan, and I do the blues jam at Hal & Mal’s every Monday night. Me and Abdul Rasheed do a duet together. I play all around Jackson and Mississippi. I do a solo set or play with a band. I’ve played music all my life.”
Visit King Edward on the web at: www.hittheroadentertainment.com/king-edward-antoine.
Interviewer Mike Stephenson is a UK based blues journalist and photographer who has been a blues fan all his life. He has written articles on and interviewed blues artists and reviewed blues events in Europe and the US primarily for Blues & Rhythm but also for other blues publications.