Valley residents with a taste for the blues are in for a treat when Chicago Blues Hall of Fame inductee Michael Charles rolls into Radium early next week.
The Australian-born, Chicago-based guitar slinger will be here as part of his 2017 All I Really Need to Know tour, and in a time when virtually all musicians describe themselves as ‘genre-busting’ or an ‘eclectic mix’, Mr. Charles will offer up something refreshingly straightforward — a pure, unadulterated blast of the blues.
Mr. Charles will be blowing into small towns, such as Radium, and big venues alike on the tour, something he purposefully directs his management to arrange.
“I love to just hit everywhere and mix it up — big shows on big stages and small, intimate shows. It shakes things up and keeps it different,” he told the Pioneer. “And to be honest some of the smaller venues through the years have been my favourite. You’re sitting two feet (less than one metre) from the audience. You mingle with them after the show. It creates a whole different energy and it’s great.”
He grew up in Melbourne with his dad’s guitar lying around the house and music on the radio all the time, quickly learning how to play himself, and landing his first professional gig when he was just seven or eight years old.
“I learned the blues without realizing I was learning the blues,” said Mr. Charles, adding he was hooked first on classic rock. “You were fed off the radio in those days. There was no social media, no cellphones. When you listened to music, it was what was on the radio. So it was the Beatles, Elvis, Eric Clapton. That’s what I listened to, and that’s what I played.
“And it was rock, but when you look at where those sounds all come from, it was from the blues. Those artists influenced me, and the blues influenced them,” he said.
Mr. Charles built a reputation as a blues musician in Australia, but then, in the 1990s his career took an unexpected twist when he was invited to Chicago by legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy.
“There’s nothing to think about. It’s Buddy Guy. You go,” said Mr. Charles. “So I met my hero, and ended up playing with him and other Chicago blues legends for about two weeks. Then I went back to Australia, sat down and had a think. I realized I’d had a good career up until that point, but that it had gone just about as far as I could push it in Australia. So I went back to Chicago for a six-month stay. Well that became one year. Then two years. Now it’s been 28 going on 29 years. It wasn’t planned. I just kind of went with the flow.”
Through much of those years, Mr. Charles has toured extensively, frequently looping up in Canada, and says he’s always eager to go places he has yet to see, such as the Valley.
“Chicago’s definitely my home now, but my second home is the road. Every day is different, you’re always meeting new people, it’s kind of the musician lifestyle. The two (being a musician and being on the road) go hand-in-hand,” he said.
The Radium show promises to be a good one, with free admission and a performer ready to dish out all the crowd wants and more.
“It’s (playing the blues) passion for me. If the audience is into what I’m doing, I tend to keep playing until they kick me off the stage. I get to point where they are flicking the lights at me, in a not so-subtle hint to wrap up,” said Mr. Charles.
The show will be at the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery on Monday, September 25th at 7 p.m.