Q&A With Will Tucker of B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street
I first “met” Will Tucker last summer. I was writing the music feature for the state vacation guide and my editor sent me a few Music Voyager episodes to watch as research. To date, the Music Voyager series has released a mere eight features illuminating unique traditions and innovations in world music. Tennessee is among them. In the “Memphis Mojo” segment (watch it via Amazon Instant Video here), teen-aged Tucker works through “Farther Up the Road” with Bobby “Blue” Bland. As I wrote then: “The pair is visual discord – Tucker looking more Bieber than blues; Bland looking every bit the part of a blues master.” (Tucker just turned 20; Bland passed away this summer at the age of 83.)
So when Tucker and I talked by phone today, I couldn’t wait to ask him what he was feeling in that moment (plus a few other questions just for you, readers!).
Essentially, you got a master class from Bobby “Blue” Bland. What was that like?
Will Tucker: I had gotten to meet him a year prior at Beale Street Music Festival because Rod Bland, his son, plays drums for me. Music Voyager was my second time meeting him. It was bittersweet…sweet because I was getting to sit there and play with him, in the presence of a legend, and I’ve said he’s definitely the greatest male vocalist in blues. [But] it was a shock and scary [when it’s] someone you’ve always been so nuts about and you’re hearing him critique you. I kind of took it in…it taught me that even at his age and where he was, he was so particular about his music.
Speaking of age, you received an invitation to perform with the house band at B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street when you were 14. How’d you sell that to your parents?
Will Tucker: They always supported me, but I remember when they went from supporting me casually to being a driving force. I was taking voice lessons (still do) from Cindy Barrett. I was 12 or 13 and she let me play my guitar and sing [at a recital]. When my parents saw the reaction from people, it got their attention.
What’s the best place to hear you now?
Will Tucker: Every Friday and Saturday, 5-8:30 p.m., with the Will Tucker Band at B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street. Ed.’s note: The show is family-friendly…perfect for taking friends and relatives who are visiting Memphis for the holidays. That’s what we did last Thanksgiving, and our friends from Athens, Georgia, are still talking about “that young dude who rocked.”
You’re also working on a new album at Memphis’ venerable Ardent Studios. Any updates?
Will Tucker: It’s in the final stages. I’m very particular with the music and am really trying to get it dialed in. Ed’s note: Follow WillTuckerMusic.com or Tucker’s social sites to track the album’s progress.
Outside the club, studio and school,* where do you hang out in town?
*Tucker’s enrolled at the Memphis campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Any other recommendations?
Will Tucker: People…ask what’s cool about [Memphis]. It’s always had a rich amount of history. It’s the center of America.
Tucker was referring to the multi layers of Memphis history – digging deeper than Civil Rights to the Civil War, as one example. But layers of music history are implied, because this is Memphis. Music is our history. And I’m reminded of a quote Tucker made in a recent interview: “All music is rooted in the blues…[Memphis and Beale Street are] where everything comes from.”
Essential listening: Subscribe to Tucker’s mailing list for a free MP3 download of his first album, Stealin’ the Soul, which includes Memphis nods like “Born Under A Bad Sign” and “When The Levee Breaks.”
Where’s your favorite spot on Beale Street? Tell us in the comments section below.