Hartford, CT – Alligator recording artist and master bluesman Guitar Shorty will celebrate the release of his new Alligator CD, Bare Knuckle, with a live performance at Black Eyed Sally’s in Hartford on April 10, 2010. The show begins at 10pm, and tickets are $12.
Credited with influencing both Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy, Shorty has been electrifying audiences for five decades with his supercharged live shows and his incendiary recordings (beginning in 1957 with a Willie Dixon-produced single on the Cobra label). Guitar Shorty’s Bare Knuckle, produced by famed songwriter and bassist Wyzard (a member of Mother’s Finest who has toured with Stevie Nicks and others), burns with heavy blues-rock fire from start to finish, putting Shorty’s infectious energy and guitar pyrotechnics on full display.
With his new CD, Bare Knuckle, Guitar Shorty has created an album that is as memorable for its defiant vocals and contemporary, socially conscious lyrics as it is for his trademark menacing, slashing guitar work and hard-rocking spirit. What really sets Shorty apart is his absolutely unpredictable, off-the-wall guitar playing. He reaches for sounds, riffs and licks that other blues players wouldn’t even think of. Amazon.com says his guitar work “sounds like a caged tiger before feeding time. His molten guitar pours his psychedelicized solos like lava over anything in his path.” The Chicago Reader declares, “Guitar Shorty is a battle-scarred hard-ass. He is among the highest-energy blues entertainers on the scene.”
Guitar Shorty was born David William Kearney on September 8, 1939 in Houston, Texas and raised in Kissimmee, Florida by his grandmother. He began playing guitar as a young boy, excited by the sounds of B.B. King, Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker and John Lee Hooker. After a move to Tampa when he was 17, the young Kearney won a slot as a featured guitarist and vocalist in the locally popular 18-piece orchestra led by Walter Johnson. Being younger—and shorter—than the rest of the band, a club owner bestowed the name Guitar Shorty on him, and it stuck. After a particularly strong performance by Shorty in Florida, the great Willie Dixon, who was in the audience, approached Shorty. A few weeks later Shorty was in Chicago and, backed by Otis Rush on second guitar, he cut his first single, “Irma Lee” b/w “You Don’t Treat Me Right,” for Chicago’s famed Cobra Records in 1957.
Shorty’s fortunes continued to rise when the great Ray Charles hired the young guitar slinger as a featured member of his road band. While touring Florida with Ray, Shorty connected with one of his idols—guitarist/vocalist Guitar Slim, famous for his hit “Things That I Used To Do” as well as for his wildman stage antics. Slim’s manager offered Shorty the opening slot on the guitarist’s upcoming tour, and Shorty jumped at the chance, following his hero to New Orleans. Inspired by Slim, Shorty began incorporating some of the older artist’s athletic showmanship into his own performances. Before long, he was doing somersaults and flips on stage. In New Orleans, he joined Sam Cooke’s touring band and eventually ended up in Los Angeles. He gigged locally before recording three 45s for the Los Angeles-based Pull Records label in 1959.
Shorty moved to Seattle in 1960 and through his friend, Marsha Hendrix, met her stepbrother Jimi. Jimi Hendrix loved Shorty’s playing, and confessed that in 1961 and 1962 he would go AWOL from his Army base in order to catch Shorty’s area performances, picking up licks and ideas. According to Shorty, “Jimi told me the reason he started setting his guitar on fire was because he couldn’t do the back flips like I did.”
Guitar Shorty moved back to Los Angeles in 1971, gigging around Southern California for many years. He opened for all the great blues stars who passed through town, including Little Milton, B.B. King, Lowell Fulson, Johnny Copeland and T-Bone Walker. In 1978 he even performed on (and won) The Gong Show, playing guitar while standing on his head. He appeared, playing himself, in the 1990 Tommy Chong film “Far Out Man.” A major story in Living Blues magazine brought him even more attention and led to his first British tour. While in England, he cut an album for the JSP label in 1991.
The New Orleans-based Black Top label signed him and released three albums during the 1990s. In 2001 he recorded for Evidence Records. Shorty barnstormed his way across the U.S. and around the world, with stops in Europe and Japan. Appearances at major festivals like The Monterey Bay Blues Festival, The San Francisco Blues Festival and The King Biscuit Blues Festival brought him to larger and larger audiences.
In 2004 Guitar Shorty joined Alligator Records and released Watch Your Back. Shorty’s long rise to blues stardom grew exponentially. The outpouring of soulful emotion, the power of his playing and the strength of the material added up to the toughest album of Shorty’s renowned career. Living Blues called Shorty “a blues rock original [who plays] screaming, empowered guitar and sings with streetwise defiance.” 2006’s We The People found Shorty delivering some of the most fire-coated fretwork of his career and the most thought-provoking songs he’s ever recorded. Billboard declared, “Bluesman Guitar Shorty has been cutting sides since 1957, yet it’s difficult to imagine that he ever tracked a better album than We The People.”
In a major feature in Texas Music Magazine, writer John Morthland summed things up perfectly, saying, “Axebuster extraordinaire Guitar Shorty is an old-school guitar showman. He plays with technique and flash, without ever sacrificing the passion. He’s a blues-rock hero.” Now, with Bare Knuckle and his one-two punch of blistering guitar work and passionate vocals, his combination of lyrically deep songs and one-of-a-kind live shows, Guitar Shorty proves again that he is one of today’s true, undisputed heavyweight champions of the blues.