ACL Fest Sunday Interviews
4pm, WaMu stage
When he moved to Chicago in 1962 at the age of 18, Charlie Musselwhite had no ambitions for a career in music. The lure of factory jobs led the Mississippi-born bluesman north, but he soon found himself playing alongside his heroes like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and Sonny Boy Williamson.
"I never even told anybody I played anything, but one night this waitress told Muddy Waters, 'You ought to here this boy play harmonica,' and here I am on stage next to Muddy Waters," recalls Musselwhite, still laughing in amazement at the experience. "I just loved the music, but I never thought about it as something I was I going to do. I was just one of the guys hanging out, even though I was just this little white kid."
Forty-five years and more than 30 albums later, Musselwhite, now 63, is considered among the greatest harpers of all time. His work is renowned for its seminal influence on the Sixties' blues resurgence, as well as his stylistic range that draws from jazz, country, and exotic world rhythms. With 2006's Delta Hardware, Musselwhite returned to the comfort of his rural Southern roots.
"These fads come and go, but there are some things like blues that are not a fad," Musselwhite attests. "It's always there. And other kinds of music from the heart – roots or world or folk music – it's about real stuff by real people.
"Blues was just always part of my environment. I was kind of a lonely kid, no brothers and sisters. My dad had left when I was about 4, and my mom was gone all the time working. But I'd hear that music, and it was just like a comforter. It sounded like how I felt."