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Is Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram the Future of the Blues?

How a 19-year-old from Clarksdale, Mississippi became the latest blues savior

Christone Kingfish Ingram performs on stage at The Chicago Blues Festival, 2018.

Christone Kingfish Ingram performs on stage at The Chicago Blues Festival, 2018.

James Fraher/Redferns

Blues prodigy Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, 19, grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, 10 minutes away from the crossroads where Robert Johnson supposedly did some business with Beelzebub. Ingram swears he hasn’t done the same  (“Nah, I didn’t do any of that”) but he’s one of the only young people he knows of in 21st-century Clarksdale with any interest in the city’s musical legacy: “The only people who care are pretty much the elderly people,” Ingram says. “I do think I have an old soul, that I’ve been here before.”

 

When his dad showed him a Muddy Waters documentary in fourth grade, Ingram was entranced. He started taking classes at the Delta Blues Museum in town, and absorbed a century’s worth of guitar styles, building a sound that encompasses B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and even Prince. And as his appearance on season two of Netflix’s Luke Cage made clear, Ingram is one of the most exciting young blues guitarists in years. “I saw his YouTube videos,” says showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, “and I was, like, ‘Holy shit. Let me find him.”  Buddy Guy was similarly impressed after jamming with Ingram, and personally paid for him to record his upcoming LP.

Ingram says he’s encountered audience members who — ironically enough — were surprised to see a young black man playing the blues: “I’ve actually had times when people thought I was like part of the crew or something like that,” he says. “This is our culture, man. It’s part of our history just as much as jazz and rap. I want to show people there’s nothing wrong with being young and liking blues.”

In This Article: blues, Buddy Guy, Kingfish

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