Who is Luther Allison?

When I was a kid living in South Texas, around 14 years old, I cut grass for money to save up for a car. One day, my lawnmower ran out of gas and I heard the most amazing thing on the radio. Some guy was playing the electric guitar so well that the guitar seemed to be talking. The guitar licks struck something in my soul and I knew right then that I wanted to listen to and play that kind of music for the rest of my life. The music, my friends, was the blues… and the guitarist that influenced me that day was Luther Allison.

Luther_Allison

In all my years as a fan of Luther Allison, I had never seen him play live. He moved to Europe and toured over there where he is an even bigger Icon than he is here. When he did come back to the states to do festivals and concerts, it was always far away from where I was, so I only knew him from records and tapes.

Fast forward about 22 years…I finally got to go to a festival that Luther Allison was playing. In the afternoon of the day Luther was going to play, I was practically euphoric. I was talking to everyone in earshot about Luther Allison. I struck up a conversation with a guy standing on the other side of a chain link fence about how nice a day it was for a blues festival. He asked me who I was looking forward to seeing the most, and I testified as if I was before Congress that I was there to see Luther Allison, how he was the first blues artist signed to Motown, how he was the greatest blues guitarist I ever heard, how he had won the W.C. Handy Award just a few months before and then another guy walked up to me and said “Who is Luther Allison” while reading a play schedule. I practically lost my mind!

Anyway, for whatever reason, Luther was not playing on the main stage and I camped out in front of the stage he was going to play and didn’t even watch the Headliner on the other stage because I didn’t want to lose my killer spot up front. When his band started playing, they were fantastic. Only thing was on the first song-No Luther Allison. The guitar player was a white guy with a pony tail. For a moment I thought about the possibility there was another band named Luther Allison! In the confusion I was experiencing I saw the guy I had struck up a conversation with and gave the long version of the Luther Allison story to… only he was on stage facing me. It was Luther. He looked me right in the eye and smiled ear to ear, and put on the best show I had ever seen.

It was embarrassing to say the least, but looking back on that afternoon, more than a decade ago now, I would not have wanted it to have gone any other way.

  • Nice story man… I saw him once on stage here in France with his son Bernard! Luther was the real deal!!

  • Thanks-I actually saw him again @ the “House of Blues” in Hollywood with Charlie Musselwhite opening for him. He immediately recognized me and shook my hand and said it was nice to see me again. That gesture on his part softened the blow of my embarrassment of not recognizing him on that earlier occasion. He died less than a year later. He may be gone, but he is NOT forgotten…

    • Mickey

      Glad you had a chance to see him a few times in person, that’s a great story!

  • Arnie Ceder

    I just discovered Luther! Listening to the “Lucille” ch on cable,I was amazed by tone,and voice of this man. “Red wine” drives me nuts. GREAT. Wish he was still around.

  • jim

    Great story Im sure Luther didnt mind he always said leave your ego behind. First time i saw him I had never heard his music. It was a blues band coming to Bloomingon so I went. After r u ready for star time Luther played his first song & got a standing ovation. I was lucky to find him b4 he went to europe. Lots of weekend roadtrips lost count of how many concerts. I saw many 3 hour sets of inspired music. Going early to clubs getting seats up front, Luther got 2 recognize us and he would always come say hi and share some time. To bad he was underapreciated for so long to me he was the best. the guy with the ponytail was James Solberg. he learned well check him out if u get a chance. RIP Luther Allison one of the best there ever was.

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