Raised in a state known more for spuds than blues music, John Németh — from Boise, Idaho — was no different from any other teenager coming of age in the ’90s. Hip-hop was what the kids were listening to, as well as metal and harder rock. But Németh discovered what would become his vocation — or more like, direction — by an unexpected circumstance.
“I guess I was a young man of very wide and unusual tastes and I was always searching for information. I loved music and I loved singing, I would sing all of the time,” said Németh, who performs at the Lizzie Rose Music Room in Tuckerton, with his Blue Dreamers Band, Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Németh said when he first heard the blues, “it really opened my mind to the possibilities of how you can sing with the ultimate freedom over a standard chord progression, and it was so mind-blowing to me. It also offered me the missing link — the missing piece to the puzzle in the American music journey that I was on.
“Out in Idaho, you didn’t hear a whole lot of blues. You went to the record store. There was one downtown that had a small cassette section and loaded with some of the greatest albums you could ever buy. I picked up Little Walter’s Greatest Hits there and Howlin’ Wolf’s Greatest Hits one and two and Muddy Waters’ Greatest Hits one and two and my guitar player loaned me Junior Wells’ Hoodoo Man Blues, and then I made some mixtapes.
“Then this girl … man, she had the ultimate collection of music. She had so many live records and what brought up the whole discussion of music with her was that I was giving harmonica lessons to her roommate and her roommate couldn’t make it home for the lesson. So I was there at the house waiting for her and this girl was playing Aretha Franklin Live at the Fillmore and I started asking her about the record because that was kind of unusual for somebody to have that record in Idaho and especially a younger woman, too, and not somebody who listened to that music in the ’60s. So she showed me her whole CD collection and, man, the first page was awesome: John Lee Hooker and Miles Davis and Bob Marley and Aretha Franklin. So that was hip, and every page after that, you could just go on and on. She had all sorts of cool blues artists in there. She had Robert Cray … a box of soul music with every Etta James record you could imagine, Otis Redding and people that I had already listened to but that I didn’t have in my collection.
“So it was really great to go there and listen to all of that stuff, and I also listened to records that I hadn’t listened to in a while because my cassettes were worn out. She had CDs: remastered Led Zeppelin IV, and that was great! She had so many Led Zeppelin records and even some you don’t normally hear a bunch of cuts from, like, In Through the Out Door. That was a great record, too.”
Armed with a new perspective along with the energy and desire to act upon his musical urges, he began gracing local stages with his harmonica and vocal prowess. Soon word spread and members of the blues community began taking notice.
Eventually he began to perform and record with the likes of Junior Watson and Anson Funderburgh. Shortly thereafter he was signed by Blind Pig Records, and a year later laid down vocal tracks on Elvin Bishop’s Grammy-nominated release, The Blues Rolls On.
For nearly 20 years, he has released a steady stream of albums under his own name, with another one due for release later this year.
His Blue Dreamers Band is currently made up of drummer Danny Banks, bassist Matthew Wilson and guitarist Jon Hay. He calls the band “super-hot and hoppin’, and I love it … these guys all sing background vocals and they play all my soul hits in kind of a scaled-down version, kind of like Magic Sam, the old Chicago blues guitar player. He was, like, a soul singer who played with a small trio and had a huge sound, so that’s what it’s kind of like. We’re bringing all the blues still and all the soul and rock ‘n’ roll and all my original material from all of my records from the past and maybe a couple from the future.”
Blues, he says, is “very empowering music. It has the discussions of all the different feelings that humans feel in life in the material: dealing with hard times, good times and all of that. But it’s a positive music that’s always moving forward. Those blues grooves are so great, those grooves gave us everything that made American music awesome and then drifted off to the rest of the world.”
For information, visit johnnemeth.com.
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