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Bonham ’80 and the Hoosier Blues

Gordon Bonham ’80

Steve Charles—In 1995 I’d been working at Wabash only for a few months when I was startled to see a name in the alumni directory: Amos Garrett ’64. Canada’s master of the Telecaster, whose groundbreaking solo on Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis” made that song a hit in 1974, was a Wabash man?

Later that year I interviewed Larry Bennett, the Grammy-nominated tenor the College hired to rebuild the music department. In 2000, James Makubuya arrived, making Wabash the only College in the country where you could learn to play East African instruments from a virtuoso who had performed in Carnegie Hall.

A year later we featured a story about Gordon Bonham ’80—a biology/philosophy major, student of Bill Placher ’70, and one of the top blues players in the country. And these days we’re writing about Nashville singer-songwriter Dan Couch ’89, whose songs co-written with Kip Moore were #1 Country Hits in 2012 and 2013.

You get the idea: Wabash may be a small College, but our musicians are Little Giants.

This year on February 21, the Wabash campus will host Wally Tunes: Music and the Liberal Arts, the 5th Annual Alumni/Faculty and Staff Symposium. As a gift for those attending and participating in the event, 13 Wabash musicians generously contributed tracks to Scarlet Hues, a commemorative CD (a limited run of 250) that Wabash Media Services Specialist Adam Bowen is producing.

With the event less than two weeks away, I’d like to tell you a little each day about the musicians on the CD, and Gordon Bonham is a great person to start with. Not only is his work included on Scarlet Hues, but he’ll be presenting and performing at the symposium.

Gordon brings together a mix of blues styles from the Mississippi Delta to the back alleys of Chicago, from big Texas shuffles to jumpin’ West Coast swing. He performed with the legendary Pinetop Perkins at the grand opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has opened for such greats as John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and B.B. King. In 2011 he released his most recent CD, Soon in the Morning, featuring original tracks performed by some of the region’s leading blues musicians.

Lately he has been accompanying former Indiana Poet Laureate Norbert Krapf in a series of poetry and blues performances. In 2011 he released his most recent CD, Soon in the Morning, (check out “Get Back, Jezebel”) featuring original tracks performed by some of the region’s leading blues musicians. His solo acoustic album, Get Back Home, includes a collection of original country blues and Delta blues played on National steel guitar.

The host of Blues Jam at the Slippery Noodle Inn in Indianapolis, Bonham recently received a grant from the Indiana Arts Council to study and incorporate the five-string banjo into his blues arrangements. He’s traveled the country learning from other banjo players and developing his own style for the blues. He’ll be talking about that (and, we hope, playing some of those 5-string banjo blues—he’s come up with a version of Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man” that brings out the essence of the song in a new/old way) during his presentation at the symposium. He will also be a featured artist during the performances beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Check out his web page and links to his CDs, where you can hear a sampling of his work

And here’s the story Howard Hewitt wrote about Gordon in Wabash Magazine: “Those Good Time, Hard Drivin’, Philosophical Blues.”

Tomorrow: Amos Garrett ’64

 

 

 

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