Legendary blues harmonica player James Cotton and his band will return to Juneau for a concert Jan. 17 at Centennial Hall. Cotton last performed in Juneau in 10 years ago and is now celebrating his 65th year as a performing musician. He has worked with a variety of artists, including Led Zeppelin, Santana, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. Tickets are available from the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.
Story last updated at 1/14/2009 - 10:39 am
JUNEAU - Legendary blues harmonica player James Cotton and his band will be returning to Juneau in concert this Saturday, Jan. 17 at Centennial Hall. His last visit to the capital city was in 1999.
Cotton was born in Mississippi in 1935 and grew up as the youngest of eight working in the cotton fields with their parents. His mother was the first harmonica player he ever heard, and he liked it so much that he received an instrument of his own for Christmas one year.
Cotton's love affair with the harp really began when he heard Sonny Boy Williamson play on a radio show called "King Biscuit Time." Around this same time, he was working as a water boy for the workers in the cotton fields and when he took breaks, he would play his harp in the shade for all to hear as they worked.
When Cotton was nine years old, his uncle brought him to meet Williamson, who he had listened to on the radio for some time. The two had an instant musical spark and began playing gigs at juke joints in Mississippi and Arkansas. Since Cotton was too young to enter the establishments, he would sit on the steps and play as sort of an opening act before Williamson would play his set inside.
Since then, Cotton has worked with a number of artists in a wide variety of styles. He has been heard with musicians like Muddy Waters, Led Zeppelin, Santana, B.B. King, Janis Joplin and more. He said Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Sonny Boy Williamson were some of his favorites to play with.
Cotton breathes new life into the world of the harmonica. He was given the nickname "Superharp" by Kenny Johnson, a past drummer in Cotton's band, and years later he is still living up to it.
When asked what his secret is, he responded simply, "I play the blues. That's my secret."
The year 2009 marks his 65th year as an entertaining musician. After all that time, he is still glad to be doing what he loves, though he admitted to taking breaks every once in a while. He has performed all over the world, though one place he hasn't yet visited is Australia.
Cotton now spends most of his time in warm climates, although he is no stranger to cold after living in Chicago for several year.
He said he is looking forward to coming to Juneau again and is excited "just to have a good time and meet the people."
"Superharp" will perform Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Centennial Hall. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $18 for students and seniors, and $10 for ages 5 and under.. For more info call 586-ARTS or visit www.jahc.org.