New Orleans singer and guitarist Walter "Wolfman" Washington began his music career backing up such New Orleans legends as Lee Dorsey and Johnny Adams.
Washington is now a vital force on the New Orleans music scene and will perform a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4 as part of the WDCB Live Jazz Concert Series and 2016 Lakeside Pavilion Free Outdoor Summer Series at College of DuPage's McAninch Arts Center, Lakeside Pavilion, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn. More information is available at atthemac.org.
Suburban Life reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Washington about his career and the upcoming show.
Schelkopf: I know the name of your band is The Roadmasters. It seems like that kind of shows your love for the road. What should people expect when they come to your show?
Washington: That's why I named the band The Roadmasters because I wanted to stay on the road as much as possible. When I was out there with Lee, it was a thrill to see all those big lights, and it just stuck with me.
When I decided to go on my own, I decided it would be an appropriate name. I like seeing different places when I tour and how people react to the music. It's just a treat.
Schelkopf: I know that you backed both Dorsey and Adams early on in your career. I understand that Adams showed you how to really use your voice. What kind of tips did he give you? What did you learn from him?
Washington: Mainly, I learned how to pay attention to my body on stage. That's something you don't think of paying attention to.
Schelkopf: Was he showing you how you could stretch out your voice?
Washington: Yeah, basically. He taught me how to control high notes. There's a way that you can tighten up your throat.
Schelkopf: I understand you made your first guitar from a cigar box, rubber bands and a clothes hanger. What made you want to make it?
Washington: I was kind of interested because all my uncles played guitar (well-known guitarists Guitar Slim and Lightnin' Slim). And one of my uncles gave me an acoustic guitar.
Schelkopf: Guitar Slim was quite the innovator. He experimented with distorted overtones on the electric guitar before Jimi Hendrix. What did he teach you?
Washington: Basically, I sat and watched them. The only time I would really get to see them was when we had a family reunion, and we had to go to Baton Rouge.
I wasn't even playing music at the time. But I was intrigued by the way they were playing.
I love it. From the first time I picked up a guitar, I loved playing it.
When I play, sometimes my fingers just take over. But you have some guys who don't really want to project what they feel. They only project what they think they should do.
There are some guys who play the same song the same way every night. If you don't have some sort of emotion in what you are playing, it's just going to sound dull.
Schelkopf: You've received a lot of critical acclaim, and I know that this year, you were nominated for a Big Easy award for best rhythm and blues band. Does it mean a lot for you to be honored like that?
Washington: Oh, yes indeed. All my life, brother, it's been my dream to be a pillar of New Orleans. And thank Jesus, I have gotten to the point where I am recognized everywhere I go.
If you go
WHAT: Walter "Wolfman" Washington and The Roadmasters concert
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4; pavillion opens at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: College of DuPage's McAninch Arts Center, Lakeside Pavilion, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn
DETAILS: Bring a chair or blanket to enjoy the outdoor concert.