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TJ Wheeler Blues History


TJ’s Journal Entry
Nov. 15, 2010 (58 years young)       

Sometimes I meditate on that old adage -- Watch out what you wish might just get it! When I was a young man, I first thought that--  since you've got to pay your dues, if you want to sing the Blues -- that I better go out and intentionally, and almost self destructively, give myself the Blues. Especially since I was white, I felt compelled to justify, to myself and the the Blues world, that I had earned the right to play the Blues.  

After hanging out with the likes of Furry & Bukka and just living, for that matter, I learned that only a fool would go out looking for the Blues. If you don’t feel you've paid enough dues yet -- just wait. Life will undoubtedly, in one manner or another, oblige you.  

The only sane reason to play the Blues is to lose the Blues. Don't go out looking for them, as they will come to you. Examine yourself and your soul daily and play from your own experiences, and experience fully with your mind, body & soul what your playing, Blues or otherwise. Learn to express yourself through that artistry. If you’re not a musician, then paint your Blues, sculpt them, dance, act, write them or by any means necessary, follow your passion and method of expressing them. Just as sure as BB King plays the Blues, Martin Luther King expressed his Blues and those of his generation (and for generations before him) through Community Action! We all have many crossroads to face, find your path and deal responsibly with everything & everybody you find on I. They're all there for a reason.  

"I've got stones in my pathway..and my road seems dark as night"
-- Robert Johnson..      

My path has been to be an educator, as well as a performer. As a young man, I was amazed and appalled at what most of America didn't know about Black music. This eventually led me to also seek out, and research everything I didn't learn in school about African American history in general. In my program “Hope, Heroes & the Blues,” I use the blues as a window into such important, and  too often, untold stories.  

That old Boogie Woogie & Mr. Shoape's 53 Telecaster has taken me to five continents around the world, and the privilege to teach over 45,000 students. I've done my best to fulfill my promise to the Bluesmen; to pass the Blues, its histories, and who I learned it from, on to future generations. On my journey I've had, and continue to have, plenty of stones in my own pathway. Fortunately for me, you can't kill the spirit of someone who, no matter how many hard times they go through, keeps turning life's lemons into lemonade. Such attempts by others to do so are moot. Through the Blues, such challenges have only made me stronger and more passionate in what I believe, play and teach. All Shades, all hues, all blues. After all, to paraphrase Herman Hesse, Blues is like a river; you never step into the same river twice, and you never play the same blues twice the same way.


(Top of page)
On the early ultra hairy Tj..I'm in the middle, Gary O'Niel (standing on harmonica) and Bob Coberly (with hat) on guitar. We we're called the "26 St. All Stars ( We were playing at a classic late 60 -early 70's coffee house, in the Fairhaven district of Bellingham, Washington in 1971. I was 18.  

(Middle photo)
The other snap shot is of me (less hairy), now with beard, sandwiched between two of the greatest Bluesy based Jazz guitarists of all time -- Herb Ellis (the shorter & blonder of the two) and Barney Kessel (all snazzed up with cap and ascot). This was taken in the fall of 1976 (I was 26)

(Photo below) 
 The duo is of Pat "Hatrack" Gallagher and myself, about nine months after I moved to New England, in 1976.



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