Thursday, August 4, 2011

Badman finds the blues - Luther Allison inspired Detroit musician

Luther Badman Keith headlines the 8th annual
Detroit Blues Cruise on the Detroit River on Aug. 13.
(Photo by Don McGhee)
Luther Badman Keith knows exactly when he became a musician.
“The epiphany for me was seeing Luther Allison live (in Ann Arbor) in the ‘80s,” said Badman, who will headline the Detroit Blues Cruise on the Detroit River on Aug. 13. “It was like a religious experience.”
Badman was 31 years old and had never been to a blues show before, but had purchased Allison’s album and thought he would check out the live show.
“I heard that he was playing, so I went down not really knowing what to expect. He had such energy and the notes were screaming out of that guitar, the little college kids were going nuts,  and it put me on my path.”
Badman bought a guitar at a pawnshop and began practicing with a passion.
“It took me a good 15 years before I had the gumption and was decent enough to be heard publicly. I really didn’t play my first professional show until I was 47-48 years old. I’m 60 now. I thought I was going to be a professional baseball player because I was a very good ballplayer. I had no concept of playing music. I know people don’t believe it now, but I’m astonished that I’ve been able to build a reputation as a decent blues act and got a little following and an opportunity to play and win awards and be recognized for music.”
Badman has played in Europe, at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club in Memphis, and at numerous festivals. He won the Detroit Blues Society’s Blues Challenge in 2006 and represented the Motor City at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. He says his success is due to “sheer persistence.”
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘Man, you can’t play, you suck.’ I’ve had people walk out on me at jam sessions.  But, something inside was always burning with me and, even though I wasn’t very good, I always put everything I’ve got into it. That’s what I got from Luther Allison. He played with such ferocity and intense energy. So, even though back then I wasn’t the best, I think people felt like I was giving them 100 percent of what I’ve got. As I got better, I was able to become a more polished performer as well as bring energy.”
Badman credits his guitar mentors, including Howard Glazer and Bobby Murray. He has special praise for Jeff Maylin, who hosted an open jam at the Attic Bar in Hamtramck on Wednesday nights for several years in the ‘90s.
“He always told me, ‘Luther, you’re a blues man. Stick with it.’”
Badman has several recordings, including the recent “Blues Nation,” which climbed to No. 1 on the Michigan: Roots Radio Airplay Chart in January. 
“I’m just thrilled to be part of this great family of musicians,” said Badman, a native Detroiter who worked as a journalist at the Detroit News for 36 years and is currently the executive director of Arise Detroit, a non-profit, broad-based coalition of community groups. “Music, literally, just changed my entire life for the better. I’ve made so many great friends.
“I love the music, but I love what the music does. It brings people together.”
Lester "Hambone" Brown
BLUES CRUISE:  At the Detroit Blues Cruise, Badman will be accompanied by  Mickey Atkins (Parliament/Funkadelic) on keyboards, Mark Croft on trumpet, Paul "Big Daddy" Baker' on bass, and Milton "Heavyfoot" Austin on drums.
Lester “Hambone” Brown opens.
"He's a super guitar player and I know he has a great band,” Badman said. “He always puts on a good show, so for me to come on behind him, I'd better bring home the bacon."
 Tickets to the Aug. 13 Detroit Blues Cruise are $30. For information, click
NAMING THE BADMAN: “Milton (Austin) gave me that name when I was just starting to do jam sessions at the Soup Kitchen,” Badman said. “I was working on my first CD and I was saying, 'Man, I need a nickname. I can't just be Luther Keith. That's so dang boring.'
“I was doing a song called 'Barbeque Baby,' and people were applauding and he  said 'Give it up for him, y'all. He's a bad man,' like in the old Muhammad Ali movies.  I thought, 'Badman .... Luther Badman Keith. I like that.’ So I took it and put it on.
“As it turns out, it's been a great marketing thing. If they don't remember anything else, they remember Badman.”
POWER OF MUSIC:  “I love the music, but I love what the music does,” Badman said. “It brings people together. People are smiling, people are happy. They're not thinking about bills or bad relationships or bosses that are giving them (trouble). They're having a good time.”

To contact JB Blues, please email

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