Bernard Allison got a really early start to his musical path in life.
course, it can help to have a genuine titan of your chosen line of work around
from the word go and, as the son of blues icon Luther Allison, Bernard dived
headlong into the craft at the tender age of 10.
This Friday and
Saturday, Allison will show local audiences just how far he has taken his art in
the intervening 38 years at a concert at the Hemdat Yamim Club in the Galilee
(Friday – doors open 8:30 p.m., show starts 10 p.m.), and a show at the Zappa
Club in Tel Aviv on Saturday (doors open 7:45 p.m., show starts at 9
Allison will be backed by the local Blues Rebels band of singer
and harmonica player Dov Hammer, guitarist Andy Watts, bass player-vocalist Ilan
Hillel and drummer Alon Hillel.
“It all started with my dad,” says
“I basically studied him and learned where he was coming from
with the music, before I started listening to other artists. I wanted to learn
my guitar based on that. My father was definitely my biggest
And the youngster could have done far worse. Over a 40-year
career Luther Allison, who died in 1997 at the age of 57, mixed it with such
greats of the blues community as Howlin’ Wolf and James Cotton, and put out over
Mind you, it was a while before Allison Sr. discovered his son
have been perfecting his guitar licks. “I played guitar for three years before
he knew about it,” Allison recalls, adding that despite being a proverbial chip
off the old block, when it comes to music, he has always been his own
“I taught myself, so it was more or less me perfecting his
recordings before presenting him with even the idea that I was interested in
playing. I could play everything my dad had ever recorded note for
That go-it-alone ethos has stood Allison in good stead ever since.
“My playing all comes from me being a selftaught musician. I can pick out and
play pretty much everything I hear. It’s a blessing that I have that
Allison’s initial three-year gestation period launched him
straight into active duty. “My dad was pretty amazed when he heard me play at
the age of 13.
The day he found out I could play he was actually doing a
recording, so the first time I played with him was on a recording.”
youngster soon hit the road with his dad and all the other older cats, and
hanging around with them when they came over to jam with his
However, that didn’t exactly mean that the youngster and the regular
members of the band necessarily became buddies.
“I was raised to respect
my elders and taught that when older people were talking, to keep quiet,” notes
Allison. That discipline, he says, came in handy for his musical
“We were taught to sit back and listen when our elders were
talking, and I think that carried over for me as a musician. I would listen to
someone else playing something, rather than just jumping and saying ‘I know how
to do this.’” There were other benefits of being seen and not heard. “I listened
to all the stories those guys would tell even before I considered playing
music,” says Allison. “That really put a bug in my ear – those stories my dad
told of hanging with people like [blues legends] Muddy Waters and Albert King,
and all those names, and I thought ‘that sounds cool.’” Listening to the other
musicians in the band while you’re on stage, is, of course, a prerequisite for
being a professional musician, too, and those childhood eavesdropping sessions
proved to be an invaluable training aid.
“Listening to the other players
is how the music evolves,” states Allison. “If you know your instrument you can
pretty much get up and play with anyone, but you also have to be aware of what
the others are doing. If I’m playing with [blues icon] BB King, I’m not going to
try to play like BB King. Playing music is not a competition, and you have to
respect the music. I think jazz, blues and gospel music are maybe one of the few
genres that the musicians understand that we don’t own any of this.
music has been around for years.
You can only put your take on it and,
hopefully, your take will inform someone else, and that the genre will continue
to the next generation.”
Allison has certainly been doing his bit to keep
the blues flame burning brightly.
After accumulating stage and recording
time, and blues street cred, with his dad, including an appearance at the 1983
Chicago Blues Festival, shortly after he graduated from high school the teenaged
Allison received a call from veteran blues vocalist Koko Taylor and, youth
notwithstanding, became her lead guitarist, and learned more about the do’s and
dont’s of life on the road.
In 1990, when he was 25, Allison released his
first solo album – the name of which, The Next Generation, is self-explanatory –
and there have been around a dozen more releases since then. That first release
was recorded in Paris, where Luther was based at the time, and Allison also
spent several years based in Europe.
The continent continues to be a
happy hunting ground for him. “I play a lot in Europe, and often feel like some
of the gigs are like a sort of family reunion,” he says. “I see a lot of my
dad’s old friends there and there is always a great atmosphere.”
he has now been in the business for over three decades, Allison says he doesn’t
necessarily attribute his accrued prowess to the early start he got. “It’s not
an age thing, or a color thing,” he states. “If you’ve got it, you’ve got it.
It’s that simple.”
Bernard Allison has clearly “got it.”
tickets and more information: (03) 762-6666, *9080 and
www.zappa-club.co.il, (03) 522-1212 and www.e-tickets.co.il
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