Chris Thomas King

Performance Details

Date: Tuesday, September 3, 2019 at 7:30pm
Location:  Ewell Recital Hall
Admission: $5, free with William & Mary ID
Reception following the concert

Born in 1962, guitarist Chris Thomas King became the last major folk blues discovery of the 20th century when he was discovered in Louisiana in 1979 by a folklorist from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. He was introduced to the world the following year by venerable folk label Arhoolie Records as an authentic folk blues successor to Huddie Ledbetter, Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, and Manse Lipscomb.

As the darling of blues purists and afi cionados, and the last great hope of the waning folk blues revival, which began during the 1960s folk movement, Chris Thomas King shocked the music world in the early ‘90s when he abandoned all pretenses of primitivism and embraced hip hop modernity and digital aesthetics, turning the blues world upside down.

The Blues Mafi a — a consortium of folklorists, record collectors, and researchers; white self-appointed arbiters of black musical authenticity who ironically had a cartel on the lucrative new market of white rock fans interested in its musical roots
— felt betrayed by King. They denounced him in the music press as a heretic, banning the young rebel from festivals and theaters across the United States.

Unbowed, King moved to Europe in 1993 and went on to write and produce a series of ground breaking recordings including “21st Century Blues” and “My Pain Your Pleasure,” which boldly challenged the ostensible primitivism ideology of “authenticity”
as either naive romanticism or an outright bigoted appropriation of his culture. The French, having a penchant for recognizing gifted unsung black American artists, were enthralled by King’s subversive bohemian stance. He was lauded a genius for his
transcendent folk art, which he coined twenty-fi rst-century blues.

Celebrated as an expatriate artist, yet alienated from his culture back home, and seemingly destined for obscurity in his own country, King decided to return to New Orleans in 1996 to contend for the soul of the blues. But he found it diffi cult to re-enter
the traditional American market, from which he had been exiled.

Nevertheless, as fate would have it, King was chosen by the Coen brothers to play the role of itinerant bluesman Tommy Johnson alongside George Clooney in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). Larger than life on the silver screen,
Chris Thomas King, acoustic guitar in hand, captivated audiences the world over, silencing his critics. His authenticity as a folk blues artist, by any measure, proved to be undeniable. New fans the world over packed sold out theaters and art centers
to immerse themselves in his illuminating melodious glow. King went on to appear as blues guitar player Lowell Fulson in the Oscar winning film Ray (2004).

King has recorded on the Black Top, 21st Century Blues, and Scotti Bros. labels and has sold over 10 million records in the United States. His numerous awards include “Album of the Year” for both the Grammy Awards and Country Music Awards.
King recently completed a two-month run in Lackawanna Blues, a theatrical memoir by Tony award-winning actor-director Ruben Santiago-Hudson at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.