Walter Trout Band to Perform at Feather Falls Casino
● By Phil Reser
By Phil Reser
Photos Courtesy of WalterTrout.com
“Enjoy every sandwich.”
- Warren Zevon
(advice given on the Late Show with David Letterman, when he knew he had terminal mesothelioma)
FANS OF BLUES ROCK around the world rejoiced when blues guitarist and singer Walter Trout battled back from the brink of death after laying in a hospital bed in critical condition for months with liver failure.
Before being struck down, Trout had established himself as one of the leading figures in contemporary blues rock, a task that took nearly four decades.
He started his career as a sideman in 1973 after moving to Los Angeles from New Jersey, and was one of the token “white boy” players in several predominately black blues clubs, backing people like Pee Wee Crayton, Percy Mayfield, John Lee Hooker and Big Mama Thornton.
He stepped out of the club and into the bigger venues when he was asked to replace the late Bob Hite and join the legendary ‘60s band Canned Heat. He was with them until 1984, when he joined up with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
“When I joined Canned Heat on New Year’s Eve, 1980, that’s when the tours really began. From then until I got sick, I was doing more than 200 cities a year, every year. When I got with John Mayall, we worked our asses off.”
In 1989, Trout stepped out from behind the incredible players he had been supporting and decided to stand in the center spotlight.
“As much fun as I had being a sideman and playing with a lot of the greats, I would come home after my tours and go and play at the corner bars with my friends, and that's when I would really get into the guitar. That's when I decided I've got to do my own band, make my own music, and play the way I want to; what I feel is me. When I went solo, I was gone for at least eight months of the year, every year, up until I got sick. And in 24 years, I made 22 albums.”
But while tasting success, Trout indulged heavily in drugs and alcohol. And in the summer of 2013, at age 62, he was diagnosed with liver failure; the once-hefty bluesman withered rapidly and soon came face to face with the menacing shadow of his own mortality.
“My liver is fried, through heroin and alcohol,” he conceded in the pages of “Rescued From Reality,” the biography that appeared around the time of his “The Blues Came Callin’,” an album that confronted the life-and-death issues he was facing in early 2014.
“I was really sick when I made that and I was really struggling. Fluid was pressing on my diaphragm and my lungs and I didn’t have any breath. I didn’t have any strength in my fingers. I finished that album and about a week later, I was put in the hospital, finally resulting in the liver transplant. That’s how close it was. I didn’t think, even if I survived, that I would ever be a musician again.”
It wasn’t until he returned to California in September of 2014 that the dark clouds begin to dissipate. “I had to start over again. I had no calluses. I had no muscles. I had to work out with weights for my forearms. I would try to play chords and my fingers would bleed.”
Trout’s return to good health and to his chosen profession is being celebrated each time he steps onstage, plugs in and invigorates an audience with his playing. His latest album, “We’re All In This Together,” was recorded with 14 close friends in the industry including his son Jon, a skilled string bender himself.
Last year, Trout’s wife and manager, Dr. Marie Trout, released her book, “The Blues – Why It Hurts So Good.” It shows that to some contemporary fans, the blues are still life-saving and sanity-restoring; for others, it provides access to cathartic and mood-enhancing elements; but for all, it offers a break to just let go and be. All proceeds from the sale of the book benefit the Blues Foundation’s HART Fund, established for blues musicians and their families in financial need due to a broad range of health concerns.
The Walter Trout Band
Sunday, May 27
Feather Falls Casino in Oroville