Lucky Peterson’s story comes to us bathed in blues mythology. In Buffalo-born Peterson’s case, however, the mythology is rooted in cold, hard fact.
Peterson was born to father James and mother Jarnelle in 1964, and he was instantly surrounded by music. The Peterson paterfamilias was a gritty blues guitarist and singer, and after amassing a then-substantial sum of money – through gambling and “selling a little after-hours liquor,” as he told the St. Petersburg Times in 1999 – he purchased the previously “whites-only” Buffalo club the Governor’s Inn, promptly turning it into a blues joint. By the age of 3, Lucky had already been exposed to the likes of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Howlin' Wolf, and Freddie King, all of whom played the Governor’s in the mid-1960s.
Unsurprisingly, given the environment in which he was raised, young Lucky was a multi-instrumentalist prodigy by the age of 5, when legendary bluesman Willie Dixon heard him playing during a stop-over at the Governor’s, and decided to get behind the virtuosic youngster. This led to a profile in Newsweek, a 1970 appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," and a burgeoning reputation as “the real deal,” all while Lucky was still studying at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. While still a teenager, Peterson’s skills as a multi-instrumentalist led to touring and recording stints with the likes of Etta James, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Little Milton, gigs he worked while simultaneously pursuing a solo career.
Peterson has by this point achieved cult legend status in the world of R&B- and gospel-based blues. It’s fitting, then, that the folks at Jazz at Lincoln Center picked the former child star to preside over their presentation The Roots of Acoustic Blues, a program that organizers say will “explore the early styles at the core of the blues, exemplifying the music's honest optimism in the face of hardship…. Famously versatile and also a rare master of the blues in its true original form, (Peterson) is the perfect artist for such a program.”
Peterson will perform at 7 and 9 p.m. Jan. 20 and 21,Peterson will perform in the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, located in the Times Warner Building at Columbus Circle, and will host free pre-concert discussions at 6 and 8:30 p.m. both nights. Buffalo fans can watch the 7 p.m. Jan. 20 performance on a free live webcast, via jazz.org/live.
Right on, Lucky. But it must be said – luck’s got nuthin’ to do with it.