Boise, Idaho is not usually thought of as the home of the blues, but it is the hometown of blues harmonicist, singer and songwriter John Nemeth, whose father landed there to work in the mine after fleeing the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Vilmos Nemeth married a local girl and settled down to have four children. John Nemeth was the youngest. His mother took him to concerts when he was two, his third-grade teacher taught him to sing and his elder siblings were into rock and country. As a teen, he played in a band called Fat John and the 3 Slims with his friend, Tom Moore, who sat behind him in algebra class.
In a 2022 interview with Robin Caudell, Nemeth explained how he found the blues after Moore gave him “the greatest mixtape of all time.” “He started with Charley Patton and moved into Robert Johnson, Blind Leonard Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Boy Fuller, and Lightning Hopkins,” he said. “It was fantastic. I really loved it.”
Moore also introduced Nemeth to B.B. King, Albert Collins and Junior Wells’ Hoodoo Man Blues. “That was it,” Nemeth said. “I started singing along with him. I was 14.”
By 2000, Nemeth was supplying backup to Junior Watson and fronting his own band, The Jacks. He self-published two albums and in 2004 relocated to the San Francisco Bay area. He signed a contract with Blind Pig Records and his national debut album, Magic Touch, in 2007, caused Living Blues Magazine to say that it gave hope “that the blues will survive.” In 2008, he was recruited by Elvin Bishop to perform and contribute vocal tracks to Bishop’s Grammy-nominated album, The Blues Roll On.
Nemeth released two more albums with Blind Pig and both hit No. 6 on the Billboard Blues Chart. He began his long string of Blues Music Award nominations, with 20 at last count. He won two Blues Blast Music Awards: Best New Artist Debut Recording and the Sean Costello Rising Star Award. He followed up with two independently released albums in 2012, Blues Live and Soul Live. At Electraphonic Studio, along with producer Scott Bomar and his classic Memphis Soul band, the Bo-Keys, Nemeth created an album of revisited Soul classics, Memphis Grease, which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Blues Chart. He won the 2014 BMA for Best Soul Blues Male Artist and Memphis Grease won Best Soul Blues Album in 2015.
In 2017, Nemeth released Feelin’ Freaky on his own Memphis Grease label. The album crushed all barriers of style and genre with all-original songs that defied pigeon-holing and drew from his strong influence in blues and R & B, as well as contemporary sounds in hip-hop and rock and roll. In 2019, he and his merry band of young players, The Blue Dreamers, with guitar phenom John Hay, drummer Danny Banks and bass player Matt Wilson, released Nemeth’s 10th album, 2020’s Stronger Than Strong. Again, he showed his ability to blend retro and modern blues and soul into compelling music that is simultaneously old and new.
In 2021, Nemeth was nominated for the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award by the Blues Music Association and this year, he is nominated for Soul Blues Artist.
He says it’s a wild trip and he’s having a good time. You can bet the blues that you will, too.