Christone "Kingfish" Ingram
Growing up near Clarksdale, Mississippi, just 10 miles from the legendary crossroads of Highways 61 and 49, kids in Christone Ingram’s hometown weren’t into the blues. “In my town, every kid wanted to be a rapper,” he said. “I wanted to do something no one else was doing.”
Indeed, he has. Still, in his early 20s, Buddy Guy has called him the “next explosion of the blues,” and the young musician, who first hit the drums at six and the bass at nine, has been a rising prodigy ever since. His late mother, Princess Pride, was a first cousin of Charley Pride and she enrolled her son in a program at the Delta Blues Museum. At 11, he got his first guitar and he soaked up music from Robert Jackson to Lightnin’ Hopkins to B.B. King to Muddy Waters, with some Jimi Hendrix and Prince thrown in. At the same time, he developed his own sound and style.
Through classes at the Delta Blues Museum, the young man learned the history of the blues and how to play them. Mississippi Blues icon Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry gave the young Ingram his stage name, “Kingfish,” and the young man was on his way. He performed at the White House for Michelle Obama in 2014 as part of a delegation of young blues musicians from the Delta Blues Museum. In 2015, he won the Rising Star Award presented by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.
Kingfish has shared stages with Buddy Guy, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Guitar Shorty and Eric Gales. He has performed at festivals around the country and the world and finds time to work on causes dear to him: teaching kids about the blues and music and helping people with developmental challenges, such as autism, express themselves through music. “Treat everybody right and anybody can do anything,” he said.
In 2019, Kingfish released his first album titled, fittingly, Kingfish. Recorded in Nashville and produced by two-time Grammy winner Tom Hambridge, the album showcases his blistering, raw and inspired guitar playing, soulful deep vocals and songwriting skills. He tells stories with his solos, channeling the spirits of past masters, although the music he makes is his own. He co-wrote eight of the twelve tracks, a departure for him.
“A lot of folks know me for my covers,” he said. “That’s why it was so important for me to release original music.” He is joined on several tracks by a few of his friends, including Buddy Guy and Keb’ Mo.’ The album debuted on the Billboard Blues Chart at Number One and remained there for 91 weeks. It was nominated for a Grammy and NPR Music included it in their list of Best Debut Albums.
Since the release of Kingfish, the guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter is rapidly becoming the defining blues voice of his generation. Now in his mid-20s, he has already headlined two national tours and performed with friends including, Vampire Weekend, Jason Isbell and Buddy Guy, with whom he appeared on Austin City Limits. He was interviewed by Elton John for his podcast, Rocket Hour and in January 2021, was simultaneously on the covers of both Guitar World and Downbeat magazines. Rolling Stone has called him ‘’one of the most exciting young guitarists in years, with a sound that encompasses B.B King, Jimi Hendrix and Prince.”
In the past two years, there have been many changes in Ingram’s life, including the loss of his mother, and of course, the pandemic that stopped performances after he had toured for thirteen months without stop. He took stock of his life and the man he was becoming and began writing songs for his new album, 662. That’s the area code for his northern Mississippi home, and it first came into use the year he was born. “The world was introduced to me with Kingfish,” Ingram said. “Now, with 662, I want the world to hear and meet a different, more personal side of me. It’s a direct reflection of my growth as a musician, a songwriter, bandleader, and as a young man. This album was written during the pandemic, shortly after I returned home from a whirlwind year of touring and promoting Kingfish. It was an incredible time of change and growth, moments both good and bad, and I am a better and stronger person for it.”
As soon as 662 dropped in July 2021, fans, critics and radio stations praised the album. It debuted at Number One on the Billboard Blues Chart. Kingfish appeared on NPR’s World Cafe and the album’s title track became a “Top Tune” for trendsetting radio station KCRW in Los Angeles. Mojo selected it as the best Blues Album of the Year and it won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. The much-praised album also won the Blues Music Award for Best Blues Album and topped both the Downbeat Critics’ Poll and the Living Blues Critics’ Poll.
With the release of the two albums, Kingfish Ingram is ready to blaze a trail with the blues torch that has been passed to him. With his eye-popping guitar playing and his grab-you-by-the-collar vocals, Kingfish delivers each song with unmatched passion and precision. Steeped in the rich, vivid history of the blues, he’s driven by his burning desire to create contemporary music that speaks to his generation and beyond. He’s a 21st century bluesman inspired by Robert Johnson but dreaming of collaborating with Kendrick Lamar and soul-funk bassist Thundercat. With 662, he creates contemporary blues music that speaks to his generation and beyond, delivering the full healing power of the blues. He can’t wait to bring that power to the stage. As he recently told Downbeat magazine, “You need that crowd to connect. You need that crowd to be there so you can tell their story to them. Somewhere, somebody has the blues.”
Be there. You may just hear the voice of a generation.