The death this week of journeyman blues guitarist, singer and songwriter
Jerry Lightfoot, in an Austin hospital, went virtually unnoticed in both the
press and the blogosphere, rating only a brief mention in the Houston
Chronicle. Lightfoot , 55, died as he had lived, in obscurity.
A native of Pasadena, Texas, known not-so-fondly as Stinkadena to its
inhabitants, many of whom labor at the oil refineries that dominate the
landscape, Lightfoot was the authentic embodiment of the “workingman’s
blues” others sing about.
He lived for a time on the west coast, mainly around Oakland, before
returning to Houston, where he helped resurrect the careers of blues legends Joe “Guitar” Hughes, Pete Mayes and Big Walter the Thunderbird.
Jerry Lightfoot was my friend, but more importantly, he was always a friend
to the music. It was Jerry who introduced me to Jimmy T99 Nelson, and Katie Webster, and too many others to recall.
His three CDs are virtually unobtainable today. You can read reviews and
descriptions of them at this link. but good luck finding them.
“Burning Desire” was as hardcore as they come and included a brilliant
track by Big Walter on piano, accompanied by Jerry on guitar.
“Better Days,” featuring a few guest vocals by Jerry LaCroix from Edgar
Winter’s White Trash, and a little bit of piano playing by me on two tracks,
revealed a slightly mellower side.
His final recording, “Texistentialism,” featured Lightfoot’s new Band of
Wonder, with guest appearances by Carolyn Wonderland and former Grateful
Dead piano player Vince Welnick.
For a brief while, Lightfoot fronted a Dylan cover band, called Silvio,
concentrating on more obscure songs from the canon. You can hear him doing “Meet Me In The Morning” at this link.
Jerry and I played a lot of gigs together. I’ll repeat what I said about him
in an interview some years back:
“As a guitar player, a songwriter and a performing artist, Jerry Lightfoot
may be the most ambitious musician now working in Texas. I don’t mean
ambitious like River Oaks. Ambitious like Rimbaud. Like Dylan. Like Hazel
Dickens or Bill Monroe. You hear Jerry play live, and you know he’s going
for it every night. Nobody aims higher, reaches deeper or asks more from the people who play with him. He has this conception of the blues as a spiritual path. He believes in the nobility of the calling, and if you play this
music, he expects you to have it, too.”
DAVID VEST can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.