John Primer at the Redstone Room -- May 17.

Friday, May 17, 8 p.m.

The Redstone Room, 129 Main Street, Davenport IA

A pair of exceptional blues talents bring their lauded skills as vocalists and guitarists to Davenport's Redstone Room on Ma 17 when the venue hosts an evening with headliner John Primer and featured artist Kevin Burt, the former a member of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Magic Slim bands before he became an acclaimed solo artist, and the latter a Midwestern talent praised by Blues Matters! as "vocally exquisite and "musically phenomenal."

A Mississippi native who relocated to Chicago in 1963, the 79-year-old Primer started playing seven nights a week as a member of the house band at the South Side club Theresa's in 1974, learning how to play slide guitar from bandmate and former Muddy sideman Sammy Lawhorn. He also learned from backing harmonica player Junior Wells, who regularly fronted the unit when off the road, as well as Magic Sam, James Cotton, Magic Slim, and other blues greats. After seeing him in action at Theresa's, Willie Dixon invited Primer to join his Chicago Blues All-Stars in 1979, touring with him internationally for a year, during which he honed his skills as a slide guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. For Primer, a childhood dream came true in 1980, when Muddy Waters formed a new band after the departure of his old unit, which rebranded themselves as the Legendary Blues Band. In addition to serving as Waters' guitarist, Primer immediately assumed responsibilities as Muddy's bandleader and opening act. Primer held the position until Waters' passing in 1983, during which he received additional training on the six-string, and Muddy instilled in him the importance of maintaining the old-school blues tradition.

Primer made his recording debut as front man with 1991's Poor Man's Blues for Wolf Records, the Austria-based label that was also Magic Slim's longtime home. Stuff You Got to Watch on Earwig Records followed later that year with a lineup that included Holt on bass and Mervyn "Harmonica" Hinds, and The Real Deal on Code Blue/Atlantic landed four years later with backing from harp player Billy Branch, bassist Johnny B. Gayden and keyboard player David Maxwell. The CD earned Primer a 1997 W.C. Handy Award nomination for traditional album of the year, and the artist has subsequently enjoyed an enduring relationship with Wolf Records as well as his own Blues House Productions imprint, which was founded in 2008. One of the most honored blues artists of his generation, Primer is a 2017 inductee into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame, as well as a lifetime achievement award nominee from the Mississippi Valley Blues Society and the Pennsylvania Blues Society. His musicianship and recordings have earned two Grammy Award nominations, plus dozens of additional prizes and nominations from the Blues Music Awards, Blues Blast Music Awards, and Living Blues magazine.

Kevin Burt at the Redstone Room -- May 17.

Kevin Burt, meanwhile, is a self-taught Midwestern musician who has also won many awards and played numerous festivals both solo and with his band, the Iowa Blues Challenge-winning Instigators. His laurels include being named Best Entertainer in Iowa City three times; Best Band in Iowa City three times; and one of the top 25 unsigned blues bands in the world by the International Blues Challenge Competition. Over the years, Burt's festival appearances have included performances at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival; Iowa City Jazz Festival; The Blues Foundation International Unsigned Band Challenge and Blues-stock in Memphis; and the 1996 Smithsonian Institution Festival of American Folk life in Washington D.C. He and his band have also had the pleasure of playing at the Iowa Sesquicentennial Festival of Iowa Folk life in Des Moines; the Boundary Waters Blues Festival in Grand Rapids, Minnesota; and the Freedom Festival in Cedar Rapids.

Over his comparably short career, Burt has shared stages with a veritable who’s who in the music world, with the impressive roster of artists including: B.B. King, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Luther Allison, Bernard Allison, Junior Wells, Robert Lockwood Jr., David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Wayne Baker Brooks, Blues Traveler, Head East, Molly Hatchet, and Three Dog Night. As a registered artist and artist educator with the state of Iowa Arts Council, Burt wrote and published the classroom harmonica-method book Just Play It: An Introduction to Blues Harmonica. He has also enjoyed stage roles in several plays at the University of Iowa, appearing as “Old Timer” in Waking Niccodemus and “Whining Boy” in August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winner The Piano Lesson. As Blues Blast magazine stated of the artist's gifts, “In this day and age where celebrity status is often conveyed on people with little discernible skills or talent, it is refreshing when the spotlight finally lands on someone who has worked hard, paid their dues, and actually deserves recognition for their talent. Such is the case with Kevin Burt."

John Primer and Kevin Burt play their Redstone Room engagement on May 17, admission to the 8 p.m. concert is $20-25, and more information and tickets are available by calling (563)326-1333 and visiting

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