Jimmy Thackery’s still breathing

Touring in support of his new album, “Feel the Heat,” Jimmy Thackery returns Friday, Aug. 19, to Topeka for a 8:30 p.m. show at Uncle Bo's, 420 S.E. 6th. (SPECIAL TO SPLASH!)

Jimmy Thackery’s still breathing

Bluesman rolls into Uncle Bo’s Friday with new CD
August 18, 2011

For some, learning the blues is a matter of spending hours upon hours with a stack of vinyl absorbing lick after lick of legendary swagger from Albert King to B.B. King.

WHERE: Uncle Bo's, lower level, downtown Ramada Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19
TICKETS: $18 in advance, $20 at the door

Not so for Jimmy Thackery.

While Thackery found a wealth of inspiration and influence from the recordings of numerous blues greats, it was sharing the stage with hall-of-famer Muddy Waters that shaped his musical soul.

“Muddy was one of those guys who was constantly encouraging,” Thackery explains. “ He never told you what to do, but he always told you what you were doing wrong.”

Ouch. Being a blues legend allows you to be blunt when your pupil is so willing to learn.

“The first time on stage with Muddy,” Thackery remembered, “I was in such awe of him that I just kept my eyes and ears open and picked up everything he did. We heard it on the records and then stood on stage (with Muddy) and saw how it worked.”

The 58-year-old Thackery, who has 40 years of touring under his belt (the last 20 with his band, The Drivers), knows a little about how it “works.” Once described by a writer as a “Four Hour Musician” not for how long he plays, but for how far one should drive to see him perform, Thackery takes audiences on a wild ride during his live shows.

“I put all my senses on hold, find the zone and follow what’s inside,” he explains.

While few blues guitarists are able to bounce from a thick slice of rocked-out blue blast furnace one minute to a shut-up-and-listen tear-jerking heartfelt ballad the next, Thackery’s live shows are loaded with an overwhelming intensity he pours out on stage each night.

“There’s an electricity from your mind to your heart to your fingers,” he said. “You just try to remember to breathe.”

With George Sheppard on drums and Mark “Bumpy Rhodes” Bumgarner on bass, Jimmy Thackery and The Drivers stop at Topeka blues club Uncle Bo's Friday night while touring in support of their latest CD — “Feel the Heat” — a 12-song gem released in March that captures the band’s passion and energy. "Feel the Heat" is Thackery's 18th record.