12-MARCH-2011 HUBERT SUMLIN graced the stage at the new Lackland Center at Centenary College as part of this year’s Blues Festival. Sumlin was backed by the Billy Hector Band. He took the stage after Hector’s band performed a few songs of their own. With the aid of an assistant, Sumlin took the stage while hooked up to his iron lung. What appears like a fragile frame scurried at a rapid pace to sit in his favorite wooden chair and strap on his guitar.
Back stage, this spry gentleman laughed and slapped his knee. He couldn’t wait to tell me this story: Right off the bat, he apologized for “this,” he said as he poked at the clear tubes at his nose. He said he’s had some performances where he wasn’t so good – he said he was laid out, but not tonight. I wasn’t sure what he meant and without me having to ask, he explained. He has one lung, had a heart attack, has the breathing apparatus and a pacemaker. Now I have no idea at which performance this happened, but Sumlin said that after getting the pacemaker he was not at all aware of the warnings that one should heed regarding certain electronic devices. During a show, he walked over and sat down on an amplifier when proceeded to create an electronic shock so bad that he flew 20 feet landing flat on his back. In his words, he described the audience as suddenly going completely quiet, “like they were at a funeral.” But not tonight. This 79-year-old master is awaiting his 80s that he’ll hit in November. It’s great to see legends age instead of dying young from the spoils of success.
One of the opening acts was WSNB – a southern blues band with a strange name. Officially it stands for We Sing Nasty Blues but it’s also the initials of band members Nate Brown (guitar) and Willie Shane Johnston (harpist). This evening, they said it stood for We Seek New Buffets.