Tab Benoit plays Copper | SummitDaily.com

Tab Benoit plays Copper

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI
summit daily news

Blues man Tab Benoit got his start in a greasy spoon – which he calls, literally, “a hole in the wall,” complete with leaks, bad electricity and even worse equipment – in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La. But it was there, at Tabby’s Blues Box and Heritage Hall, that he soaked in the style of legendary blues musicians, as an 18-year-old amateur.

Though Louisiana’s known more for its horn, fiddle and accordion players, Benoit chose to master the guitar, after his parents gently coaxed him to try the instrument out in lieu of the louder, more thrashing drums he was learning to play. And, it turns out the switch worked to his advantage, because plenty of people in the Louisiana music industry always were looking for quality guitar players. Plus, his background in drums gave his riffs a rhythmic drive.

In fact, it was Barbara Becker, who managed the legendary Dr. John, who “discovered” him. She booked him for an album she was putting together – and that was the start of a music career that has led him to performing on the road at least 250 nights a year. Since then, television shows such as “Northern Exposure,” “Melrose Place” and “Party of Five” have featured his tunes. He’s also won the Blues Music Awards’ contemporary blues male artist of the year and B.B. King entertainer of the year in 2007.

His laid-back approach to life, which just may stem from growing up in the South (as he said, “Part of that is probably the heat; you don’t want to move real fast”) spills over into his music. He rarely rehearses shows, preferring to leave everything open.

“I don’t want to miss out on the magical moment,” he said, “because if you’ve got a show structured, the magic (rarely) happens.”

Instead, he works off a loose structure and feels the crowd out.

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“It opens the door to create certain feelings,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m not trying to create a sound; I’m trying to create a feeling.”

And, even though he’s laid back, he certainly can’t be called lazy.

“You’re never fully happy with what you play if you’re being honest with yourself, but that’s what drives you,” he said. “It keeps it exciting, and it keeps me trying to do it better.”