Louisiana Red to play benefit
Monday, June 05, 2006
By Nate Guidry, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Louisiana Red is just an old traveling blues musician who loves to
play his guitar.
He doesn't know anything about business. He leaves that stuff to his
wife, who travels with him wherever he goes. Like a tumbleweed adrift,
Red has oscillated from one town and city to the next.
On this day, he's in Hanover, Germany, which he has called home for
the past 23 years. The next day, he's scheduled to perform in Holland.
The day after that, he and the boys have an engagement in Italy.
Red, whose real name is Iverson Minter, isn't really from Louisiana,
although he did spend a hot minute there during his youth. The
Louisiana moniker comes from his love of hot sauce. Even today he
drenches everything he eats with the spicy red sauce.
"You know that crawfish?" he asked from his home in Hanover. "You know
those oysters? I used to get those oyster sandwiches and oyster balls
and put a whole bottle of Frank's Hot Sauce on them. Matter of fact, I
have a bottle right here, and when I get to the States, I'm going to
get some more bottles."
Red's childhood was as tough as it gets. A week after his birth in
Bessemer, Ala., in 1932, his mother died of pneumonia. By the time he
turned 5, his father was killed, reportedly by the Ku Klux Klan.
After spending a few years in an orphanage in New Orleans, he moved to
Pittsburgh to be with his grandmother.
"My grandmother bought me my first guitar," said Red. "She paid $12 for it."
Red developed his craft in and around the Hill District.
"I hung around with Omar Rasheed, Bill Powell and Porky Chedwick and
other people like that. I went to school with Stanley Turrentine and
George Benson. But at that time I didn't think I would develop a
career in music."
When his grandmother died, he moved to East Liverpool, Ohio.
"I stayed there a couple of years. Then I moved to New Jersey," he
said. "I'm just like a tumbleweed or a bouncing ball. I took my guitar
with me, and I would get little jobs."
In the 1950s, he settled in Detroit, performing and recording with
Little Walter, Eddie "Guitar" Burns and John Lee Hooker. In the '60s,
he recorded "Red's Dream," which sold more than a million copies.
Still, Red's watershed moment didn't occur until 1975, when he
performed at the Montreaux Jazz Festival.
In 1983, Red went to Germany to perform in the American Folk Festival,
and he decided to stay. He began touring again in the United States in
But tonight, Red will be in Pittsburgh, performing with the legendary
Honeyboy Edwards at a benefit for the Hope Academy of Music and the
Arts at East Liberty Presbyterian Church.
"I didn't get a chance to meet Mr. Robert Johnson because I was [just]
born when he died," Red said of the Mississippi musician known as King
of the Delta Blues. "But I know the man that knew him well, and that's
Mr. Honeyboy Edwards. That's why I hang around him as much as
possible. I ask him all kinds of questions: 'What kind of guitar did
Mr. Johnson play?' "
Tonight, it will be Louisiana Red's guitar getting a workout.
Living Legends Blues Benefit
Featuring: David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Louisiana Red with Michael Frank.
Where: Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, East Liberty.
When: 7:30 tonight.
Tickets: $25 and $40; 412-394-3353.