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Monday, July 24, 2006

Sam Myers, RIP

I first saw Sam Myers sing and play the blues on his harmonica back in 1988. It was a relatively small club in Mountain View, California, and Myers was the featured performer fronting Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets. If you ever saw the band, you'd remember.

Funderburgh is a technically skilled Texas blues guitar player, and looks a little like a grownup Eddie Haskell from "Leave it to Beaver."

Myers, a traditional Mississippi bluesman, suffered from cataracts as a child and was nearly blind. Consequently, he wore dark sunglasses even while performing -- kind of like John Lee Hooker, only Myers would mostly stand throughout a show, belting out the blues and playing his harmonica. He added tremendous warmth to Funderburgh's cool playing.

That year, 1988, Myers won a W.C. Handy Award for best harmonica player, which many describe as the blues equivalent of a Grammy. Myers, Funderburgh & the Rockets won 8 or 9 Handy awards after they teamed up in 1986 (I've seen both figures reported).

In other words, when I first saw Myers and the band perform, he was a living legend. He had already been performing for more than two decades and had played with many of the most famous blues musicians.

Unfortunately, last Monday, Myers died of throat cancer at age 70.

Ultimately, I saw Myers, Funderburgh & the Rockets a number of times -- at the Kentucky State Fair and at another local venue that I cannot currently recall. As it happens, a friend roomed with someone who knew Funderburgh well. I never really got to meet anyone in the band, but the connection provided an extra reason to check out their local performances.

Anyway, I hope Myers rests in peace.

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