ROAD- TESTED Royalty
Guitar World|November 2021
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram assumes his throne atop the Delta blues tradition
JIM BEAUGEZ

CHRISTONE “KINGFISH” INGRAM, the 22-year-old heir to the Delta blues crown, is holding court with fans in Indianola, Mississippi, where he and nearly a dozen other guitarists are paying tribute to the “Blues Boy” himself, native son B.B. King.'

After stepping off the stage strapped to a cherry red Gibson ES-335, he makes his way through the crowd and stops to serenade a young fan with a gentle phrase worthy of tonight’s honoree. Before the night’s over, Ingram will debut the title track from his hotly anticipated second album, 662 [Alligator], out July 23, and perform King’s 1953 single “Woke Up This Morning (My Baby She Was Gone)” with members of King’s backing band.

As part of an ensemble of guitar players that included Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi and Gary Clark Jr., Ingram was on hand to celebrate a 4,500-square-foot addition to the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, which opened in 2008. The new wing tells the story of how King made his name on the road by playing an average 300 gigs per year for nearly three decades, and features a tour bus he purchased new in 1987 and rode for more than 12 million miles — enough for 25 round trips to the moon.

The gleaming motor coach also serves as a metaphor for Ingram’s life, especially since dropping his Grammy-nominated and roundly applauded debut album, Kingfish [Alligator], in 2019. For the better part of a decade, Ingram had been a rising prodigy in the Delta blues scene, stunning audiences with his mastery of licks popularized by King and others. As he grew as a player, thanks to lessons at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale and his daily regimen of scouring YouTube for tips, he began to breathe the fire of Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Hazel into those 12-bar blues standards. That’s when things really started to cook for the young man christened “Kingfish” by locals in the Clarksdale, Mississippi scene where he grew up.

In 2019 alone, Ingram toured extensively with Buddy Guy, who helped him record his debut, made his “Austin City Limits” debut, and opened for Jason Isbell during a seven-night residency at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. Since then, he’s headlined two North American tours of his own, dubbed “Fish Grease” and “Fish Grease 2,” and was Vampire Weekend’s hand-picked opener for multiple legs of their 2019-2020 tour.

Tragically, the grief of losing his mother, Princess Pride Ingram, in December 2019, overshadowed the triumphs of his touring successes and the five Blues Music Awards, four Living Blues Awards and Grammy nomination he earned. He managed to keep the wheels rolling until the COVID pandemic forced him off the road in early 2020, when he holed up in the Friars Point, Mississippi, home he shared with his mother and recorded the tribute “Rock & Roll” to the woman who sacrificed so much to make Ingram’s dreams come true.

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