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Bluesman John Németh Moves to Memphis — and Fits Right In

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An Idaho transplant has been adding his voice to the Memphis sound of late, and the Boise-born bluesman fits right into the Bluff City. John Németh, with his band the Blue Dreamers (Jon Hay on guitar, Danny Banks on drums, and Matthew Wilson on bass), is cutting a record at Scott Bomar's Electraphonic Recording and, after wrapping up a 90-city tour, popping up all over town. Németh is playing gigs at B-Side, Railgarten, Huey's Midtown, and Graceland Soundstage with the Blue Dreamers — and Crosstown Theater with his other band, the Love Light Orchestra.

John Németh - LISA MAC
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  • John Németh

Memphis Flyer: So Boise, Idaho, isn't exactly known has a hotbed of the blues. What drew you to that style?

John Németh: When I was 14 years old, I was trading music with a buddy of mine from high school, and he started listening to some blues. He gave me a mixtape of really some of the greatest stuff of all time. It was an outstanding mixtape, [but] there was one cassette that was just Junior Wells' Hoodoo Man Blues. It just blew my mind. I had this old 1964 Comet, and I was just pumping Hoodoo Man Blues and singing along with it, and the friend who loaned it to me said, 'Man, you kind of sound like Junior Wells.' He was learning to play guitar, and he wanted to know if I wanted to sing along. So we got together and we did a bunch of songs off the mixtape and the Hoodoo Man Blues record. I picked up the harmonica shortly after that, so we got a band together with his brother and a friend of mine.

Why did you leave Boise?

My fiancée at the time got an opportunity to go to San Francisco, so I followed her out there. I started working with all these great guitar players out there — this guy Junior Watson from Canned Heat and a cat named Elvin Bishop. I started cutting records with them and doing my own gigs, and that worked out great for me because I thought I was going to starve down there. I didn't know if I could break into a new scene, but my relationship with my wife, well my fiancée at the time, was so important, I had to move no matter what was going on.

What brought you to Memphis?

I was doing these 10-week tours, and I wasn't seeing my wife that much. I had a baby girl and wasn't seeing her. I said I think we're going to have to move somewhere more central in the country so that the tours don't have to be so long to be profitable. She asked where I would want to live. I said, "I want to live in Memphis." So we flew out here and checked it out, and she fell in love. I already loved it. And I wound up cutting a record with Scott Bomar and The Bo-Keys.

Do you have plans to work with Bomar again?

I'm working on a record right now. I just got back from Scott's studio yesterday. I'm using my touring band, the Blue Dreamers. I've got a rhythm section, bass, drums, and guitar. This band has been touring for the last year with me. I've never done a record, except for my first one, where I kept it to just a small combo, but the band's happening and we have killer chemistry. And I am doing another record with a bigger group, the Love Light Orchestra.

Tell me a little about that.

We're cutting that one over at this new studio called Memphis Magnetic. It's a perfect setting for the orchestra because it's a really big room and we're all cutting live. I get to be in the room and feel the power of the horns, just like a live gig.

Between wrapping up those two records, you're playing some local shows, including the Elvis' Christmas Peace Concert this weekend, right?

John Paul Keith got ahold of me to do that. He's using my rhythm section. I think that's going to be a spectacular show. It's going to have a huge choir, a big band with horns and strings.

John Németh performs at Elvis' Christmas Peace Concert on Saturday, December 14th, at 8 p.m.; and at Huey's Midtown on Sunday, December 15th, from 4 to 7 p.m; and at Railgarten, Friday, December 20th, at 8 p.m.; The Love Light Orchestra performs at Crosstown Theater on Saturday, December 28th, at 7:30 p.m.

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