A life on the road
Blues musician brings rhythm to Routt County
Road warrior Jimmy Thackery has seen the world through a bug-smeared windshield.
“When you perform 300 nights a year on the road playing roadhouses and do that for 30 years, by God, people will start calling you a road warrior,” Thackery said. “We’re all applause junkies. Once you’ve been there, the addiction to that rebel-rousing applause and acceptance is a very powerful thing.”
Thackery considers himself a third-generation blues musician and has been in the industry for 40 years and produced more than 40 records.
“I lost count after 40-something,” he said. “I started performing in ’66 and recording in ’75, and put out one to two a year ever since.”
Life on the road has given Thackery enough material to write several volumes about humorous road stories and embarrassing predicaments.
“But a lot of people would have to die first,” he said. “Musicians are famous for coming up with a great idea and having to pack a suitcase and not follow up on them.”
One of those great ideas was to write a guidebook for musicians on the road that lists all the good places to eat.
“After playing in Austin enough times, I realized where the good Mexican food is,” Thackery said. “And I knew this hotel was full of roaches, and this one across the street isn’t so bad.”
When Thackery was part of The Nighthawks, he got to play with some of his blues-music heroes, including Muddy Waters.
“The list is just endless, and most of these guys are gone now,” he said. “It was just fortunate providence that we were able to play with them, and we were like sponges soaking up every stylistic thing we could get from these guys because we knew they wouldn’t be around forever.”
Thackery has seen the progression of blues music throughout the years that included advances in technology, style changes and chord changes.
“It’s still roots music with the same basic chord progression and patterns, but the popularity has dwindled recently,” Thackery said. “You can trace that back to the Blues Brothers, which made the blues a household name.”
A music critic once told Thackery that as soon as something becomes a household name, it is already on the downside.
“One of the problems have been that the demographic for the audiences now is my age,” he said. “And hey, we’re not coming out on Tuesday night to a bar to hear a blues band so much. So, you know what? A lot of these places have closed.”
Thackery’s 150-mile drives have turned into 500-mile drives because of a limited number of blues venues across the country.
“I thought it was supposed to get easier when you get older,” he said. “But the theory is that you go through 22 hours of hell for two hours of fun, and none of us have gotten a raise since 1985. We are still working for the same money, but the gas and motel guys are taking everything.”
At 53 years old, Thackery still is going strong.
“Fifty-three doesn’t sound that old, but playing in honky tonks for 40 years, by the time you’re 53, you feel like you’re 80,” he said. “But we’re happy to still be out there kicking around in our geriatric way.”
What’s in the future for Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers?
“Jimmy Thackery and the Walkers will be doing an early set at Denny’s,” he said.
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