Knight wields a mighty axe at Taffy’s

D jango Knight is a young man with an old soul. “I just turned 24,” Knight told me in a recent interview. He has a great attitude, a great talent, and a great story, so I’m just going to get out of the way and let him tell it. “My singing background extends really far […]

Django Knight fuses funk, blues, and rock


Django Knight lays down the funk on stage.

By Gary McBride

Django Knight is a young man with an old soul. “I just turned 24,” Knight told me in a recent interview. He has a great attitude, a great talent, and a great story, so I’m just going to get out of the way and let him tell it.

“My singing background extends really far back to before I played guitar. I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 11. I was into a lot of old school soul, old school funk, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder was my favorite. Then I navigated on to the guitar, that’s when I latched onto blues, man. And that’s what helps me get into guitar so heavy. I saw guitar players like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix, my personal favorite Freddie King—all the old greats. I dug deep into it, and that was between 11 and 13, and guitar was all I did all day.

“As I started to get deeper into blues itself, I discovered Robert Johnson. As a kid, it’s not the ideal stuff to listen to, but for some reason I felt this really spiritual, spooky vibe coming from Robert Johnson’s music, and I dug into it. When he’s playing and singing on those old recordings—we’re talking the 1920s—when you listen as a guitar player and a musician, it really sounds like there’s at least two guitar players—the parts that he would play were so intricate and advanced, it’s kind of unimaginable. I would always talk with older guys who play guitar and they would always say ‘nobody can play Robert Johnson the right way’—I kind of took that as a challenge, so I studied it.

“Around 2009, I ran across the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation, and they were running a contest, and I thought as a young player I might have a chance, but I never really imagined winning. But I actually won the contest, and I got a call one day when I was a freshman in high school—it’s kind of weird, because in the music world, the blues world, something like that is a really big deal, but to the rest of the world, they just look at you like you’re crazy. That’s what jump started my career—‘I just won this award, check me out.’ I was like 15.

“Then you get older you get out of that thing, where you’re no longer referred to as a ‘prodigy’ then the shit really hits the fan—in a good way. You start realizing there are nine thousand other people who do what you do in the blues community—and it’s kind of a smaller scene. I started thinking ‘I really don’t want to sell myself short as a musician, as an artist.’ So I started moving away from just blues. I still love the blues, I play blues every show, but I felt so confined to a genre, I felt like I wasn’t able to grow. So I started expanding musically, I started playing other instruments, and I put out another EP a couple years ago, and it was really me.

“I am working on a new album right now, my first full length. It will have 20 songs instead of the standard 10 or 12 songs. It’ll have two different volumes of music, one will be more of your funk dance party type tracks, and then another side of things that will be more Stevie Wonder-esque, more social commentary. It will be out July 13th.

“I’ve written probably 40 or 50 songs for this album, and taken the last couple years to work on it, and I’m picking the best 20. There will be a couple covers that really fit with the album, that really fit so perfectly with the message.

“I opened for George Porter, Jr. here in Indianapolis, and we had a great time, great crowd, they dug my songs, and that was awesome. A guy came up to me after the show, tears in his eyes, he gave me a hug and wouldn’t let go. He said. ‘I’m so grateful to see a young black man playing music like this, who’s so passionate about it.’ That’s why I play.”

Django Knight will play at Taffy’s, 123 East Main, in Eaton, Friday May 11, showtime 8 p.m. $10 cover. For more information, visit taffysofeaton.com or djangoknight.com

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Reach DCP freelance writer Gary McBride at GaryMcBride@DaytonCityPaper.com

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