Play it forward

I t was over twenty years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. My wife and I were living in the old Samu Apartments building in the Oregon District above Sloopy’s bar—and I mean directly above Sloopy’s; the noise from the bar shook our pictures off the walls on a regular basis. […]

Bluesman Noah Wotherspoon rocks Hannah’s


Noah Wotherspoon won “Best Blues Artist” of the 2017 Cincinnati Entertainer Awards.

By Tim Walker, Photos By Edward Sawicki

It was over twenty years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. My wife and I were living in the old Samu Apartments building in the Oregon District above Sloopy’s bar—and I mean directly above Sloopy’s; the noise from the bar shook our pictures off the walls on a regular basis. One night to escape the noise we went out for a walk, and as we passed by the Nite Owl, we heard a band jamming on some electric blues. These guys were good; the music was soulful, wailing, and passionate. Even a casual listener could tell that the guitarist really knew his way around a fretboard. We sat outside and listened for a while, enthralled by what we heard and, curiosity getting the best of me, I just had to take a peek in the door to see who was onstage. Imagine how shocked I was to see a thin little 14-year-old teenager with long blonde hair onstage, absolutely engrossed in the music, playing with the soul of someone far beyond his years and captivating everyone inside.

That was my introduction to Noah Wotherspoon, and since that long-ago day back in 1996, the Dayton-born blues musician’s talent and success has only grown. “That was the first bar I think I ever played,” says Wotherspoon, now 36, laughing when I related that story as he spoke with the Dayton City Paper recently. “And I’m still a little guy. But those are great memories. I got my start there back when Paul Kuppin was the owner…he was always cool, and he had such great stories. He played saxophone, and I think he’d actually played gigs with Roy Orbison. I started going down to the blues jams there when Tim Arnold and the Soulcasters were hosting jams there. Tim was pretty much the first guy to introduce me to the blues and made me delve deeper into it.”

Noah Wotherspoon and his band will be performing a special homecoming show this Saturday, May 19, at Hannah’s, located at 121 North Ludlow Street in Dayton. The all-ages show starts at 10 p.m., doors open at 9 p.m., and there is a $5 cover charge. Sitting in and joining Wotherspoon onstage will be two fellow local guitar prodigies: 10-year-old Moses Mabarak and 17-year-old Kellen Williams, and prior to the Homecoming show, Hannah’s will be hosting their weekly all-ages family-friendly blues session from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., so make plans to come early.

“We do the family-friendly blues session every week,” says Luke Feerer, Hannah’s owner and general manager. “If you’re a musician, bring your instrument. If you’re a singer, bring your voice. And if you’re just a blues fan, bring yourself. We really encourage young area artists to come out and participate. So if you have children who play or sing, this is a wonderful opportunity for them to meet some outstanding musicians and performers, people who are playing music regularly. And it’s an opportunity for them to perform onstage with these musicians on a professional audio sound system.”

Wotherspoon, who hails from the Dayton area and went to high school in Beavercreek, is now based in Cincinnati. But his passion for the music—and for helping young musicians, just as he was once helped by his mentors—has not changed. “My brother Adam bought me my first guitar for my 11th birthday,” he says. “It was a Yamaha Stratocaster copy, and I still have it. I still gravitate toward Strats, since that was what I grew up playing on, and a lot of my influences, like Hendrix, Buddy Guy, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, played Strats as well.”

More than the gear, however, it is the music, the memories, and the chance to touch the audience and other performers through his art that keeps the guitarist playing and recording. “I just want to say, Dayton was a great environment to grow up playing in,” he says, “Because I had a lot of older guitar heroes who were gracious enough to share their time, energy, and knowledge with me, and Dayton’s always had this communal sort of family vibe. So it’s exciting and inspiring for me for me to see that there’s this younger generation in 2018 that’s inspired and wants to play this music that means so much to so many of us.”

If you’re a fan of the blues, or if you just want to support local musicians—young and older—and help keep Dayton’s music scene fresh and vibrant, make plans to check out Hannah’s this Saturday night. And get there early.

Noah Wotherspoon Band will be performing their Homecoming show at Hannah’s on Saturday, May 19, 2008. The show begins at 10 p.m., and Hannah’s is located at 121 North Ludlow Street in Dayton. For more information, visit www.noahwotherspoon.com, hannahsonludlow.business.site,
or call 937-640-1335.

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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