THE JAMES HUNTER SIX
With Special Guest Kristina Train
Wednesday, April 15 at 8 p.m.
James Hunter was raised into a working–class family in Colchester, Essex. “It wasn’t quite like growing up with the blues in Alabama, but in my part of England, anywhere south of Watford would be considered Alabama,” he notes. “In the States, you’ve got the Mason–Dixon Line and in England, we’ve got the Watford Gap.”
Among James’ earliest musical influences was a collection of 78 RPM records of ’50s rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm & blues given to him by his grandmother; and his older brother Perry Hunstman (James' real surname), “the one responsible for me learning how to play a G-chord.”
James’ passion for the music of the ’50s and ’60s never waned as he toiled for seven years as a signal-locking fitter in Colchester, tending to a Victorian–era safety feature found in signal boxes.
In the early ’90s, Van Morrison caught James’ act at a gig in Wales and subsequently hired him as a backup singer for several years of touring and recording. James appeared on Morrison’s live album, A Night in San Francisco (1994), and on the studio set, Days Like This (1995). About Hunter, Morrison said, "He's one of the best voices and best kept secrets in British R&B and soul."
But by 2003, James Hunter was 41 years old and without a record deal or a gig. His dreams of a career in music were fading. “I went through a particularly skint time,” he later told an interviewer. “I was forced to do laboring jobs through an agency. It was terrible. I discovered that busking was better. The hours were more sociable, the pay was better and the crack addicts were far better company!”
Through a chance encounter with an American vacationing in London, busking later led to management, a record deal and the first James Hunter album ever issued in the US. With its affectionate echoes of Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson, the disc became an airplay staple on some of the most influential radio stations. Praised for his “extraordinary soul voice,” James became known as “a treat not to miss.”
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