Louisiana Red – A special talent gone

Louisiana Red, one of the last true Blues Legends, has sadly passed away. Red, born Iverson Minter in 1932, died in a German hospital where he was admitted following a thyroid imbalance. He lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered.

“I grew up with hate.
After awhile, the hate went away.
I got into music”

– Louisiana Red from the 2005 documentary ‘Red & Blues’

Although born in Bessemer, Alabama, Louisiana Red (born Iverson Minter) had a troubled time in his home Country. His Mother died a week after his birth,  and his father was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan when Red was just five years old. After a spell in the Army he became an established Musician with Chess Records and toured with John Lee Hooker. Red never really achieved the success he deserved in The States though and finally moved to Germany (Hannover) in 1981 where his Ghanian wife Dora and her two sons provided a settled and supportive family life and the Europeans provided a solid and appreciative audience.

In an excellent documentary made by Susanna Salonen in 2005 Red talks keenly of being on the verge of ‘making it’ and indeed it’s true that in recent years his career showed no signs of slowing down, indeed in 2010 he received five nominations from the prestigious Blues Foundation Awards – taking home two Awards.

I had the privilege of seeing him during two concerts in the Bonn Harmonie.  I was hoping to report on his show and asked for a guest pass.  His wife Dora called me back on the day of the concert to check I had received my pass.  No one before, or since, has been so considerate about such a small  matter.  At the show itself I remember seeing her watching Red perform from a stage-side table – then suddenly she was gone and only reappeared at the end of the show.  Red went on to play a wonderful set that I believe included his song to first wife Elise who died of Cancer.  Perhaps that was why Dora left for a while.  More likely it was because, as she puts it in the documentary, “Musicians just talk about music all the time”  It was the man she loved, more than the music.  You could see though that the two would be lost without each other.  I remember especially the seated audience, many cross-legged on the floor in the manner of 60’s Folk Club Blues nights, leaping to their feet in applause as Red himself stepped off his stool to deliver a devastating solo on electric guitar. Not that he needed an electric to play loud. There was a tiny looking Kay acoustic that he picked up. It looked no more than a toy in the big man’s hands but he got volume 10 out of it and had a look on his face that relished every moment of that volume. It’s that look that I will most remember from this most gifted and gracious of men – The smile of a little boy let loose in a sweet shop of guitar heaven.


Ride on in Heaven Red, Ride on…

Louisiana Red at the Bonn Harmonie with Baums Bluesbenders:

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