The music business is a young person’s game. Ask a 30-year-old who’s been touring across the country in a van with four other people or recording for days on end and they might tell you they’re getting to old for this.
But the past year has been a banner one for Southern artists over the age of 60 releasing fresh material and taking it out on the road. But we’re not talking about the ones with a fleet of chartered buses and 30-item snack lists on their rider. These senior citizens are so dedicated to their sound that they couldn’t retire if they tried, although some of them have tried.
In October, Muscle Shoals fixture Donnie Fritts, Kris Kristofferson’s keyboardist for over 25 years, put out his second solo album Oh My Goodness at the age of 73 to critical acclaim from NPR and Rolling Stone, even going on tour in Europe. And just this past spring, William Bell, a hitmaker for Memphis-based Stax Records (Otis Redding, Al Green, Sam and Dave) who wrote songs like “You Don’t Miss Your Water (Until Your Well Runs Dry)” and “Born Under a Bad Sign,” released his first album This is Where I Live in over 10 years at 77-years-old.
Now we’re premiering tracks from two Louisiana-born artists who are just too legit to quit: Robert Finley and Bobby Rush.
When he was 11-years-old, Robert Finley took the money his dad gave him for a pair of shoes and bought a guitar instead. Since then, Finley has been playing for any crowd he could find, even his fellow soldiers while he was stationed in Germany with the army. After playing with the Music Maker Blues Revue, a powerhouse back up band, Finley recently signed to the Oxford, Mississippi-based label Big Legal Mess, and is releasing his debut album at 63-years-old. “Here I am at my age, just now fulfilling my childhood dream,” says Finley. “It’s like the song says, ‘Age Don’t Mean a Thing.’ See, you’ve got to hold to your dream; don’t ever let somebody tell you what you can’t do.” Although Finley has lost most of his sight recently, he is receiving aid from the Music Maker Relief Foundation so he can continue to play shows. Age Don’t Mean a Thing will be out September 30th.
Known as the King of the Chitlin’ Circuit, bluesman Bobby Rush’s first hit came with his song “Chicken Heads” in 1971. Now he’s back at the age of 83 with a new album Porcupine Meat. Rush comes by his title as King honest. He maintains a more grueling tour schedule than musicians half his age, heading out on the road 200 days of the year. Rush spent must of his career sitting in with legends like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Jimmy Reed, but relocated to Jackson, Mississippi in the 1980s, partly because of the weather and partly so he could continue to tour in nearby cities. Soon after he met Grammy-award winning producer Scott Billington who helped Rush record Porcupine Meat in New Orleans. This time, Billington helped him get down to basics, eliminating synthesizers and refining tracks from loose jam sessions. The album comes out on September 16th.