Guitar Shorty

He played with some of the best when he was just 17: Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Otis Rush, B.B. King and T-Bone Walker. Guitar Shorty (born David Kearney) credits the flamboyant Guitar Slim with inspiring him to incorporate somersaults and flips into his lively stage show. Settling in Seattle, Shorty married Jimi Hendrix's half-sister, Marsha. Hendrix would go AWOL from his military base in '61 and '62 to see Shorty's shows, and told Shorty that he started setting his guitar on fire because he couldn't do backflips. Times became lean for Shorty in the '70s, and he even appeared on The Gong Show in '78, which he won by playing while in a headstand. Shorty finally made a successful return in '91 with My Way or the Highway, for which he won a Blues Music Award that revitalized his career. With a scathing blues-rock style that recalls Buddy Guy and the man who discovered him, Willie Dixon, Shorty's come on like a double-aged Scotch, reaching his peak in his late '60s, judging by last year's We the People. Though the flips are less frequent, he's still a colorful performer who roams the room (and sometimes the parking lot), slinging a wireless guitar, and never missing a lick.

 
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