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Tom Ball & Kenny Sultan

Although Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan are categorized as part of the acoustic blues revival period, reminiscent of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, they inject fun themes into their repertoire, whether it's "No Money, No Honey," "Your Shoes Don't Fit," "Chicken a la Blues," "Your Mind Is in the Gutter," or "My Last Meal." Sultan's introduction to blues was via his brother's T-Bone Walker and Muddy Waters records, which he had brought back to California after a stint in Chicago. Sultan and his brother were regulars at the famed Los Angeles folk/blues club the Ash Grove, where they watched and met Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, and Sonny Terry. During Sultan's teen years, he played electric guitar in garage-style rock bands, then moved to Santa Barbara to attend the university and earn a degree in black studies. Ball, too, was a regular at the Ash Grove, although the two never met there. Inspired by the '60s folk revival, he took up guitar at age 11, then three years later learned to play harmonica. From there, he played in Chicago-style blues bands. In 1978, he moved to Santa Barbara; a short time later, Ball noticed an ad for a gig where Sultan was playing blues and ragtime guitar. Ironically, Ball was nearby playing in a rock band, and asked his then-girlfriend (now wife) to take notes and observe Sultan. When her notes read, "He's got a great sense of humor, and he plays Gary Davis and Blind Blake, and he's a great guitarist and likes to drink beer," Ball knew he had to met Sultan. Immediately a partnership was forged, and they've been together since 1979. Their acoustic styles of blues, ragtime, and folk are like tossing fruit in a blender and creating a tasty, nutritious drink. In 1983, they released Who Drank My Beer? Moving over to the Flying Fish label, they released Bloodshot Eyes (1986), Too Much Fun (1990), and Filthy Rich (1993). Fleshing out their careers, they perform studio work, such as Levis 501 radio jingles; Ball played and sang in the Eddie Murphy movie The Distinguished Gentlemen. Another aspect of their careers is writing instructional books, such as Sultan's Introduction to Blues Guitar and Acoustic Blues Guitar, and Ball's Blues Harmonica. Ball released a solo album in 1996, Guitar Music, employing diverse styles from Bach to Blind Blake. That same year, Ball & Sultan released Double Vision, continuing what they love and know best: blues with a funny bone.
© Char Ham /TiVo


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