Larry Whitt and Blue Eyed Soul kick off the Party on the Patio
The Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District begins their Party on the Patio Free Summer Concert Series this Friday, May 17, when Larry Whitt and Blue Eyed Soul hit the stage. The monthly live music series is a popular addition to the summertime activities offered in Huntington. Next month, the concert will feature Kala DeHart and RiverTown on June 28.
The goal of the events hosted by the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District is to increase awareness of the city’s parks and facilities and to encourage people to get outside and have some fun. The show this Friday, May 17, will take place at the gazebo at downtown’s Heritage Station venue located at 210 11th Street. The concert runs from 7 to 11 p.m. and is free to the public.
Ashland’s Larry Whitt is a music veteran who grew up in a family of musicians.
“My dad Bob Whitt was a bluegrass and old school country Dobro player and we were just a bluegrass family,” said Larry Whitt. “My cousin Courtney Holbrook and I would play together, and then he went on to play bass for Billy Ray Cyrus for about ten years. My dad was just a living-room picker who played out occasionally, but nothing major. We all cut our chops while playing with the family. But dad was an incredible player. He passed away about 16 years ago. When he was stationed in Japan during the war, he played Hawaiian guitars with a slide and he kept it up from there. I still have his old 1971 Sho-bro guitar that is worth some money now. Whenever the guitar’s builder Shot Jackson left Nashville and traveled this way, he’d stop in and see dad and tweak the guitar for him. They were buddies.”
As Whitt grew older, his musical repertoire expanded into playing blues, rock and soul music on his guitar. He lived and performed in Portsmouth, Ohio, for a while before moving to Chicago where he played out for about eight or nine years. He eventually moved back to Ashland in 2000. Now he is a manager at the Ashland Specialty wholesale distribution company while still playing music when he can make it happen.
“I consider myself a blues rock player,” said Whitt. “With my full band, which is who I will perform with this Friday, we will do a lot of different music but with heavy blues and rock influences. I tweak songs to sound like what I want them to sound like and put my spin on them. When I was learning how to play the guitar, I was playing country and bluegrass music because I was playing with my dad. Then, I got into rockabilly music and old stuff, and from there I got into gospel music and the blues and then fused it all together. Like the minor key anointed singing in gospel music, that is blues-based music as well. If you start rolling those chord patterns around, it is strong stuff, man. I love it, and I’m still doing it.”
Whitt went to see blues legend Buddy Guy perform at Guy’s club while he lived in Chicago, yet there are other players of the electric six-string that have also influenced him over the years.
“The one guitarist that I listened to for years was the late Gary Moore,” said Whitt. “Gary Moore was an absolutely incredible player. Gary died a few years ago. But I also got into the older rockabilly guitar pioneers that paved all of that way. I was into rock music as well, including guitarists like Pat Travers’ “Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights.)” Every one of those players had blues influences. My greatest hero musically, however, would be my dad. That is the guy that taught me everything and he was such a big supporter of me. Although we came on different sides of the musical coin later on, he was always there with me.”
Even when Whitt veered off into rock ‘n’ roll and the blues, his bluegrass-playing father continued to encourage him.
“What I was playing wasn’t his thing as he couldn’t take the loud playing and he didn’t understand it, yet to some degree as a musician, he did understand it,” said Whitt. “Although my dad was an old school player, when he was young he was doing the same thing, as in breaking from the norm. He could play anything. He also had a vintage steel guitar with no pedals on it. He could move the bar on the strings and get the same sound as the players that played steel guitars with pedals on them. He would amaze those guys. But, that is how he grew up, as in he got the same sound out of the instrument without the same tools. He was very talented, but he didn’t play out more because he was a family man. It just wasn’t his thing. It was his hobby.”
Whitt is looking forward to getting his full band cranked up for some fun on Friday night. The Blue Eyed Soul Band also includes Brent Jack, Dewey Frye, Mike Allen and Tom Berry.
“We’ll do some old blues, some rhythm and blues, and I even play some country music that has a bluesy feel to it,” said Whitt. “I have a real bluesy singing voice so we will take some of these songs and move them around. We also play songs people hear on the radio and will play some dance music as well.”