Love of music kept Walter Trout going despite serious illness

Walter Trout. Photo Credit: Erik Kabik Photography/ erikkabik.com
Walter Trout. Photo Credit: Erik Kabik Photography/ erikkabik.com
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Four years ago, blues musician Walter Trout didn’t think he would ever tour again. The 66-year-old had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. Determined to carry with his passion, he continued to tour until he was told he needed a liver transplant within 90 days.

Thankfully, he had the operation and two years later he had recovered enough to tour Europe again.

Walter Trout

Walter Trout

Now, he is preparing to perform at Preston Guild Hall on Sunday night.

He says: “When I was in hospital, I was in a bed, on my back for eight months. I got brain damage; I lost the ability to speak. I didn’t recognize my wife or kids. Once I got through that, I got home and I couldn’t play the guitar anymore. It was gone, I had lost it. I started from scratch, at the beginning. Like I did when I was 10 years old. I sat down and learned to play a G Chord, an E Chord. I worked on it for five or six hours a day, every day for a year before I got up and played in front of people.

“What I found was that music has a new meaning to me and a new importance to me. It was all I did since 1969.

“I played thousands and thousands of gigs and after I lost it and got it back, I realised that I took it for granted.

Walter Trout

Walter Trout

“It was something that came easy to me. I’d just walk out every night and play. I hate saying this but there were a lot of nights that I was on stage, thinking to myself ‘I wonder what’s on TV tonight.’

“I took it for granted, it was something I did, it was just my job. I don’t take it for granted anymore. I know now how much it means to be able to play. It’s who I am. It’s my essence and my purpose. Losing it was profound and getting it back was even more profound.”

Trout’s career began on the Jersey coast scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He then moved to Los Angeles where he became a sideman for Percy Mayfield and Deacon Jones. He also worked in the bands of John Lee Hooker and Joe Tex.

In 1981 he became the guitarist for Canned Heat and later John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers where he shared the stage with fellow guitarist Coco Montoya.

Walter Trout. Erik Kabik Photography/ erikkabi

Walter Trout. Erik Kabik Photography/ erikkabi

He left the Bluesbreakers in 1989 and formed the Walter Trout Band which developed a successful following in Europe.

The Walter Trout Band made its UK debut in Blackpool after being brought to the UK by the late Mick Schofield in 1990.

In 1998 Trout released his self-titled US debut album and renamed his band Walter Trout and the Free Radicals (later renamed Walter Trout and the Radicals and currently simply Walter Trout). Since that time Trout has been recording and touring in North America, Europe and India.

He has now released a new studio album We’re All In This Together, which features a stellar cast of guests, including John Mayall, Joe Bonamassa, Randy Bachman, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Louis Walker, John Németh and his son Jon Trout.

Walter Trout

Walter Trout

He says: “After my last studio album, Battle Scars, which was so deep and dark in certain ways. I just really felt like having some fun this time.

“I played at Carengie Hall in New York with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Edgar Winter and we shared a dressing room. We were talking and I said ‘I’d like to record something with both of you guys’. And they said ‘yeah that would be great, let’s do it.’

“Two weeks later I played in Toronto at the Jeff Healey memorial show and played with Randy Bachman and Sonny Landreth.

“I mentioned to them that we should record something and they said yes. So now I have four awesome guys who want to record.

“A couple weeks later I went to LA and did a video for Supersonic Blues Machine and after I had dinner with Warren Haynes and Robben Ford and I asked them the same question and before I know it, I have six amazing guests lined up. Which gave me the idea of doing a whole album of duets. Once I had those six confirmed, I started calling my friends. I called Joe Bonamassa, Charlie Musslewhite, Mike Zito, Eric Gales.

“It wasn’t something I set out to do but it all just fell into place and it seemed like the right move at the right time.

“There was one really funny time with Edgar Winter. My task was to write a song for each guest, where I could compliment their style and they could complicate me. That was my rather daunting task on this record.

“So I said to Edgar Winter ‘I really had trouble trying to figure what to write for you because I sat down for a couple of days and immersed myself in your music and you play every style. You do everything.’

“And his reply really made me laugh. He said: ‘Well Walter, my first love is the Blues. But when my brother (Jonny Winter) started playing the guitar I immediately thought he’s got that genre covered so I’ll learn something else.’

“I just started laughing; his brother really did have that genre covered.

“With Joe Bonamassa, he really wanted to come to the studio and work with the band. But he only had one day that he could do it.

“He’s a hard working man, he only had three hours. So he showed up, I had written the song the night before. The band hadn’t heard it yet. We all sat in a circle in a big room and I showed the band and Joe the song.

“We rehearsed it, played it through live and once we were finished we all started laughing and I said there was no reason to do it again. What you hear on the record is that very first time any of us had played that song.

“I don’t think we could have played that song any better, it was blazing.

“One of the most emotional parts of doing this album was working with my son. That meant the world to me.

“The look on his face when I told him that I was going to give him a track on the record, he knew that I had to keep it to 14 guests and that I had some other rather large names lined up and I chose him instead of that big name.

“I told him that we would have to write the song together. So we got up in the morning, sat down in the kitchen, each had a double espresso and wrote a song together.

“That was really fun. He started off. The first couple of verses were his, so I put his lyrics to music and we came up with the guitar lick.

“Then he came into the studio to record with us. He was very nervous, it was his first time recording in a big official recording studio.

“I just thought he did awesome on there. He played and sang so beautifully and still to this day when I listen to that song and we’re trading off at the end, I have a hard time telling who’s who. He really came in and rose to the occasion.”

Trout is now touring the UK and is at the Guild Hall in Preston 
on Sunday.

He adds: “We do a show that is based around songs from the brand new album. I know one guest we’re going to have is Innes Sibun, who used to play with Robert Plant.

“He’s also playing with the opening act Sari Schorr. I’ll be getting him up for a few tunes. I’m going to get Sari up to sing with my band also. What I intend to do on this tour is if any friends of mine or anybody I know or is there a really great guitarist in the area, I’m going to invite them to come and play.

“So what I expect is a few surprises. When I get over there if somebody like Mitch Laddie or Bernie Marsden were to call me up and say ‘I’d like to come play in Preston,’ then they’ve got an open invitation.

“I have played in Preston and I’m really looking forward to playing there again.”