Growing up in the blues Mecca of Clarksdale, Mississippi, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram was surrounded by music from the start. But his introduction to the blues came from a surprising source.
“When I had first found out about B.B. King, I was watching a Sanford
and Son episode he did a cameo on,” says Ingram. “I was really young,
watching with my dad.”
A few short years later – Ingram is only 20 years old – and the
guitarist and singer, who released his debut album in May, ” is being hailed as
“the latest blues savior” by Rolling Stone, working with Buddy Guy,
rubbing shoulders with Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx and preparing to go on tour
with indie band Vampire Weekend. He’ll be a headliner at Briggs Farm Blues
Festival this Saturday July 13. He’ll also perform at the XPoNential Music
Festival on July 26 in Camden, New Jersey.
“In my household, my dad, he was more like [listening to] soul blues
stuff and like old-school rap,” he says. “My brother liked new rap. My mom
played everything from blues to soul to R&B to gospel. Any type of record
came on, so I was exposed to it.”
Ingram’s talent on the guitar was undeniable at an early age, but he
says he only started writing songs “maybe like two years ago.”
“When you get older, you have to write songs. You’re not gonna get there
playing other people’s stuff,” he says. “I didn’t have faith in my material
when I was young.”
Ingram’s self-titled album, on indie blues label Alligator Records, was
funded by Guy, who has become the youngster’s friend. Guy plays on the album,
as does Keb Mo, another high-profile friend of Ingram’s.
“Man, I was nervous,” Ingram says about recording. “And people kind of
looked at me crazy when they found out I was nervous. It was my first record. I
had studio experience before, but never for my own thing. I was excited as well
Guy plays on the song “Fresh Out.”
“We did it separately,” he says of recording with the blues legend. “Actually,
‘Fresh Out’ was already recorded. I sang the last verse and played the solo.
Buddy picked it out for us to do but when we played him the song, he liked what
“I was like, ‘Man, one of the last living blues legends.’ He put his
money behind this. I still can’t believe it till this day.”
While Ingram is making waves in a traditional genre, his rise has a lot
to do with a non-traditional method.
“With my fans, sometimes they take a poll after the shows: How did you
find out about Christone? Most of the time the answer’s YouTube,” he says.
In fact, it was another internet channel – Instagram – that led to
Ingram’s unlikely connection with Sixx, from the legendarily debauched metal
band Motley Crue. Sixx saw a clip of Ingram playing and shared it on the
platform. Ingram says he was a fan of the Crue before he met the bass player.
“It was great, because I enjoy all styles of music, so being around him
was great,” he says. “To me, it was like being around royalty. But he’s such a
nice guy. Not conceited.”
Ingram, who shares that he has “a collaboration going on with Boosty
Collins,” will hit the road with Vampire Weekend in mid-August and early
September, including a show at the Mann Center in Philadelphia on Sept. 4.
“We did a show back in January in LA at The Troubador, and one of the
members, who I think knows my manager, came out,” he says of the Vampire
Weekend hookup. “And he went back to his band and told them about the show and
they asked me to open for them.”
Ingram – whose favorite concerts include Eric Gales, Foo Fighters and
Anthony Hamilton and would like to collaborate with Snoop Dogg or bluesman Carl
Weathersby – has come a long way in a short time, but he sounds just as excited
about the future as what he’s accomplished so far.
“Of course I want to grow more musically,” he says. “Not the cliche
blues guitar thing, I want to get more into other stuff like jazz and fusion,
not only blues. I want to learn the business so I can manage my money.”
And as for his rising status in the blues community, he’s not too
worried that his diverse interests and desires will push away the
“I love all music,” he says. “It’s also still rooted in tradition, and
not disrespecting tradition, but still I see no harm in adding some rock
elements and gospel music.”