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Howard Luedtke at Malarkeys Pub

by on May 5th, 2009

Wednesday May 6th, local blues legend Howard Luedtke takes the stage at Malarkeys Pub in downtown Wausau.  It is a real thrill for me, because Howard and I have been friends for at least 15 years, and to see Malarkeys come around and bring in the only true Wisconsin blues man is amazingly fortuitous.

I met Howard when I first arrived at Scott Street Pub.  His band Blue Max played the very first Halloween that I got to do the door.  Back then, live bands drew like crazy; we had hundreds of people in the pub, and people lined up out the door.  I had never been a bouncer, but I was a big dude passionate about music and I really found my calling right there at the door.

It was the first Halloween and some guy had too much to drink and climbed on stage with the band.  He was doing some dirty dance move or whatever in front of the bass player. The thing is, the bass player was Magic Deb, Howard’s wife. I knew that it was wrong.  So, I leapt over the radiator and tore the guy outside.  To this day, Magic Deb tells that story often.

On Wednesday, Howard is playing his acoustic, delta show.  It is the simplest of things and honestly so very hard.  A man and a guitar, singing songs.  You can sit back and recall the time you got up at an open mic, and sang a John Prine or Waylon Jennings cover, and think you do the same as Howard, but you don’t.  Howard is Wisconsin’s only real blues man.  All the others, Otis, Westside, Stulo, Solberg (especially Solberg), Jerry Henry, Rev (okay maybe Rev is okay), well, they are all pretenders.  They all have a fall back.  An escape plan. Howard does not.  Howard has never had a job.  His job is playing guitar and singing songs, and he is committed to that.

These acoustic shows are amazing.  I often say that Howard is the second best guitar player in Wisconsin, and I am being serious.  It is really rare that something as subjective as guitar playing has a clear best, but in Wisconsin, we have a clear and defined best in Greg Koch.  Howard is the next guy.  His electric playing is fast, powerful, violent and overwhelming.  But, the acoustic shows are different.  They are delicate and soulful.  Howard sings songs of loss and love and travel and whiskey with real passion.  His guitar playing, especially his resonator playing, is so amazing and physical, it is beyond words.

I think that Howard is one of the few cats who brings a real sense of this traditional blues form to Wisconsin, and I hope to see many of you down there.

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