INTERVIEW with Blues and Jazz Songwriter and Singer T.WILSON KING

T Wilson KingWhen travelling on the path of one’s dream you may encounter all sorts of life’s colours. No one said it will be easy but it will be worth it. We all heard these words at least once in our life or repeated them in one way or the other. Life is a beautiful masterpiece and every one of us creates our piece of art in our own way. T.Wilson King has been a musician in his heart from as early as three years old. He danced, later he began writing his own music and words, learned how to play guitar and soon after the sounds of his music reached many people’s hearts and imprinted everlasting memories. From the place of South Dakota, land of the Black Hills and Badlands, USA, while enjoying the blissful views of the river Missouri, T.Wilson King follows his inspiration full of life’s challenges and rewards. His life is his legacy. When asked what’s next, he answered: “I’ll be suspending time in a daydream on a stream about explorers, steamships, ancient beasts and tribes and otherwise finding ways to amuse myself and possibly turning it into a some sort of masterpiece of artistic significance, you never know. It could happen. Anything can happen. Dream it up. Make it so.”


Blues and Jazz differ from other types of music quite a lot and, to my observation, to play its notes and to especially sing it one must be quite talented. When did your interest to this type of music begin? Who was a guilty one to introduce you to the world of Blues and Jazz?

You are correct in that Blues and Jazz are perhaps more improvisational in performance, or can be, rather than played by sight from sheet music exactly as the composer wrote. Of course, this was mostly because the original basic forms, frameworks, or chord sequences were adopted, adapted, or invented, by itinerant slaves who had no exposure to so called “Classical” music or training. They did have a rich heritage of ancestral music and group singing for worship and work, whether innate or passed down in the oral tradition, as well as field chants, southern Gospel church and revival music, and regional folk music which was mostly Anglo/Celt in origin.

The human voice is the greatest instrument with the ability to draw on the whole of one’s experience through a single vibration or frequency or combination thereof, which we refer to as a note or chords and harmony, place those tones within a time frame (or not), project the sound waves with the breath while filtering it through the complexity of all that experience, the emotional palette, and the moment of the performance and evoke an immediate and, at times, powerful physical, mental, and emotional response. It is not uncommon for joyous spontaneous dancing to happen. This occurs universally and without language barriers or misconceptions. We don’t just hear it. We feel it. We experience it, at times, quite personally and deeply. The pairing of lyrics to the angst of the music is a combination that, for me anyway, was impossible to resist. The Blues isn’t all “woe is me”. It is designed to acknowledge the dark moments we all experience and offer light towards the opposite direction reflecting humour, wisdom, endurance, and hope.

The Blues are named for the way the third and the fifth tones of the scale are played flat one half step which gives a unique plaintive quality and were named the “blue notes”.  Not only were the songs one of the few forms of leisure, they were a way to relieve the crushing weight of slavery and cultural upheaval, and were also used as a form of code that was a way of maintaining solidarity and communicating.

The guilty parties involved would be a who’s who of the usual suspects. I was in high school in the mid-sixties when the folk music revival was taking shape and sweeping the boomer generation. That is when I first discovered Huddie Ledbetter “Leadbelly”, Elizabeth Cotton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Blind Blake and many other mostly acoustic blues players. It was a short step from them to Lightning Hopkins, Robert Johnson, Son House, and the great Delta styles to Chicago with Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and John Lee Hooker who, along with many others whose names escape me at the moment, plugged that guitar in and turned it up. Professor Longhair, Hound Dog Taylor, Elmore James? Oh man…there are so many. Then it’s full speed ahead to T. Bone Walker, B.B. and all the Kings and we’re off to the races and well into the beyond with rock and roll and contemporary and improvisational Jazz and Jazz/Fusion.

T Wilson King audience

Why this type of music and not something more easily receptive by common society?

I listen to all types of music, both vocally and musically, from as much of the world as I can. One of the most marvellous things about today’s world is that you can listen to anything no matter where you are if you have computer access.

Perhaps it is a matter of exposure which brings with it a familiarity of the various nuances and subtleties that triggers reception. The matter of individual taste and preference is enigmatic. We all, or most of us I would hope, have a favourite kind of music that maybe we like to listen to when we are alone and another style for listening with groups of friends or others for whatever reason or gathering.

Rather than be thought of as only a blues or jazz singer, I would say that what I do would be classified as “Amalgamated Americana”. This term encompasses the entire spectrum of music combined with Americana in the sense that the archetypes will be similar and the unique American Roots frameworks will be evident. I do tend to use roots forms for a great amount of my music but then again I enjoy freeing the moorings and letting the imagination float where it may. You know the old saying, “The map isn’t the territory.” You just blaze your own way through the ghost trails and see where it leads. That’s the adventure – headlong into the abyss and all that.  There are no mistakes with creativity no matter what the medium. Differences in preferential taste, yes, but we have seen how even that changes with time.

I am not real sure what common society means any more with a global access available to anyone. I think that good music is good music and a voice with a good song will be welcome forever by most everyone.

Do you play Country music as well? If yes, does it have any similarities to Blues and Jazz?

I was raised around country music of the fifties and sixties so the influence is apparent in many of my songs. The forms are actually quite similar in structure as the blues although the improvisational factor is probably a bit less. There is a form of country Jazz and swing that is real enjoyable and fun. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and Asleep At The Wheel are two of my favourites. I’m a big fan of many country singers such as Woodie Guthrie, Hank Williams, Jimmy Rodgers, and Johnnie Cash and that barely scratches the surface.

TW King 2I see you are truly passionate about what you do and how you do it. Please share with your readers more about the songs you write and play. What does inspire you the most?

Ideally, I like to think about music in a unifying, healing way both personally and communally. Now that sort of prescription is about as wide open to interpretation and personal taste as grains of sand on the beach. Sometimes it calls for soothing meditative music and other times it may be something that causes you to move your body with complete abandon. Maybe both at the same time, whatever works you know?  Give those bones a good shake up and let it roll. Turn it up.

The way I approach writing is, and this is a very general overview not boilerplate, what is the fewest amount of words can I use to get this little vignette to materialize and will it stand alone without a soundtrack. A bad memory and a limited vocabulary help spur that philosophy, (laugh). I might have to start writing in txtng n c f tht wrks 2 sta relevnte w th kdz. Lol.

In all seriousness though, a good story or scene combined with the right music is something very close to magic. I’m sure we all have many songs that have stayed with us and even grown to have more meaning as time goes by. Time can be suspended within the span of that musical moment. The message and emotion can be communicated individually or collectively with or without words. It is a beautiful gift.

I am inspired, generally speaking again, by the cosmic drama we all share experiencing joys, heartbreaks, longings, and dreams, failed or realized. The randomness of our personal lives, coincidences and circumstances and how things can change in a moment is an endless story that I find fascinating and compelled to interpret somehow for whatever reasons that are beyond me. What is it all about anyway? The mystery of synchronicity. The wonder of a heartbeat. The space inside an atom. The space between the stars. The space between us and the unity we share. I am greatly inspired by the universe, nature, beauty of all kinds, and the triumph of light over the despair of darkness, the tenacity of hope and love to prevail in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds. We have the ability to get up and get on with it, to visualize and work to make that dream come true. It is a wonderful gift.

Have you released any album of yours?

I have a couple that were self-released but are out of print, Big Tomato and Bit By A Monkey. I know…it is always so interesting how something sounds like such a good idea at one time but then as time goes by, maybe it wasn’t so much but such is the nature of learning, right? I am working on a collection of video and instrumental projects. I’m so lo-fi but slowly I am catching up with the speed of the modern world. I plan to let you have exclusive first release with your wonderful site.

I am also aware that you have written a small book for children about the Ostrich Emu. It is interesting to see how you went from writing and playing music into writing books. What did bring you to this life venture?

I have a condition called “weird” that I seem to share with a large portion of the population, or at least the ones with which I associate. It would not be unusual for you to see me on a park bench and for no apparent reason I might burst out with laughter. This can happen at funerals too so, as you can imagine, my r.s.v.p. requests and those invitations have declined. What was the question? Oh yes, Emu.

I was watching a documentary that had ostriches in it. I have no idea what it was but anyway, they compared them with emus and how similar they are and then, due to some wiring problems up in the central switchboard most likely, the thought occurred to me that it would be odd to have the name Emu if you were an Ostrich. Then, how awkward it could be to meet people and make friends and being accepted and other odd names that could be out there all came streaming through so I grabbed a pen and started writing it all down as fast as I could giggling hysterically as another name would come to mind. (This is why writers tend to be loners.) Each character has their favourite music so I tie that into the performances for children that I do with it and I made it into a colouring book. A young woman named Megan Dirks illustrated the characters. She unfortunately passed away shortly after doing the drawings. They are so lovely and so was Megan. You can see more of her art if you do a search for her name. It is interesting how through the art we can achieve a bit of immortality, for awhile anyway. Perhaps that is the real inspiration for creativity.
Hello world. I was here.

How people could get or purchase your book about Ostrich Emu?

I print them as I get requests right at home and then have a binding put on them. They can be personalized with a name to a small extent. If anyone would like a signed and numbered copy, I can be reached at and the cost is $10 plus shipping. Half of that goes to a memorial fund to keep arts in schools in Megan’s name. Email me with any questions.

Center Stage - T.W.King

Was there any special event or moment in your life that happened which you could call significant? Would you be kind to share it?

There have been so many events, both tragic and joyful. I have been blessed with an elite platoon of guardian angels that I have kept very busy throughout my life and I am so grateful. I could fill a book with stories and will. Possibly the most significant event would be when I was orphaned at a very young age and how that totally changed everything and pointed me down the road towards music with my guardian mother being a musician.

There are times of shadow and times of light in all of our lives. It is wonderful to discover positive sources of light and hope such as you. The work you do is amazing and I can’t be the only one who thinks that way.

Through all of these experiences, with their moments of elation and despair, I have begun to learn that truly being in the moment and interacting with love and compassion and patience without jumping to conclusions is a good place to be. To really listen completely, without thinking about and relating to it personally and thinking about a response, is a challenge, for me anyway. I am reminding myself to be mindful and as the Baba Ram Dass book says “Be Here Now”. This is not to say don’t put out those good thoughts for making your dreams come true and asking the universe for what you perceive is needed for that to happen. Working diligently to make it happen is the most important action. You know the old saying, “Genius is ten per cent inspiration and ninety per cent perspiration.” Another favourite quote of mine is one I heard many years ago by this old carpenter. He said “Start and keep going.”  The last quote I want to get in here is from an old Sufi story about a king who wanted to have an inscription placed inside his ring to keep him on a steady and even course no matter what might occur so he asked his wise men to come up with something. The inscription they placed said four words. They have helped me in various situations and I hope they will be of use to the reader someday.“This too shall pass.”

I heard you played at B.B. King concert once. What year and place was it and what brought you there?

Yes, I did and it was definitely a Dream That Came True!

That was in 2001 in Sioux City, Iowa at the beautifully restored Orpheum Theatre. The stage has seen dog and pony and vaudeville shows, symphonic to rock and roll music, comedians to opera singers, Bob Hope to B.B. King, epic movies to Broadway productions and I could go on but I think you get the idea. There was an abundance of show business history on that stage as well as a packed house of nearly three thousand B.B.King fans so opening a show for one of my personal heroes, who is also a living legend, was an ecstatic experience that went by in kind of a daze for me. I just have impressions of moments of the performance for the most part. It’s all very dreamlike and surreal.

B.B. King said my name twice and called me his co-star at the end of his performance as the audience roared. What more can you say. It still puts big grin on my face and gives me goose bumps.

“Lucille”, B.B. King’s guitar, actually brought that gig into reality. The story of how that occurred is described in my story, Lucille, B.B. King and Me.

It is truly fun and easy to talk to you. You are so full of life, but I also believe that there are two sides of T. Wilson King. One acts as a public person known as a blues and jazz musician and the other one is a private person living his own life. Could you share about that other side of you that not everyone is able to witness?

There are many sides just like with everyone.

I have been performing in front of people since I was three years old when I started singing and tap dancing as my guardian mother played piano. There was a variety show that went to hospitals, orphanages, Indian reservations, mental health institutions, nursing homes and such and I did that until I was around fourteen. I was also in church and school choir from grade school on. Then I started being a lead singer in bands with various friends all through high school playing the tambourine and pretending to be James Brown and Tom Jones as well as Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison and the Beatles among others. After graduation, I was drafted into the Army for a couple of years. Having survived that, I decided to buy a guitar and pursue life as an artist so after I got out, I went to college for awhile taking theory and generally partying it up in the Monterey/San Francisco area of the sixties to late seventies. It was a good time to be there. I practiced relentlessly and after a year or so started going to the street with my case open busking for tips and playing at little restaurants and bars for food and tips. I did that for many years as I was working my way through this musical journey.

Of course, this meant that I would have to have many, many other jobs along the way to keep the circus rolling. They have included slaughter house worker, cookie maker, locksmith, running a diner, telemarketing, making fishing lures, model for art classes, groundskeeper, construction and delivery driver. Those are a few of the hats I have worn. There are many more.

I have a back log of material that I want to get recorded since I have mostly just put it out there live. There are a couple video projects and a radio play that need attention this year. I am always writing whether it is a song or poetry that could go with music and I have a book to get started about the crazy life I have had.

I tend to be a loner but then I have times of gregariousness that keep it all balanced. I find I am becoming somewhat of a recluse these days though. I like to spend a great deal of time in nature, being silent and listening. There is so much to learn that way.

TW King 1

No matter how creative and successful one may be, we all have our muses of inspiration. What inspires you in life, especially while pursuing life as a musician, the life that you desire?

I think we talked about that a little earlier in this interview about the tenacity of the human spirit and other things like nature and the cosmic drama being inspiring to me. I would also like to add this though.

Rather than think of myself in the box of “musician”, I like to use the general term “artist” or even beyond that “human being”. I strive to live holistically, artistically, and mindfully no matter what I may be doing whether building a shelf, mowing the yard, writing a song, or whatever.

Muses can be shape shifting and hard to pin down, taking many different forms, as we wend our way through this waking dream. Maybe it will be another person, maybe it will be an event, or maybe it will be an imaginary purple cow or a Grecian urn, who knows? Muses can jump right out at you when you least expect it or be subtle and in the background the whole time until you finally get focused and see them. I think you have to create an environment of inspiration within your senses and be receptive. If you can see the extraordinary that exists in the ordinary that most of us just take for granted, like our continuous heart beat for instance, molecular structure or a child’s laughter, and remember that every minute is a gift, the whole picture takes on a new meaning and clarity. We are all going to die whether we want to believe it or not and keeping that on active file as an incentive is helpful, not that we have to dwell on it, but there is a ticket out there with our name on it. The destination is as yet unknown but the brochures look pretty interesting. Time is precious and we may not have all day. That, in itself, should be the greatest inspiration but tends to slip our minds. Oh my! Where did the time go?

Focusing on deep breathing is a way to get tuned in to the moment or at least it works for me. Not projecting or imagining negative future scenarios and channelling positivity and confidence can be very liberating. It really is just as easy to imagine the happy ending as the bad. Why not, you know? It’s your show, right?

Keep dreaming as big as you dare and then go even further. It couldn’t hurt to wish upon a star as long as you’re at it. The universe wants you to make your dreams come true. It’s true. Believe you can and you can.

A sense of gratitude, kindness, and wonder is essential too.

My main muse lately has been a wonderful journalist and writer from Lithuania who is living in London. She has some pretty amazing mojo going on with the humanitarian, healing, and unifying work she is doing with her various projects. Of course, I am talking about you, Jolita Kelias. You are a shining beacon of light that is touching so many people. Thank you so very much. What a gift to the world you are. Oh yes, dear reader, I am a big fan. I bet you are too.

To live life as well as you can, to fulfil the role that you have chosen for yourself and live your dream is quite a bit of the task knowing how hard things at times can get. How do you manage to move forward during the moments of hardships and uncertainty?

So many times I have felt like “What’s the point?” or “How is this ever going to happen?” And right about when everything gets the darkest something occurs to make all that worry and stewing seem silly. Maybe it is just human nature or an evolutionary process where we project into situations and imagine the various solutions. So much thought power for the imaginary appearance and vanquishing of paper dragons is being spent, at least up there in my head too much of the time. To be creative is to accept all of those creative side effects of over-active imaginations. People have gotten famous for writing them down! You never know.

To follow your dream sounds so very romantic but the reality can be that it’s just a tough row to hoe filled with many detours and disappointments. You have to persevere with a clear objective. Focus on your vision and project it into the universe. Stay in the moment while working tirelessly towards accomplishing your dream. This will more than likely mean you may have to take some sort of job to keep the ball rolling. Whatever it takes is what you have to do and decide if what you want is worth what you have to give up. Remember, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. If you believe you can do it, you can.

Above all I think the power of kindness, love, gratitude and faith, in whatever higher power or belief, makes everything flow a lot smoother. And remember when things seem grim… This Too Shall Pass. The first thing to do is figure out what you want. I do believe that you can get it if you really want it you just have to keep going and put one step in front of the other and don’t give up. But then, it’s all about the journey, isn’t it?

Yes, it is all about the journey. So where is your journey taking you now? What is your next step on the path of your dream?

There is this new development of technology that incorporates video with music that I plan on utilizing to great extent now that I have discovered it after my nap of twenty years or so. It is called You Tube. The idea of making little movies and visuals to illustrate several of the song storyboards and instrumentals that are in the vault is intriguing to me at the moment. That and whatever else might seem to be entertaining to put on the sounds like fun. To be a serious artist, it is not necessary to be serious all the time. It sounds like some kind of Zen koan or something, doesn’t it, “Be serious about not being serious grasshopper”. You can’t have enough good laughter and I don’t mind being the clown. Actually, we all take turns, don’t we? It keeps things interesting. I think that laughter keeps you healthier, especially mentally. It is a crazy world and for our logical oriented mind to accept that and not try to make sense of all that senselessness makes things run a lot smoother, at least in my case. But I digress…

I have mostly focused on just playing the material live and that was only way to see or hear it but I have seen the light of the world wide gallery and it’s off to the races. We will see what comes out of the effort. It will be varied that’s for sure. The honour of being on your page to début the new direction of the T.Wilson King experience is something I am very grateful and excited about. You are such an inspiration.

That is the intention of now and into the near future plus doing the annual Volkswalk up to Crazy Horse monument in the Black Hills in early June, a couple of outdoor festival performances, a project with a song of mine to benefit the local Make-A-Wish foundation and also another song project to benefit wounded veterans and their families to get organized, getting a fence in, the roof fixed, replacing all the windows in the house, building a sun-room into the backyard by fall and keeping up with the garden and mowing the yard is what I have on my to do list so as you can see, it is a pretty busy dream this summer.

I don’t know what I will do with my spare time. Maybe blog about what I am actually getting done and chill on the Missouri river thinking about Lewis and Clark and all those steamships that sank in the river over a hundred years ago with rumoured shipments of gold that the recent five hundred year floods may have uncovered or possibly prehistoric mastodon, bison, or even Native American bones and artefacts have finally risen to the light of today waiting to be discovered on a quiet kayak trip quite by accident. I’ll be suspending time in a daydream on a stream about explorers, steamships, ancient beasts and tribes and otherwise finding ways to amuse myself and possibly turning it into a some sort of masterpiece of artistic significance, you never know. It could happen. Anything can happen. Dream it up. Make it so.


T.W.King playing guitar

Copyright © Jolita Kelias 2013
All Rights Reserved

02 comments on “INTERVIEW with Blues and Jazz Songwriter and Singer T.WILSON KING

  • kim hughes-baus , Direct link to comment

    so wonderful to read t. wilson king’s sharing and words of wisdom! blessings to all!

  • Linda Santi , Direct link to comment

    Thank you to T. Wilson King for writing one of the greatest pop songs I have ever hear; Rainbow Lady.

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