Austin Walkin’ Cane is a blues singer, songwriter and slide guitarist who performs acoustic solo, duo & electric band sets. He has toured Australia, Nepal, Colombia, France, Germany, England, Wales, and the US, from New Orleans, Louisiana to Juneau, Alaska with only a guitar & suitcase in hand. Austin walked for 10 years with a cane due to an arterial venous malformation at birth. While performing on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, a homeless man called out “Hey Walkin’ Cane got some spare change for a brother?!” Austin took the jibe as his nickname. In 1996, after years of battling the inevitable, his left leg was amputated below the knee. A year after the surgery, he returned to the music scene stronger and without need of a cane. Austin brings his own brand of ‘Damn Fine Blues’ to the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival at 5:45 pm Saturday, June 18 on the Electric Blues Stage (presented by Benchmark Bank).
When did you discover your passion for music? (And when did you start expressing yourself through music?
I discovered my passion for music around the age of five. I used to hang with the older neighborhood kids and they would turn me onto different rock bands like the Beatles, Stones, The Who, Hendrix, etc. On Christmas Eve ’84, I bought my first guitar, a Gibson SG, at Sam’s Music & Golf on Prospect Ave. in Downtown Cleveland from a cool guy named Maceo. On New Years Eve ’84, the power trio was born when a couple of my best friends bought their instruments. Musical expression began at that moment.
What influenced you in the beginning?
I was influenced by the radio, neighborhood kids and a strange obsession with slide guitar. The intro to Led Zeppelin’s version of In My Time of Dying was the first slide song I learned note for note.
Who inspires you now?
I listen to all kinds of music but the blues is my deepest inspiration. People like Blind Willie Johnson, The Kings (Albert, B.B., Freddie), Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Professor Longhair, Snooks Eaglin, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Robert Johnson, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy, Leadbelly, Robert Pete Williams, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Big Mama Thornton, Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley…
How would you describe your music?
DAMN FINE BLUES!
What’s your greatest achievement to date?
My album ONE HEART WALKIN’ was nominated “BEST NEW ARTIST ALBUM” by the 2015 BLUES MUSIC AWARDS (formerly the W.C. Handy Awards) in Memphis. I didn’t win but I was honored to perform on the main stage. It was an amazing feeling to perform in front of musicians who I’ve listened to their albums for years. There were some funny bits.
Bobby Rush – “Looking good! Sounding good Young blood! Keep it up.”
Keb Mo – “I dig what you do.”
Elvin Bishop – I was backstage and I shook Elvin’s hand after my performance. He said with a smile, “I watched you. Who the hell are you?!” That made my day. Ha!
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened during a performance?
There have been numerous weird stories over 31 yrs. of playing music. A lot of them I can’t or won’t tell you about today. Here are some of the weirdness from the early years…
Age 16 – We played a party in the basement of St. Patrick’s Church and a fight broke out. Some guy’s eye was lying on the floor surrounded by blood.
Age 17. I played a biker pig roast. When the food was done, some guy carved it with a chainsaw. There was pig all over that guy!
Too many too tell!
If you had to pick a personal theme song, what would it be?
Taj Mahal’s version of the Fishin’ Blues has been a part of my show since I was sixteen. I still enjoy it!
The Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival draws blues and jazz fans from throughout the region. What are you most looking forward to that weekend?
I’m looking forward to playing with harmonica master, Dave Morrison and reconnecting with some Columbus friends I haven’t seen in some time.
What do you hope fans “take away” from your performance?
I hope they take away a CD! $10
Where can fans find you online – to learn more about your background and music? www.walkincane.com
Check out the entire 2016 Creekside Blues & Jazz Schedule, and learn about other activities for all ages at: www.CreeksideBluesandJazz.com or the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau (presenters of the CBJF) at 614/418-9114. $15 Weekend wristbands for the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival are available online only, prior to the event.