Bernard Allison – It’s A Family Affair

Can it really be twenty years since the great Luther Allison passed? What a giant he was in the Blues field – a strong performer, great writer, a real showman. Now, in his own style son Bernard keeps the creative torch alight with his own recordings and live shows. Here, Pete and Bernard talk family, creativity and life on the road:

Lisa Gray/RUF Records

It cannot be twenty years since Luther passed…what three facets of his personality stay strongest in your family memories please?

Yes, Pete – doesn’t seem like twenty years but my Dad is still with me everyday. For my family and I the first thing is he was an amazing dad who providing us all with love and raised us to be respectful and honest. Second, my Dad had a big heart and had open arms and ears for anyone that needed to be heard. Third, he always told the truth on any topic – a real down to earth open-minded man.

Was Luther in approval of your own musical ambitions?

My Dad was my biggest fan which later allowed me to arrange most of his music. For example the Bad Love album or many may know it as Soul Fixing Man. I basically made arrangements for this recording in full. I told him I don’t want credit nor money for my arrangements, I just wanted to give back to him, for being the dad that’s responsible for raising us all to be educated and respectful kids. Very difficult to really give back for all he did for my family and I, So being a part of his music was a true honor.

There are several children of blues stars keeping the flame alive, as it were..do you ever run into the offspring of Copeland, J L Hooker, McKinley Morganfield? what is your relationship with them?

I have indeed performed with all the artists you mentioned here and have great memories. But there’s others that I stay more in touch with in a regular basis. My two little brothers Ronnie and Wayne Baker Brooks. Two very fine men and guitar slingers, keeping that family name alive.

In some ways the live recordings Luther made – up to the last, the Stones ballad – burn brightest in our memories. At what age did you first see your father perform and were you ever on the road with him, at any point?

I was around eight years old when my dad would take us to festivals when we were not in school. I played often with him as a kid when school was out. Later I became my Dad’s band leader in 1989. Stayed three years then began my own career as The Bernard Allison Group.

Bad Love – which version of this number do you like the most?

Bad Love? I would have to say the original version which of course became a fan favorite. Also my version which I recorded after he passed away. It was on my first album with Ruf Records “Times Are Changing”

What happened to your father’s musical gear?

Most of his gear was given to up and coming musicians as well as Mr.Thomas Ruf and I. He didn’t want them to go in museums, he wanted them to be played.

Do you still live in the same neighbourhood as Luther?

I moved from Paris shortly after his passing came back to the USA to be closer to my family. I’ve been living in Minneapolis Minnesota since 2001

In interviews, Luther always had opinions – was he a keen reader &/or follower of the news? I ask because some of the songs hint at this…

Yes, Dad was always on top of what was going on in the world, which you can hear in his lyrics and music.

Which Luther Allison album resonates the most with you, as an indication of his personality/legend?

My all time favorite is the album Live in Paris on the Encore label.. omg he had that Gibson 335 crying and his voice still sends chills down my spine.

Which contemporaries did Luther rate?

My Dad’s all time favorite was Otis Rush! His dream came true when Otis invited him and Eric Clapton to join him on stage at the Montreux music festival. My Dad was like a kid in a candy store!

On your own recordings, how do you attain that ‘live’ feel, even in the studio?

Well…you know, we are a touring group so our thing is performing live. So when it’s time to record in the studio we basically do a live performance. I always try to have friends or family in the control room to give us the feel of an audience.

What two things should a guitar player NEVER do on stage? My own advice for an opener spot is not to back your backside into a theremin that the main act has deliberately left on near your gear?

I’d have to say turn your back to the audience… as well as smoking and drinking alcohol does not make a good showcase.

Do you ever find at two unfinished compositions can blend into one great song?

There always many ideas and arrangements that come up in the writing process. Some fit better then others so you do tend to try to find the best match up, to create that special track.

Does or has hiphop ever appealed to you?

I like some Hip Hop! But I grew up years before hip hop, so George Clinton & Parliament was always being played in my upbringing.

I can stretch my memory back to seeing you at The Worcester Park Club in my neck of the woods…my recall – without notes – tells me “ Les Paul…speaks easily to the audience…works a lot off the drummer…fabulous wah wah guitar sound, almost like scat…did an encore”

That sounds about right!

What gear do you currently utilise for stage performances?

I am currently an endorser for Gibson Guitars – I use a Gibson Sg tribute 50/60 for slide guitar. My number 1 now for many years is my Custom Blade guitar called the Milkeyway !! As for amps, I currently use two Fender Hot Rods deluxe 3’s. I use a AB Box to link them together.

How do you look after your voice? If you do

On tour lots of tea, lemon and honey normally works best. The overall best tip is to get some rest, when time allows.

Which of your own songs do you find yourself talking about the most and why might that be?

I’d have to say the song Don’t Be Confused. also on the Ruf Records album “Times Are Changing”. I wrote and recorded it shortly after my Dad’s death. Everyone can relate to the song because at some point in life we all have to deal with death. It’s kinda like a healer basically saying he or she is in a better place. So don’t be confused because your love ones are not around. Because they’re still with us everyday, so we have to be strong and carry on.

Which female guitarist would you like to duet with?

I’d have to say Joanne Taylor Shaw I’ve never had to pleasure to meet her. Love her voice and her guitar playing is amazing.

When are you next playing in the UK/Europe?

I will be a member of Thomas Ruf Blues Caravan 2018 with guitar slingers Mike Zito and Vanja Sky.The first leg of the tour starts in Germany,begins January 18th ends February 11th.The second leg of the tour Starts in April 2018 which will be all over Europe including the UK.

I got to play with Mike on his last tour – this tour will be fun! Thanks, Bernard

You are welcome.

Pete Sargeant



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Bernard Allison
Bernard Allison
Bernard Allison

(Thanks to Bernard, Thomas Ruf and the team at RUF Records)

All Photos Credited to  Lisa Gray/Ruf Records except Joanne Shaw Taylor photo which is credited to John Bull/Rockrpix.

Bernard Allison’s new studio album ‘Let It Go’ is out now on RUF Records.

In addition, Bernard Allison will be touring the UK with Vanja Sky and Mike Zito on the Blues Caravan 2018 tour. 

For more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2uK9w2U

Bernard Allison