US bluesman Lucky Peterson dies aged 55

(Image credit: Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

Blues singer, keyboardist and electric guitar player Lucky Peterson died on May 17 at his home in Dallas. Peterson was 55 years old.

“It is with great sorrow we announce the passing of Lucky Peterson on Sunday, May 17, 2020, at 2:25 PM CST in Dallas, Texas,” read a statement on his official Facebook page.

“He was at home when he became ill and was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, but unfortunately did not recover. At this time please respect the family’s privacy, but do keep them in your prayers.”

Peterson was born Judge Kenneth Peterson and was raised in Buffalo, New York, where his father, a musician in his own right, owned a nightclub named the Governor’s Inn. 

When he was just a little boy, Peterson, who was influenced by likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King, began playing at the club, which would also host performances by bluesmen like Waters and Buddy Guy.

As legend has it, Willie Dixon witnessed one of Peterson’s performances and mentored the young guitarist.

Peterson released his first album, Our Future, when he was five years old.

He scored a hit with 1-2-3-4, based on James Brown’s Please, Please, Please, and performed on The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and What’s My Line?

As a teenager, Peterson played with artists ranging from for Etta James to Bobby "Blue" Bland and Little Milton.

“Once I got with Little Milton’s band, I started really studying on the guitar,” he told Living Blues.

“Now I was the keyboard player, but I was studying him, learning Little Milton’s guitar licks. Professionally I only played keyboards in those days, first for Little Milton and later for Bobby Bland. But out on the road I was also learning more and more about how to play guitar."

Later in life Peterson would also perform with the likes of B.B. King and Wynton Marsalis.

He released a series of solo albums throughout the 1980s, ‘90s and 2000s on celebrated blues labels like Alligator, Verve, Blue Thumb and JSP.

Peterson continued to tour extensively with his wife Tamara Tramell and his band the Organization, in Europe and the US, and in October, 2019 he celebrated 50 years as an artist with his album 50 – Just Warming Up!

“[B]lues is my life,” Peterson told All About Jazz in 2003. 

“The blues is a feeling and the blues is what I do. I not only do the blues. I do a lot of different things, but my basic thing is the blues. I mix it up with a little jazz, a little rock and roll, a lot of gospel, funk, a little bit of everything into what I do and to top it off, a little high energy.”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.