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Homegrown Plus: Lakota John Locklear and Kin

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Sitting in a row across the stage: a woman playing washboard, a woman playing tambourine, a man playing guitar, a man playing harmonica. Standing behind them, a man playing percussion.
Lakota John and Kin perform on the stage of the Coolidge Auditorium, August 7, 2019. Front Row: Tanya Elk Locklear, Layla Locklear, Lakota John Locklear, Sweet Papa John Locklear. Back row: Joseph Miller. Photo by Stephen Winick.

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with Lakota John Locklear and kin, a blues family band of Native American heritage.

Lakota John, born in 1997, blends traditional styles of the Delta and Piedmont acoustic blues with bottleneck slide guitar. He grew up listening to his father’s music collection and learned to love the blues. He began playing the harmonica at seven years old, and the guitar at nine. Intrigued by the sound of the slide guitar, by ten he had begun to learn slide guitar using a glass slide on his little finger. He earned two scholarships to study with the late John Cephas, Phil Wiggins, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, and Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton. He is a 2015 NAMA (Native American Music Awards) nominee and has opened for and shared the stage with Native American blues artist Pura Fe; blues icon Taj Mahal; Native blues rocker Keith Secola; blues historian and musician Scott Ainslie; Native American blues guitarist Cary Morin; and many others. Lakota John continues to learn alongside the elder blues masters, carrying on the traditional sounds of the acoustic Piedmont blues as well as electric blues guitar styles.

Lakota John played in the Coolidge Auditorium on August 7, 2019. He was joined in concert by his mother, father, and sister, along with family friends. Watch the exciting concert in the player below.

Lakota John and his family belong to the Lakota/Tuscarora and Lumbee Nations of South Dakota and North Carolina. The Lumbee Nation is the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi. It is a recognized tribe by the state of North Carolina but has gained only partial Federal recognition.

Lakota John, seated in a chair onstage, plays a cedar flute.
Lakota John plays a cedar flute and Andrew Beck plays bass in concert at the Library of Congress, August 7, 2019. Photo by Stephen Winick.

Native Americans have made an often overlooked but deep contribution to the blues tradition; Charlie Patton, Scrapper Blackwell, Jesse Ed Davis, Elizabeth Cotten, Jimi Hendrix and many other blues artists claimed Indian heritage. This makes Lakota John just the latest in a long tradition of Native American blues musicians. In the oral history, I talked with Lakota John and his family about this aspect of music history, as well as about their own experiences as musicians. Watch the interview in the second player.

You can find both of these videos with more bibliographic information on the Library of Congress website, with the concert here at this link and the oral history at this link.

Read more about Lakota John at his website.

The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress.  For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

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