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  • Writer's pictureShameka Reed

2021 Artist of the Year Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Once a generation, an artist comes along who not only reminds mainstream audiences how deeply satisfying and emotionally moving the best blues music can be, but shakes the genre to its core. With both eyes on the future and the blues in his blood, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Christone “Kingfish” Ingram continues to take the music world by storm after his 2019 release of his debut album, KINGFISH. Sprung from the same earth as so many of the Delta blues masters, Kingfish comes bursting out of Clarksdale, Mississippi, just ten miles from the legendary crossroads of Highways 61 and 49. A student of the Delta’s musical history, he is acutely aware of the musicians and the music that emerged from his corner of the world.

Born to a musical family near Clarksdale, Mississippi in January 1999, Christone Ingram fell in love with music as a small child. There was always music playing around the house. His family sang at their family church. His mother, Princess Pride, is first cousin to country music legend Charley Pride. Christone started hitting drums at age six and at nine he picked up the bass. Around this time his mother enrolled him in a program at the Delta Blues Museum. At age 11, he got his first guitar and quickly mastered it. The young prodigy soaked up music from Robert Johnson to Lightnin’ Hopkins, from B.B. King to Muddy Waters, from Jimi Hendrix to Prince. Before long he could play like them all, but all the while he kept developing his own sound and style.

“With me coming from Clarksdale, the Mecca for the Delta Blues, you kind of have this thing on you. It's a must that you play and pay homage to the guys who came before you.”

In her work with The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects, Collier has combined the experience from her years in undergraduate and graduate school studying political science/philosophy and marriage and family therapy at Millsaps College and Reformed Theological Seminary, respectively; a myriad of fellowships at Northwestern and Poynter universities, among them; and work in the field, as an activist, change agent and storyteller, fighting the injustices pervasively affecting girls and women’s chances at socio political advancement.

Collier is a force. The power of her resilient spirit is clear. She compels audiences to think deeply about girls and women in disparaged communities, particularly those in the rural southeastern part of the United States. “Black girls who have access to space and time have power. Powerful Black girls are autonomous, self-actualized, liberated Black girls.” Collier knows. She’s lived as one for a long time.

Christone first stepped on stage at the age of 11 at Clarksdale’s famous Ground Zero Club, playing behind one of his mentors, Mississippi blues icon Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry. Perry gifted the young musician with a new stage name, Kingfish. The young bluesman performed at the White House for Michelle Obama in 2014 as part of a delegation of young blues musicians from the Delta Blues Museum. By age 16 he was turning heads and winning awards, including the 2015 Rising Star Award, presented by The Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

Kingfish has shared stages with Buddy Guy, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Robert Randolph, Guitar Shorty, Eric Gales, Vampire Weekend and many others. He has befriended rock stars from Nikki Sixx to Dave Grohl. Since graduating high school, Kingfish has continued his life on the road. He has performed at festivals around the country, including stops at the Chicago Blues Festival, the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, the Bonita Blues Festival in Florida, The Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, at Austin’s Antone’s and at San Francisco’s famed Biscuits & Blues. He’s performed in Europe multiple times, including appearances at the Moulin Blues Festival in the Netherlands and the Blues Heaven Festival in Denmark.

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