Louisiana Red is just an old traveling blues musician who loves to play his guitar.
He doesn't know anything about business. He leaves that stuff to his wife, who travels with him wherever he goes. Like a tumbleweed adrift, Red has oscillated from one town and city to the next.
On this day, he's in Hanover, Germany, which he has called home for the past 23 years. The next day, he's scheduled to perform in Holland. The day after that, he and the boys have an engagement in Italy.
Red, whose real name is Iverson Minter, isn't really from Louisiana, although he did spend a hot minute there during his youth. The Louisiana moniker comes from his love of hot sauce. Even today he drenches everything he eats with the spicy red sauce.
"You know that crawfish?" he asked from his home in Hanover. "You know those oysters? I used to get those oyster sandwiches and oyster balls and put a whole bottle of Frank's Hot Sauce on them. Matter of fact, I have a bottle right here, and when I get to the States, I'm going to get some more bottles."
Red's childhood was as tough as it gets. A week after his birth in Bessemer, Ala., in 1932, his mother died of pneumonia. By the time he turned 5, his father was killed, reportedly by the Ku Klux Klan.
After spending a few years in an orphanage in New Orleans, he moved to Pittsburgh to be with his grandmother.
"My grandmother bought me my first guitar," said Red. "She paid $12 for it."
Red developed his craft in and around the Hill District.
"I hung around with Omar Rasheed, Bill Powell and Porky Chedwick and other people like that. I went to school with Stanley Turrentine and George Benson. But at that time I didn't think I would develop a career in music."
When his grandmother died, he moved to East Liverpool, Ohio.
"I stayed there a couple of years. Then I moved to New Jersey," he said. "I'm just like a tumbleweed or a bouncing ball. I took my guitar with me, and I would get little jobs."
In the 1950s, he settled in Detroit, performing and recording with Little Walter, Eddie "Guitar" Burns and John Lee Hooker. In the '60s, he recorded "Red's Dream," which sold more than a million copies. Still, Red's watershed moment didn't occur until 1975, when he performed at the Montreaux Jazz Festival.
In 1983, Red went to Germany to perform in the American Folk Festival, and he decided to stay. He began touring again in the United States in 1997.
But tonight, Red will be in Pittsburgh, performing with the legendary Honeyboy Edwards at a benefit for the Hope Academy of Music and the Arts at East Liberty Presbyterian Church.
"I didn't get a chance to meet Mr. Robert Johnson because I was [just] born when he died," Red said of the Mississippi musician known as King of the Delta Blues. "But I know the man that knew him well, and that's Mr. Honeyboy Edwards. That's why I hang around him as much as possible. I ask him all kinds of questions: 'What kind of guitar did Mr. Johnson play?' "
Tonight, it will be Louisiana Red's guitar getting a workout.Louisiana Red, left, and Honeyboy Edwards will perform tonight in a benefit for the Hope Academy of Music and the Arts.
Click photo for larger image.
Featuring: David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Louisiana Red with Michael Frank.
Where: Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, East Liberty.
When: 7:30 tonight.
Tickets: $25 and $40; 412-394-3353.
Nate Guidry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3865.