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  • Writer's pictureKen Wallis

Ken Wallis Chats With Canadian Bluesman Jack de Keyzer


Jack de Keyzer

Photo Credit: Ken Wallis.



If you Google Blues In Canada, I’m sure the first image you would catch would be a picture of Jack de Keyzer. He’s Canada’s King of the Blues and his music embodies the genre North of 49.  Jack has won two Juno awards and seven Maple Blues Awards and has travelled the world thrilling audiences whenever he straps on a guitar. Originally from the U.K. Jack grew up in Hamilton and started his career with the rockabilly group the Bop Cats. He’s never looked back and to this day tours extensively with his superb band of accomplished musicians.


Ken Wallis interviewed Jack de Keyzer for the radio show BluesSource Canada. The following are excerpts from that interview, amended and edited for brevity and clarity.




Ken Wallis

Jack De Keyser has a brand-new album out. It’s entitled Solo and we're thrilled to have Jack on here to talk about it. Jack, thanks for coming on.


Jack de Keyzer

Good to be here, Ken.


Ken Wallis

So Jack, what prompted your desire to do a solo album?


Jack de Keyzer

Actually, it was during the pandemic when everybody was stuck at home for two years.  To try to stop myself from going crazy, which was, you know. pretty hard to do anyway {LAUGHTER], every day I would look and see which famous musicians had birthdays on that day and then I would learn their songs. A lot of the times I would see Country Blues guys and I would always sort of gravitate towards the Rural Delta, Hill Country type of Blues. So, I'd learn the song and then I'd record it at my home studio. Then I'd release it on the Internet and then about a year after that, I realized, wow. I've got about 40 tunes recorded, in all different Blues styles. I made a disc of it and my wife would listen to it in the car, and she said, hey, I think people would really like this. So that's sort of how it happened. It was called the birthday sessions.


Ken Wallis

There are some really famous names on there that I recognized, but there's also some obscure names that I don't really know. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the songs and who originally put them out?


Jack de Keyzer

It opens with a with a song from the The Reverend Robert Wilkins and I had heard of him before because The Rolling Stones did a song called Prodigal Son, {SINGING} “Poor boy going down the road”. And then this was this other really well-known song, That's No Way to Get Along and it's very similar to Prodigal Son. So I decided to do that one. 


The second track is called Feeling Good and that's by a songwriter that I really admire a lot, J.B. Lenoir and J.B. was a Chicago Blues guy from Mississippi and he wrote some great songs. Mama Talk To Your Daughter that's been covered by a lot of people. Robben Ford did it. I think some female artists have done that. He also was co-writer of You Shook Me, which I first heard Led Zeppelin do. And the other cool thing about J.B Lenoir was that he was a social activist. He wrote protest songs against the Vietnam War. He wrote protest songs against the Korean War. He made a great album in his living room that John Mayall recorded. So I've always been a huge J.B. Lenoir fan. and I have an album called Voodoo Boogie, which is also a J.D. Lenoir song.


And then Crossroad Blues. When I first started playing Blues in in my teens there were a lot of kids in those days who’d be learning The Rolling Stones or The Beatles or Led Zeppelin. And my older musician friends would say, well, that's a Muddy Waters song, that's not Led Zeppelin, or it’s Willie Dixon. So I discovered those guys through my older musician friends. And then once I started playing Willie Dixon, then I started getting into Robert Johnson and trying to learn his music. I've been playing that music since I was about 15 years old. So Crossroad Blues is pretty well like a touchstone kind of song. I always considered Robert Johnson and Crossroad Blues kind of like the Holy Grail of Blues music.


Some of the other songs on the album. I’m A King Bee. I've always been a huge Slim Harpo, Excello Records fan and these sounds all work well solo. On that particular track, I just played solo guitar and played rack harmonica and sang it live. And then I added a maraca, banging it on a guitar case to give that percussion sound. Then I added a lot of echoes, which was another cool thing about Excello Records. They were a bit like Sun Records in that they have a lot of echo on their recordings.


And then I did Shake em on Down , which is another song that I first heard through Led Zeppelin and that song has been done by everybody from Bukka White to Fred McDowell.  I did my version of this based on Fred Mcdowell's version.


Baby I'm Gonna Leave You is another Zeppelin tune that they actually kind of stole that from a Boston folkie. And they they mostly just stole the idea and some of the lyrics, but they changed the tune quite a bit. But I always loved that song.


And Bad Boy is Eddie Taylor, who was Jimmy Reed's lead guitar player. So that was a fun one to record and that one actually has probably the most overdubs.  I added a bass, percussion and couple of overdubs, but most of the album, Ken is all just me playing acoustic guitar and singing.


Ken Wallis

It's almost a history lesson hearing you talk Jack.


Jack de Keyzer

Yeah, I was so into it for so long. To me the Country Blues is the building block on what a lot of what we like today is built on. Those guys came up with their version of Blues and 12 bar songs and wrote classic songs. Through the years they became Chicago Blues and the Electric Blues. And then from that, people like Clapton, the Butterfield Blues Band and The Rolling Stones developed it in their own way. Classic rock and classic soul music was based on those early recordings.


Ken Wallis

And the album is entitled Solo, but I did notice you snuck one particular person in on one cut.


Jack de Keyzer

[LAUGHING]  Yeah, the duo part of the solo album.  Richard Thornton, my longtime sax player, best friend, plays saxophone on that. That song actually was not recorded during the pandemic. That song was recorded at the tail end of my Checkmate album. Checkmate was an album that was a collection of Chess Records songs and it was at the end of one of the sessions, we were just hanging out and I started playing, Feeling Good and Richard joined in, so he's the only guest on Solo.


Ken Wallis

It is a really interesting album and you're so well known for your electric guitar, but you sneak some acoustic in there too, which I think is great.


Jack de Keyzer

I first got an electric guitar because when you're young, I was 10, you need a small neck or else your hands won't fit around it. By the time I was 14 or 15, I got an acoustic guitar. I started learning some Dylan songs and started learning the Country Blues, so that that was really my interest when I was a teenager.


Ken Wallis

So where can fans get a hold of the album Jack?


Jack de Keyzer

It's on sale at jackdekeyzer.com. And they're also streaming it all on the usual suspects, Spotify, Amazon, Apple, of course. And you can download it off iTunes. And yeah, but CD's are best for me.


Ken Wallis

That's for sure. We encourage our fans out there to buy a CD. And I imagine you're going to have some CD's on sale for a performance, a very special performance you got coming up on May 28th. Tell us. About that.


Jack de Keyzer

Well, I'm really excited to be part of the The Big Launch for the Escarpment Blues Society. It takes place at Ancaster Memorial Theatre and so many of my good friends are on that show. Steve Strongman, Steve Mariner, Dawn Tyler Watson, Harrison Kennedy, Suzie Vinnick.


Ken Wallis

What a lineup of Juno award-winners!


Jack de Keyzer

The buzz on the internet's incredible. Everybody's saying what a lineup. And it's a beautiful theatre.


Ken Wallis

How do you go about picking what songs you're gonna play and who you're going to play with?  That's got to be a really important aspect when there's so many different people going to be on stage.


Jack de Keyzer

I mostly go with the stuff that's been going over well with my band, and that's pretty straightforward for a pickup band to pick up, so I'll probably do like two or three songs from my last band album, which was called Tribute.


Ken Wallis

Well, this new album is called Solo, which is fantastic and I encourage our audience out there to go and purchase it. Don't stream it, let's buy it and Jack we’ll see you at the big launch on May 28th.


Jack de Keyzer

Looking forward to it, Ken, good talking to you.


Ken Wallis

Thanks a lot. Appreciate your time.



Jack de Keyzer





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