5 Questions is a series by Steve Duffy –
When blues legend James Montgomery plays the harmonica, he “brings it on home”. Whether it’s recording with Kid Rock, sitting in with Gregg Allman, or fronting his hot band of thirty years, Montgomery plays with authority. While growing up in Detroit he learned first-hand from the masters – James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, and Jr. Wells – at the legendary “Chessmate.” Over the years, he’s carried on in the tradition and continues to be a vital presence in Blues as one of the most dynamic performers on the scene.
SD: You attended BU, where you earned a degree in English lit. How did your career path change to becoming a musician?
JM: I was in a couple of bands in high school and my first year at BU I had formed a jam band. We started getting gigs and were doing really well. We got noticed and in 1973, I signed a deal with Capricorn Records and the rest is music history.
SD: Out of all the instruction to choose to play, why the harmonica?
JM: For me and like every blues musicians that I have met there is a moment that hits you and you know what instrument you are going to play. I was 15, when I saw the electric harmonica being played on stage. That was it! I knew then I had to play it.
SD: You have shared the stage with some amazing musicians, do you have a favorite?
JM: Man! That is hard to say. I was bit by the blues bug when I was growing up, so when I got to play with anyone it was a dream come true. The Allman Brothers were such great people to both play with it and hang out with. Aerosmith may be a rock band but they are blues based, so performing with them was awesome. Also, I really enjoyed performing with Steve Miller. He would always call me onto the stage and play along.
SD: What is your favorite to do when you come back to Boston?
JM: Since I only get back to Boston to either work or attend a charity event, I always try to sneak something to do in. I do love the cities museums. My favorites are the Museum of Fine Arts, the Science Museum and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I never leave without eating at some of the greatest restaurants in the city.
SD: Your latest album salutes the legacy of Paul Butterfield. What was it about Paul that connects with you?
JM: The first time I saw him I was in high school was blown away by him. Pau is the most powerful blues man that I have ever. Most of the stuff I do in my band I stole from Paul and James Cotton. Paul’s riffs were mind-blowing. I think the one thing that I and everyone else understands about Paul is he always took a chance and went all out. He was such a big influence on so many musicians. His energy, charisma and innovation influenced so many musicians and music in general.