Blues musician John Németh gets ‘greasy’ in Memphis

BY Frank Carlson  July 24, 2014 at 3:27 PM EDT

John Németh says he fell in love with the blues as a teenager growing up in Idaho. Decades later, he’s touring to promote his new album, “Memphis Grease.” Video by Frank Carlson and Ariel Min. 

The first gigs that blues musician John Németh played were not in darkened, smoke-filled dives near the muddy banks of the Mississippi River, but at bright luncheons in Boise, Idaho for the religious group Catholic Daughters of America.

As a teenager growing up in Boise, Németh connected to the “raw feeling” of the blues, and by age 16 had a regular gig at the Grub Steak Saloon in Horseshoe Bend, playing for mostly loggers.

From there he continued performing while working odd jobs, including driving a delivery truck. That left him plenty of time to discover new records while honing his harmonica skills. It’s not a strategy he suggests to other aspiring musicians.

“I don’t recommend anyone driving with their elbows,” he said.

In the early 2000s, Németh was discovered in Idaho by blues guitarist Junior Watson and he’s been touring since. Last year Nemeth relocated from Oakland, Ca, to Memphis, where he recorded his new album, “Memphis Grease,” with backing band The Bo-Keys.

John Németh plays “Sooner or Later,” a song from his new album, “Memphis Grease.”

Art Beat recently sat down with Németh before a show at Gypsy Sally’s in Washington, D.C. to talk about the blues.

Video by Frank Carlson and Ariel Min.