Updated 1 June 2016.
Seasick Steve
Describing Oakland-born Californian Steve Wold as a national treasure in the UK might be over-egging the pudding a bit; but for many British rock and pop fans, the 74-year-old American guitarist is certainly a blues icon.
Steve first sprang to prominence aged 65 on Jools Holland’s New Year’s Eve BBC TV rock music show, Hootenanny, in 2006. With his long white beard, John Deer cap, old work overalls and billed as Seasick Steve, Steve Wold looked like he had stepped straight out of a 1940s Appalachian hootenanny. Except he was playing magnificent raw electric blues on a home-made electric guitar (and I don’t think they had electric guitars in the mountains in the 1940s). And the way he worked his Mississippi stomp-box drum machine – for a minute, I though old Daddy Stovepipe had been reincarnated as a white man.
Steve was playing his track ‘Dog House Boogie’ on a cobbled-together old guitar called the ‘Three String Trance Wonder’. Apparently he paid $75 for it in Mississippi from a guy who’d bought it for $25 the previous day. Here’s the track below but played on a conventional guitar.

We gradually heard Steve was married to a Norwegian lady and lived in Norway, where it was so dark during winter (not to mention cold), he just stayed inside at home six months of the year. That’s what he said on TV, anyway.  Steve’s moniker ‘Seasick’ came late in life, after getting seasick on the ferry from Norway to Copenhagen. The name stuck.
Seasick Steve with Aussie rockers Wolfmother
Then Seasick Steve appeared on ‘Later … with Jools Holland’, the ex-Squeeze keyboard player’s weekly BBC TV show and won the UK 2007 MOJO Award for Best Breakthrough Act in 2007 – at the age of 66. The next thing I notice is Steve’s on Jools Holland’s show again, this time in
a trio with his Swedish drummer, Dan Magnusson, and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones playing bass. John Paul Jones even backed Steve on his album ‘You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks’ and appeared with Steve at the 2011 Isle of Wight Festival and elsewhere to promote it. Nick Cave’s Grinderman band featured on Seasick Steve’s first major album release, incidentally, in 2008: ‘I Started Out With Nothin’ and I Still Got Most of It Left’. Jack White’s played drums for him and even Tom Jones has appeared on TV with him. as you can see here:

Since nominated for numerous prestigious Brit Awards, Seasick Steve completed his seventh album ‘Sonic Soul Surfer’ last year (2015).
Described as “A hypodermic shot of pure Americana”, it’s available in both the UK and USA through Amazon. (Just like my book ‘America’s Gift’ by the way.) Former Black Crowes and Mississippi Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson helps out on slide on a couple of tracks, too.
 Surf’s up! Steve’s latest album.

Steve’s pure Americana brand of hardcore blues has charted in Australia, Belgium, Ireland andSweden, gone gold three times in the UK, and platinum there once. Ironically, this most American of white American bluesmen is yet to make an impression in the USA. That’s probably because most Americans have never heard of him. Don’t let Seasick

Steve become a 2015 version of Jimi Henrix and the Walkers Brothers, ie:
American artists who become huge in the UK but receive no recognition in their homeland.

If you love blues, you’ve just got to get a dose of Seasick Steve.
Stop press. Since writing this post I’ve seen more American blues festivals are getting Seasick on board. Long may it continue.
Share