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Tribute to a Friend

Texas-based Anson Funderburgh pays tribute to local legend.

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In addition to honoring a fellow musician and raising money for the Music Makers Relief Foundation to benefit retired blues players, the picnic gives Funderburgh, the Rockets and harmonica player Sam Myers a chance to perform a batch of new tunes off the latest CD. “Which Way Is Texas?” finds the band in top form, rambling down all manner of blue highways. Singer and harmonica player Meyers’ rough-and-tumble voice booms, and Funderburgh’s concise guitar punctuates the tunes with a sharp-edged elegance. And for the first time in his 25-year career, Funderburgh steps up to the microphone to sing lead vocals on two songs he wrote with his wife, Renee. The tunes are standouts, but Funderburgh remains unconvinced.

“It was like a growing thing,” Funderburgh says of his burgeoning vocal talents. “Tonight [on stage] might be my first night of singing. I’m really kind of nervous about it.”

That Funderburgh should be nervous about any part of this business is surprising. Originally a big fan of Buck Owens and other hard country singers, Anson fell for the blues when he heard Freddie King’s fretwork on the instrumental classic “Hideaway.” The Texas native taught himself guitar and began playing Dallas-area “Push” dances right out of high school, and except for a couple of short stints as a carpenter, he’s managed to avoid the dreaded day job ever since.

After forming the Rockets in 1978, Funderburgh began making a name for himself in blues clubs across the country. He met former Elmore James drummer Myers in the early 1980s. They hit it off, and in 1986, he added Sam’s soulful vocals and harmonica to the mix. Since then, the band has won a slew of Handy awards, including Song of the Year twice, Blues Band of the Year three times and Album of the Year once. Funderburgh should have another winner on his hands with “Which Way Is Texas?” Regardless, you get the feeling Funderburgh and the Rockets are on the road to stay.

“We just had a love for the same kind of music,” Funderburgh concludes in his friendly drawl. “You have to truly have a love for the music. There’s not a lot of money in this business. You just have to … do what’s in your heart. You just kind of beat out a livin’.” S

Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, featuring Sam Myers, play the Bobby Olive Memorial Picnic Sunday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m. at the Dale Ruritan Club, 5101 Ruritan Place, Route 10 and Chippenham Parkway. Also performing are Li’l Ronnie and the Grand Dukes, Terry Garland and Pure and Sinful. Gates open 1 p.m. Tickets $12 in advance at Plan 9 ($10 for River City Blues Society members) or $15 at the gate.

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