Interview with Doc MacLean on One FM by Jacques Fourie

I had the pleasure of interviewing the blues legend from the USA, Doc MacLean on the Classic Friday Show with Neil on One FM 94.0.

Paul Bothner Music has been bringing out Doc MacLean for years now, and he only had good things to say about the company and staff he has been affiliated with.

Doc MacLean grew up in the Deep South of the Mississippi Delta in the USA and learnt his trade there. His parents were freedom fighters helping the cause to end slavery. He explained that he was “adopted” by the slaves working in the cotton fields and all these great blues artists took him under their wing. These include John Patton and Howlin’ Wolf. Doc explained that the kids there weren’t interested in blues, but he showed a keen interest and started playing with a friend playing in local pubs and clubs.

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Doc MacLean, a left-handed guitarist developed his own fingerpicking style which he said: “Is more complicated than you think but I try to make it sound simple, it’s the one thing that belongs to me!”. He is also looking to connect with South-African players to explore the sounds and traditional instruments of Africa. He said: “I already have the sounds and the songs in my head, I just need to find the right players.”

And local musicians like Tim Parr and Albert Frost has already joined the fold. Albert Frost has toured extensively with Doc both internationally and here in South-Africa, adding an electric blues feel to the hypnotic steel-string drone created on “The National”, Doc MacLean’s self-penned name for his guitar with a built-in resonator. Albert Frost is also involved on the production side of things and included on Doc MacLean’s current “N’Ganga Blues Tour”.

I had the privilege of carrying these guitars and almost dropping the one! Another interesting subject we discussed on the show was the trend of urbanization on an international scale where big towns are becoming huge cities and small towns have become “Ghost Towns” wiping people’s lineage away. “People can’t go back one day to show their kids where they grew up because it won’t exist in the future anymore, it’s really sad to see.”

We see this as a reality just outside our own Western Cape where places like Hanover and Richmond have already basically closed down with wooden planks covering windows where there used to be galleries, restaurants and places of business. Doctors have moved out and the schools have all closed leaving t=young and old destitute, forced to move out into the cities.

“I am a great believer in independence as an individual,” said Doc. He loves the fact that he can play his style of blues and sing his songs to a huge underground worldwide following and still not be considered “mainstream”. Doc MacLean plays more than 200 shows per year all over the globe and has played at Evite se Perron in Darling, The Drawing Room in Observatory to name but a few. He says that too many people are joining cults and strange religious sects because they don’t know who they are which results in even more psychological upheaval later in life. “Just be you,” Doc says.

And I concur; I was really amazed by how confident yet humble such a talented individual like Doc MacLean is. It’s something you see in someone who is authentic. It’s always the really great musician that will be humble and the guy who thinks he is great who is very boisterous. I learnt so much from just being in the presence of such a legend.

Doc MacLean has released two albums thus far; “Narrow House” and “Big Road Blues”. I recommend tracks like: “Bone Train” about a funeral procession, “Angola Prison Rodeo”, “Charley James Blues”, “Aint’ She Pretty”, “3 Cards on a Coffin”, “Dead Man Walking”, “Whose Gonna’ Love You”, and “Feel Like Goin’ Home”.

For further dates and information about Doc MacLean’s tour go to “N’ganga Blues Tour”. Upcoming dates include The Striped Horse in Muizenburg on 30 January and Villa Pascal in Durbanville on 31 January 2020.