Lighting’ Malcolm is a 44-year-old blues musician from North Mississippi. He’s taken the style of some of the blues legends of the region and developed his own sound in his more than two decades as a professional musician. The music has taken him to large stadiums and intimate house concerts throughout North America, South America and Europe.
His first encounter with the blues was on a cassette tape by Muddy Waters. He was initially drawn to the way Waters looked on the cover, but then he played the tape, and everything changed. “I put it on, and the first song was Mannish Boy, and it just begged you to crank the speakers up as loud as you could, and I was blown away. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s, like, a man singing. If I ever become a man, I’m going to try to do something like that.’”
Malcolm often performs as a one man band, playing guitar and harmonica and singing, while simultaneously playing kick drum, snare and hi-hat with his feet. He says that he started playing this way out of necessity because he would often get gigs at juke joints and house parties where the pay wasn’t enough for him to hire other musicians. There was also the extra challenge of being entertaining and giving people a solid beat that they could dance to right away, because the audiences had very high standards, and if they weren’t completely won over on the first song, there would be no second song and the jukebox would finish out the night.
Malcolm says that singing the blues is different than other musical styles because it means giving yourself over to it all the way. And once you do that, he says that it is so satisfying that you’ll never want to do anything else.
Lightnin Malcolm is playing in Memphis Thursday night at the Memphis Music Mansion.