October 4, 2008

Little Toby Walker

performance and guitar workshop

Little Toby Walker
in performance


L ittle Toby Walker returned to our stage to open our spectacular 40th Anniversary season, and boy did he put on a great show for us. He has performed on our stage many times over the past twenty years or so, and Toby keeps getting better. John Toby was warmly introduced by our President, Ira Perlman, who honored him as a close friend — and by John Platt, right, of WFUV who testified to Toby's unique talents. Toby played many spectacular tunes from his new album Hand Picked on either his magnificent guitar or his exuberant resonator, which demonstrated his virtuosity on the guitar. His voice boomed or insinuated or crooned to tell the stories of the songs, which he had introduced with a fascinating tale of the stories behind the stories of the song. There is no better interpreter of the blues, traditional or contemporary, on stages today ... and none more entertaining.

Toby reminisced about sending us a demo tape years ago, and then he came to a concert at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory auditorium, where our concerts were held then, and played his first open mike with us ... and it earned him a house concert gig. As an emerging artist, he played our stage many times, and had many gigs at My Father's Place in Roslyn opening for the great name blues artists of the time. His talent and repertoire developed over time, and in 2002 in Memphis he won the International Blues Challenge Award and transformed himself into a full-time professional, and we welcomed him with a First Saturday gig that June.

Toby is a unique, accomplished fingerstyle guitar virtuoso. Toby is adept at blues, rags, hot country picking, and coaxes more out of a guitar than anyone can imagine, but the originality doesn't end there. He is also a skilled singer and songwriter who draws inspiration from traditional and contemporary music. Toby takes that musical foundation and creates something uniquely his own and has been eagerly received in various venues including concert halls, festivals and coffeehouses throughout the U.S., England and Europe.

Toby’s passion for blues, rag, folk, and other traditional American music drove him to leave an apartment crammed full of recordings, books and instruments for the Mississippi Delta, Virginia and the Carolinas where he tracked down some of the more obscure — but immensely talented — music makers of an earlier era. He learned directly at the feet of Eugene Powell, James "Son" Thomas, Etta Baker, and R.L Burnside, among others.

LittleThe talent, passion, and soul of a Toby Walker performance reflects these travels. Whether it is telling the humorous and heartwarming tales of other masters, talking about his inspirations, or astounding you with his mastery, his performances are a feast for the senses. The audience is moved in ways that delight them long after the encores. You can catch a taste of these stories on his Web site in the "Blues Travels" section. But make no mistake about it — he is to be experienced live. Those fortunate enough to attend one of his shows will vouch for that.

The love Toby has for his craft pushes him to share his history and experience where he has performed in libraries and schools allowing others to share the sounds, sights, and emotions of his unique abilities. His teaching credits include, among others, Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio. In 2006, Carnegie Hall acknowledged his rare talents and hired him to augment and teach in their "American Roots" program aimed at honor level middle school students. This one-of-a-kind series demonstrates the history of blues music and traditions, while teaching the history of African Americans as they migrated from the south into the north.

LittleOn two compelling songs this evening, Toby was joined by Martha Trachtenberg. Martha performs with Toby on these songs on his CD. The harmony was moving.

Another special surprise came in his encore, when he was joined by his wife, Carol, in a compelling gospel anthem.

There is no doubt that Toby Walker has found his life's calling, and as a result everyone keeps calling for more Toby Walker.

Little Toby Walker: Hand PickedA t this concert, Toby released his newest CD Hand Picked, his seventh. Acoustic fingerpicking blues at its best, with some interesting surprises added, showing why and see why Little Toby is the Little King of the Blues. On this great evening, the combination of our 40th Anniversary kick-off and Toby's CD release party made for a very special evening.

Praises by others for his performances:

  • "6 CD's in only 7 years, — as far as I'm concerned - masterpieces"
      Eric Dumeige, Blues & Company from France

  • "When he straps the guitar on, the notes fly at a rate that is dizzying. On top of a rock-solid bass pattern, the treble melody lines dance with speed, grace and precision. The effect is one of steel-like strength. One word that comes to mind is… muscular."
      Richard Cuccaro, Acoustic Live! in New York City and beyond
        Link to full story in the archive:  

  • "The performance you gave us was outstanding in all respects. The magic and excitement of your musicianship was beautifully enhanced by your depth of knowledge and warm audience rapport. We seldom have the treat of hearing perfomers who have learned their material directly from the original source. The tales of your travels in the south add delightful seasoning to the hearty banquet of your program. We consider your concert to have been a total success."
      Sybil Moser, Folk Music Society of Huntington

      Link to his songs on Toby's website:       or visit his web site:

  •   Opening tonight were our featured open mike performers:

    Our host tonight was Ira Perlman,
    and our open mike featured performances by:

  • Ira Perlman
    Ira Perlman

  • Gerry McKeveney
    Gerry McKeveney

  • Peter Carter
    Peter Carter

  • Claude Margouleff
    Claude Margouleff

  • Denise Romas
    Denise Romas

  • Larry Lewitt
    Larry Lewitt

  • Ed Mocko with Tom Wilson
    Ed Mocko Tom Wilson

  • David Bailey
    David Bailey

  • Richard Barnhart
    Richard Barnhart

  • Martha Trachtenberg
    Martha Trachtenberg

  • Bob Westcott
    Bob Westcott

  • . . . and Pat Harper
    Pat Harper

  • If you weren't here tonight, you missed yet another of the very best programs of the year ...