D.K. Harrell was very quiet as an infant, rarely crying or making any sound at all. So the day his mother heard something coming from the backseat of her car as she drove down a northern Louisiana highway, she turned down the CD she was listening to only to find her 18-month-old son, D.K. trying to sing along to B.B. King. Turns out that was just a precursor of things to come.
Now 25, the Ruston, La., native is carving out a career as a blues singer, guitarist and songwriter of note. He may owe a debt of gratitude to B.B. King for inspiration, but clearly, he has his own ideas of blues in today’s world and hopes to honor The King’s legacy through his own music.
His debut CD, The Right Man was recorded at Greaseland Studios in San Jose, Calif, for The Little Village Label, part of a nonprofit foundation that specializes in introducing new music to the world. The debut release is due out June 30, 2023. Produced by Christoffer “Kid” Andersen, the recording includes 11 original songs and features drummer Tony Coleman (a 30-year veteran of the B.B. King Band), bassist Jerry Jemmott (who recorded the original “The Thrill Is Gone” with King) and organist Jim Pugh (a former member of the bands of Etta James, Robert Cray and Chris Isaak). It’s pretty heady stuff for someone who only got his first paying gig in 2019. “I always say the music is my voice,” says Harrell.
Harrell first picked up a harmonica at the age of 11 after he saw a portrayal of bluesman Little Walter in the movie Cadillac Records. A couple of years later he picked up guitar and started exploring the blues styles of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. Frustrated by his inability to play slide as deftly as Waters, he found the music of B.B. King. He locked into it, watching every video he could find of King performing over the next several years. He absorbed every aspect of his stage performance, including how to coax the same sounds out of his guitar, how King’s vocals eased through songs and even his mannerisms. Along the way he posted some videos of his playing on Facebook and received encouragement from former King drummer Tony Coleman as well as former King organist Ron Levy.
In 2019, he got his first paying gig as a musician at a symposium at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Miss., where he even got to play The King’s cherished Gibson guitar “Lucille.” Two years later he was back in Indianola, featured as the youngest musician on a show that included Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Bobby Rush, Gary Clark Jr, and Mr. Sipp to name a few.
He followed that up in 2022 with a third place finish at The International Blues Challenge in Memphis and hasn’t looked back since. DK has kicked off 2023 with a month long tour of Brazil as well as playing high profile, prestigious Festivals such as The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, The King Biscuit Blues Festival and Portland’s Waterfront Festival. The Sky is the Limit for this kid.
D.K. says, “Music is my only true friend… And, that’s fine with me.”