“My dad graduated high school in 1939 and enlisted for World War II,” musician and educator Peter Williams says. “He wanted to fight Nazis … kind of—he really just wanted to be in a swing band, and the Army had the best players.” Williams says music ultimately became a way for he and his father to connect.
"My mother died when I was 6, but I think I was more interesting to her at first because she was an active musician," Williams recalls. "She played [piano] for people like Aretha Franklin or The Staples Singers; my dad, by the time I was born, was an active-duty soldier, and really didn't want me to go into music until one summer when I showed him the money I was making playing with this band that would go out and do Nugent songs. … That's when he started showing me the real blues."
Williams hopes to recapture this love of swing and down 'n' dirty juke-joint honky-tonk—and spread it—at his open-to-the-public workshop series. He's dubbed the series Genuine House-Rockin' Music, and it's held at at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, where he teaches music. "It's a history lesson, it's an appreciation lesson. I'm talking about X-rated, adult themes; hardcore," he says. "Like, my dad would tell me he and his friends would go out and smoke reefer, and when a Chuck Berry song came on the radio, they'd do donuts in the intersection because they were just so freaked out."
The workshop aims to get attendees playing the songs and culminates with a performance at Skylight in May. It's great for people who want to learn more about legendary performers like Howlin' Wolf or Muddy Waters. "Instead of showing them the same five Stones tunes, we go back further—this is the shit the Stones would trip on," Williams explains. "My dad told me that it used to be, if you went into to one of these juke-joints and started playing something heady, they'd kick your ass, take your instruments and finish the set. That's what I'm talking about."
Williams is himself a studied and multi-faceted musician, having played in numerous Santa Fe bands since his days as a student at the College of Santa Fe (now SFUAD, for at least the next little bit). These days, he'll lend a hand to KISS cover band Love Gun for shows and is available for session work, but his main passion lies with his funk act, The Sticky. Following last year's fabled Prince tribute show in the Railyard (it was magical, sorry if you missed it), Williams returned to his day job at The Candyman Strings 'n' Things where, he says, owner Cindy Cook asked him why he wasn't pursuing music full-time.
"That was a damn good question," he says with a laugh, "and so now I'm just at this point where I've jumped in with both feet." Since its inception some years ago, The Sticky has written more original material than ever and has grown to include a full horn section. They sexy, and you can generally catch them at Skylight once a month.
Otherwise, Williams says that if SFUAD closes he'll still teach music. "It's so funny, because I used to get nervous about that kind of thing when I wasn't hustling enough," he says. "But the shit I tell my students all the time is that it's really your job to make art, and sometimes that has nothing to do with being in a school. … What I learned about the blues had nothing to do with school! To get out there and experience life and heartaches and setbacks and soul-crushing defeats, the next step you make—that's the blues! You either play it out or sing it out or you bottle it up and get cancer."
You can catch both the Genuine House-Rockin' Music workshop and a performance from The Sticky this Saturday. We'd highly recommend you do both of those things.
Genuine House-Rockin' Music
2-5 pm Saturdays April 8-May 19. $500 for entire series.
Santa Fe University of Art and Design,
1600 St. Michael's Drive,
9 pm Saturday April 8. $8.
139 W San Francisco St.,
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