OXFORD, Miss. – Conjuring up the music of the past is Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton’s specialty, even though he is a mere 24 years old. He effortlessly embodies the spirit of early music including ragtime, ’20s jazz and Dust Bowl-era blues.
The Music of the South series, which highlights intimate evenings with Southern performers at the University of Mississippi, continues with Paxton in its fourth concert at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.
A partnership between the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the Ford Center, the Music of the South Concert Series is set for 7 p.m. in the Ford Center’s Studio Theater, which has a capacity of 150 people.
Tickets are available for $10 through the UM Box Office, 662-915-7411, and at the door.
Paxton delivers his music to audiences through a dizzying display of virtuosity on multiple instruments, and his delivery in dress, manner, speech and humor of the period, and was featured in the October 2012 issue of Living Blues magazine, highlighting the next generation of acoustic blues.
“Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton is a unique talent in the blues world. He has about as close to an acoustic prewar blues sound as you’ll hear from anyone,” said Mark Camarigg, publications manager for Living Blues. “There’s a really interesting string-band scene happening in Brooklyn and other places and Paxton is at the center of it. Much like Valerie June, who performed at our spring Music of the South concert, this is a great opportunity to catch an artist clearly on the way up.”
Paxton was born in 1989 in the Watts district of Los Angeles and raised by his grandmother, who moved there from Caspiana, La., and her Southern roots influenced Paxton. He grew up listening to old Cajun and country blues songs his grandmother would sing, which molded his musical interests.
He began playing the fiddle as a 12-year-old, only to pick up the banjo two years later. As a teenager, Paxton began to go blind, losing most of his eyesight by the age of 16. Since then, Paxton has added piano, harmonica, accordion, ukulele and guitar to the blues, jazz and ragtime in his repertoire.
“I try to be like them old boys,” Paxton told Living Blues. “When you talk about gathering the essence – them old boys had big ears … I can play the hell out of the blues, but I’m not limited to the blues.”
According to the Country Blues website, Paxton is “witty, fast rhyming, poetic, fun, exciting, wonderfully skilled as a musician and a fine singer in the continuation of a proud tradition.”
Paxton cites John Hurt, Furry Lewis, Fats Waller and Blind Lemon Jefferson as his heroes, as well as Blind Blake and Charley Patton. He has played with fiddler Frank Fairlane, Grammy Award winners the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Brooklyn’s Dust Busters.