The music of Mississippi blues artist John Hurt was rediscovered during the revival of folk music in the 1960s.
That caught John Oates’ ear.
“I was very much into the folk music in those days. I saw (Hurt) at Philadelphia Folk Festival and various coffee houses around Philadelphia when I was a kid,” Oates said. “I was given a chance to play his guitar when it was given to my guitar teacher after he passed away (in 1966). I eventually bought that guitar that he played in the early ‘60s when he was rediscovered.”
Oates, who is accustomed to playing at large arenas and amphitheaters with his music partner Daryl Hall, will perform with The Good Road Band at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at Butler University’s 450-seat Schrott Center for the Arts in Indianapolis.
Oates recently wrapped up a Hall & Oates tour, playing in large arenas.
“I just spent five months on tour, playing in front of 10,000 and 15,000 people. You can’t compare that to almost anything,” Oates said. “The balance of having an intimate connection with the audience where I can tell stories and put the songs into context and play a completely different style of music, it’s really great for me. It makes me feel good that I have people accept me on both levels. It’s grounding. It gives you a chance to kind of get your feet back on the ground.”
Oates is touring in support of his album “Arkansas,” released in January.
“It started out as a tribute to John Hurt, and that forms a core of the record,” Oates said. “But as the record evolved, it became a snapshot of music that was made during his earliest recording career in the late 1920s and early 1930s. I started to look at music and songs that were contemporary with him back in those days.”
Oates realized it was an important era of music.
“It was really the beginning of American popular music and the music that preceded the big bands and eventually preceded the birth of rock and roll,” Oates said.
Oates said Hurt, nicknamed “Mississippi John Hurt,” is sometimes misrepresented as a Delta blues player. Oates said Hurt played more of a ragtime style.