Twenty-nine-year-old Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton’s vintage sound is a living memory of a bygone era. Channeling performers who lived more than a century ago, his banjo-infused, blues music and the stories surrounding it will be the focus of Paxton’s upcoming artistic residency in downtown Jonesborough.
His appearance is part of the Storytelling Live! series, a six-month bonanza of live performance produced by the International Storytelling Center.
Paxton’s nickname isn’t just a throwback to the blind blues greats of yesteryear. The multi-instrumentalist began to lose his vision as a teenager, and has been for all intents and purposes blind since the age of 16. “I have visual impairments, but Legally Blind Boy Paxton is the stupidest stage name I could come up with,” he jokes. “So I just omitted the ‘Legally.’”
Paxton is perhaps best known for playing guitar and banjo, but his expert ear and natural ability mean that he can pick up almost any instrument.
“People call this traditional music, and a lot of people think of me as a revivalist,” he says. “I don’t tend to think of things in those terms because I’m a musician. This is the music I’ve always played for my family. It’s not old or traditional or a throwback; I’m just a dude that plays music that my folks and I want to listen to.”
Some of Paxton’s stylings hearken back more than 200 years ago, from unrecorded genres that have been passed down from one player to another.
“Back home in South Central [Los Angeles], I played the music my grandma taught me from the cotton field,” Paxton says. “The techniques and a lot of the melodies are made out of old cloth by the builders of America.”
Paxton’s charming blend of music and storytelling will be center stage during his weeklong residency in Jonesborough. Performances are at 2 p.m. each day Tuesday through Saturday, June 12 – 16.
Tickets are just $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Season passes will be available at more than a 40 percent discount, but only for a limited time. Advance purchase for all events sponsored by the International Storytelling Center is highly recommended.
All ticketholders can present their ticket stubs for a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at JJ’s Eatery and Ice Cream; Main Street Café (lunch only); Medley Vegan Vegetarian; Olde Towne Pancake House; and The Corner Cup. Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and 5 percent off any other purchase.
Storytelling Live! runs from May through the end of October, with daily matinees Tuesday through Saturday and special programming like children’s shows and workshops scheduled throughout the season.
Information about all performers, as well as a detailed schedule for 2018, is available at www.storytellingcenter.net. The premier sponsor of Storytelling Live! is Ballad Health. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Niswonger Foundation, Eastman Credit Union, and Food City. Media sponsors include News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Herald & Tribune, and Cumulus Media.
The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276.