Josh White Jr., who will perform in concert at the Kaywood Theatre on Saturday, already is looking forward to the fall, when he will star in a one-man theatrical show based on the life of his famous father. That life "seems to have been passed over a little lightly by history," White says. "When one makes an unselfish contribution, it may not be recognized at the time. Look at Scott Joplin: It took 90 years after he died for people to know he was around. Nobody's understood the hills and valleys my dad's life went through."
The senior White (1908-1969) was one of the giants of American folk music. At 8, he became the "eyes" of such legendary Southern blind minstrels as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Willie Johnson and John Henry Arnold; by his teens, White had absorbed their styles and gone out on his own. In the late '20s, his right hand was paralyzed in an accident and White turned to acting and singing; all the while he exercised his fingers and, five years later, was able to play again. In the mid-'30s he embarked on a concert and recording career that eventually took him to the White House and international fame.
The junior White, who has had a modestly successful career of his own, says the show will be a more personalized version of recent film bios such as Woody Guthrie's "Bound For Glory" and "Leadbelly."
"It's more like 'Banjo Dancing.' I've always done some of my father's songs in my shows. But this is also a challenge for me. There's a lot of songs I've never attempted to play, a lot of guitar things I never attempted to work out. Now they're pertinent.