Little boy blues

Andrew Baxter Jr. may be a mere child, but the 11-year-old guitarist is no novelty

Andrew Sr. worked at the original Stubbs Barbecue in Lubbock in the 1970s, the region's premiere blues club. The Baxters have a photo of 3-year-old Andrew onstage with guitar at the short-lived Dallas Stubbs on Greenville Avenue ("I had 40 percent of nothin' of that," says Andrew Sr.). He's onstage with Jim Suhler, Mike Morgan, Lee McBee, and Doyle Bramhall Sr. Andrew holds a real guitar, but was playing air guitar. "Picking up the rhythms and the grooves," his dad says. His maternal grandfather taught Andrew the riff from "Secret Agent Man," the first lick for millions of kids.

A collection of Andrew Sr.'s LPs sits on a top shelf in the music room, and it includes albums by the likes of the Palladins (with whom Andrew recently posed for pictures backstage at the Sons of Hermann), the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King, George Thorogood, Anson Funderburgh, Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli, and Roomful of Blues. "All the blacks are down there," Andrew Jr. points out, and sure enough, segregated on the bottom shelf is the deep stuff: Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, T-Bone Walker, Albert King, Junior Wells, Albert Collins. The kid practices against these records, and next wants to learn "Okie Dokie Stomp" from a Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown album.

"Play some 'Snatch It Back and Hold It,'" says Andrew Sr., not unlike father goading his high school football-star son. "How 'bout some 'My Babe Don't Stand No Cheatin?'" Andrew obliges with each of these blues motifs. He's played two talent shows at Polser Elementary School, his Carrollton school, and one "pancake breakfast." He performed "Johnny B. Goode" and "Kansas City" with the school principal, Mr. Wagner, on rhythm guitar, and another fifth-grader on drums. The parents loved it. But not one friend or peer in Andrew's fifth-grade class shares his interest in blues. They prefer Marilyn Manson.

"[Manson] sucks," Andrew says with a laugh. "I think he's stupid. Some people at school say I show off, playing guitar." He shrugs, but this doesn't give him any pause. He can think of only one girl who likes his playing. Andrew will be joining the school orchestra next year, tackling upright bass.

Angela Baxter tells of a time 10 years ago, when her son was three weeks old. They were in Little Rock, Arkansas, visiting her family, and the Stevie Ray Vaughan bus was in town. Since the Baxters knew Double Trouble bassist Tommy Shannon from their days at Stubbs, they were invited in. Angela recalls Vaughan holding little Andrew and giving him a small kiss on the cheek. To her, it was an omen.

Andrew's first album is not even a dream, considering he's yet to write a whole song. Once, his big brother was in the hospital for a few days, and his father suggested he go to his room and write something to express how bad he felt about seeing his brother lying in bed. But Andrew wasn't ready, and he won't be for a while. So father and son continue to hit the clubs every so often, at least two or three a night. The clubs never charge cover.

"We don't go out for beers," Andrew Sr. says, but of course. "He goes to hear music, that's the sole purpose. All the guitarists in town give him a chance. They know he's not gonna hog the stage or his head's not gonna pop. I was his caretaker first, now I'm his roadie. I'll make sure his amp is on, he's tuned up. But it's between him and the folks onstage. A lot of people at the jams request Andrew. If he likes who's playin', if he's comfortable, he'll say yeah, and if he doesn't, he'll tell ya, 'I don't wanna play with 'em."

"There's this bass player who looks like a bulldog," Junior explains. "He smells...But it doesn't bother me, except when they spit in my face," he says, talking about the drunken fans who can't believe a sound so big comes out of a child so small. "They ask, 'Are you gonna be the next Jimmie Ray Vaughan?'"

"There ain't no rush," his father insists. Indeed, Andrew Baxter Jr. is one bluesman--one blueschild--who has all the time in the world.

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