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‘Mozart of Blues’ Icon Lucky Peterson Is Dead at 55

Lucky Peterson was an international blues icon who lived in Dallas.EXPAND
Lucky Peterson was an international blues icon who lived in Dallas.
Thesupermat/Wikimedia Commons

Singer, organist and masterful guitar player Lucky Peterson died Sunday in Dallas. He was 55.

A statement on his Facebook page, posted on Sunday evening, read:

“It is with great sorrow we announce the passing of Lucky Peterson on Sunday, May 17, 2020, at 2:25 PM CST in Dallas, Texas. He was at home when he became ill and was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, but unfortunately did not recover. At this time please respect the family’s privacy, but do keep them in your prayers.”

The cause of death is still unknown.

Peterson’s last album, released in October 2019, celebrated his 50 years as a performer with the title 50 – Just Warming Up!. He was a hugely successful touring musician, especially in France, where he was scheduled to perform several tour dates at the end of this year. In Dallas, he played venues like the Granada Theater and The Free Man in Deep Ellum.

He was born Judge Kenneth Peterson on Dec.13, 1964, in Buffalo, New York. His father had a club called The Governor’s Inn, where a young Peterson got to perform among a parade of legends who graced the stage, including Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy.

Peterson caught the attention of Willie Dixon, who became his mentor.

At only 5 years old, Peterson recorded his first album, Our Future. The prodigy has been compared with fellow precocious composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Peterson released 32 albums in his career, including The Son of a Blues Man, in honor of his father.

He was a favorite among his peers and has played with the likes of B.B. King and Wynton Marsalis, and done session work for Etta James and Mavis Staples.

Tributes poured in online on Sunday evening and Monday morning.

Mark Lettieri posted:

“Here’s something I ask myself from time to time, that I think many players could ask themselves: before attempting to 'jazz up,' or play 'beyond' or 'outside' the blues, how do I sound just playing...blues? Results  — mine included — tend to vary. It’s a deep language. And it’s way, way more than just the pentatonic scale.

R.I.P. Lucky Peterson.”

Ashleigh Smith posted a photo with the blues veteran along with the caption:

“Legend. Legend. Legend. So blessed to be able to share the stage and experience your energy. Travel well, Lucky.”

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Artists from Liz Mikel to Shelley Carrol also offered condolences.

“My quality is I look for good people. … You got a good heart you don't have to be the greatest player,” Peterson told NBC in 2012. “We can make that right, but if you got a good heart and you’re really into what you’re doing, then that’s what I look for.”

In the same interview, he spoke about the music he listened to when he was “stressed out” — Gospel and rock and roll.

“Music can take care of any mood that you’re in if you’re sincere about music and love. And I feel like God had put me here on this Earth for a reason, and that’s to deliver a message — which is music.”

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