Judge Kenneth Peterson (December 13, 1964 – May 17, 2020), KNOW AS Lucky Peterson, was an American singer and musician who played contemporary blues guitar and keyboards, fusing soul, R&B, gospel and rock and roll.
Lucky Peterson’s father James Peterson, who was also a bluesman, owned a nightclub in Buffalo, called The Governor’s Inn, which was a regular stop for fellow bluesmen including Howlin Wolf and Willie Dixon, who saw five-year-old Lucky Peterson performing at the club and took him under his wing.
A few months later, Lucky Peterson performed on The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and What’s My Line?, and millions of people watched him sing “1-2-3-4”, a cover version of “Please, Please, Please” by the one and only James Brown.
Around the same time, aged just 5 years old, Lucky recorded his first album, “Our Future: 5 Year Old Lucky Peterson”, on Today/Perception Records and he appeared on the television show, Soul!
By the age of 8 he had been on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”, “The David Frost Show” and many more TV shows.
In 1972, Lucky Peterson and his father, James, released an album, “The Father. The Son. The Blues”.
Lucky Peterson studied at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, as a teen, where he played the French horn with the school symphony orchestra, although he later said that the lessons, which focused on classical music, didn’t much interest him.
“If I knew what I know now, I would have been more serious,” he told The Buffalo News. “I would have really learned it. I can read a little music, but not like I’m supposed to know.”
A better musical education for him was going on the road at the age of 17 with the blues singer and guitarist Little Milton. The experience, he said, taught him “how to reach your audience, and how to be real soulful, how to do it and mean it.”
He was also played backup guitar and keyboards for Etta James and Bobby “Blue” Bland.
Although his father was also a bluesman, Lucky Peterson told a story of how he once took advantage of having the same last name as an even more famous musician, when he auditioned to go on tour with the blues singer Bobby Bland, whose music at the time had some jazz influences in it. He told The Buffalo News “When I auditioned, they said, ‘Yeah, what’s your name?’ I said, ‘Lucky Peterson.’ Then I kind of lied. I said, ‘Well, you might have heard of my father.’ So I had Bobby Bland and everybody else in the band running around saying, ‘Man, we got Oscar Peterson’s son playing with us!’”
Lucky Peterson release two solo Bob Greenlee produced albums for the Chicago-based Alligator Records, “Lucky Strikes!” in 1989, and the following year’s “Triple Play” which some say are still his finest recorded offerings. He then released four more albums for the Verve record label, “I’m Ready”, “Beyond Cool”, “Lifetime” and “Move”. While with Verve, Lucky Peterson also collaborated with Mavis Staples on a tribute to gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, called “Spirituals & Gospel”, and played electronic organ behind Staples’ singing.
More albums from Lucky Peterson came after 2000, when he recorded two for Blue Thumb Records, “Lucky Peterson” and “Double Dealin’”, one for Disques Dreyfus Records called “Black Midnight Sun” and then in 2007 “Tête à Tête” on JSP Records.
In his book “The Blues – From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray” music journalist Tony Russell, said, “Lucky Peterson may be the only blues musician to have had national television exposure wearing short pants.
Lucky Peterson battled substance abuse at times and went through some unproductive periods, but he continued to perform and record until his death.
Lucky Peterson lived in Dallas, Texas, and maintained a rigorous performing schedule, touring all over the world. He died in Dallas on May 17, 2020, aged 55, no cause of death was given.
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