MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

July 8, 2010

Harley Hamm hits the Roxy

Maybe it’s the way Muskogee blues musician Harley Hamm dresses on stage, with the turquoise and bolero hat.

Maybe it’s the gutsy, gravelly way he sings the blues.

Maybe it’s the long black hair cascading under the hat.

But Hamm says he’s often compared to blues great Stevie Ray Vaughan.

So be it. Hamm now is capitalizing on such comparisons with tribute concerts honoring the legend, who died in a helicopter accident in 1990.

He will pay such tribute with a concert Saturday at the Roxy Theatre.

Hamm, who never tells his age, admits he finds the comparisons interesting.

“As a kid, it’s not like he was one of my favorites,” Hamm said in a telephone interview. “I bought a lot of his records, but I did not really start singing like him.”

Still, the comparisons came, he said.

Hamm recalled one concert when an audience member kept staring at him.

“She said ‘I don’t mean to stare at you, but you remind me so much of Stevie Ray Vaughan,’” he said. “A bunch of people encouraged me to keep going with that.”

Hamm said there are some ways he is like Vaughan.

“We have the same facial expressions,” he said. “I sway a lot like he does. We have the same gravelly, bluesy type voice. I’ve always liked the south Texas Tex-Mex look: Turquoise, squash blossoms. Gypsy shirts.”

Hamm also got the same black bolero hat Vaughan had.

“I went to the same Texas hatter and got the same hat,” Hamm said. “It was kind of expensive, but it was a good omen to have the same hat as he had.”

Hamm said he actually began performing as Vaughan last Halloween.

“I have a friend who is a Prince impersonator,” he said.

He said another friend, Jim Blair, encouraged him to go ahead with it. Hamm performed with Blair in “Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” a production of Muskogee Little Theatre, last fall.

“I started watching Stevie Ray a lot and got a lot of his books,” Hamm said. He said he and Vaughan both were influenced by another blues great Albert King, a blues guitarist who recorded for Stax Records in the 1960s.

Hamm said he’s been surprised at how well his Vaughan tributes have been received.

“Sometimes they pay on a scale double than what I normally get,” he said, referring to times he has done Vaughan. “I run into a lot of people who are crazy about Stevie Ray.”

Even with the comparisons and encouragement, Hamm said he had to make some changes.

“He was an in-your-face South Texas blues singer,” he said. “My style is more funky.”

Hamm will be accompanied by Charlie Redd on bass and Stanley Ferry on drums.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at 684-2928 or cspaulding @muskogeephoenix.com.

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