It’s a big year for Walter “Wolfman” Washington. In August and September, the classic New Orleans rhythm-and-blues artist toured with Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown. The all-star show’s 28 dates included SummerStage in New York City and the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
In April, Los Angeles’ ANTI- Records released Washington’s acclaimed new album, My Future Is My Past. Produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman, the project showcases the singer-guitarist in intimate performances backed by Jon Cleary, Ivan Neville, David Torkanowsky, James Singleton and Stanton Moore.
Turning 75 on December 20, Washington has been in New Orleans music since he joined the Dew Drop Inn house band in 1959. In the 1960s, he toured with Lee Dorsey and Irma Thomas. Washington also worked with David Lastie’s Taste of New Orleans and he was Johnny Adams’ “personal” guitarist for more than a decade. In 2017, Washington marked the 30th anniversary of his own band, the Roadmasters.
Who are some of the artists who helped you make a life in music?
Johnny Adams, David Lastie. All these cats helped me through life. Especially when you decide you don’t want to do a day job. I decided that when I was 19 years old.
Have the past few years of your career gone especially well?
A lot of good things have happened. I found a new manager. I bought a house. I have three cars. I said, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’
How about touring with Trombone Shorty?
Every time I went on stage I was given a standing ovation. Every show. I said, ‘Look at this. Lord, have mercy.’ It was really something to see.
Voodoo Threauxdown includes Galactic, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Cyril Neville, Kermit Ruffins and more. Does it feel like family?
That’s it—and feeling proud because everybody’s holding their own weight. People wonder why New Orleans musicians get so much recognition. We play from our hearts, with compassion and understanding.
Why did you take such an intimate approach for your new album?
Ben Ellman said, ‘Man, I can’t really hear your voice on your records.’ So, he wanted to do a session on me. When I got to the studio, I felt comfortable because most of the cats I know. I got a chance to listen to myself and how the musicians play behind me. I could really concentrate on singing. I love the way it turned out.
Walter “Wolfman” Washington performs October 6 at Algiers Fest, October 12 at the Voice of the Wetlands Festival, October 13 at the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival and every Wednesday at d.b.a.