It was the third concert for songwriter Doug MacLeod at the Blend Wine Shop in Key Center, where he played and sang to a sold-out house Mar. 12. Blend’s proprietor, Don Swensen, said, “I could have sold twice as many tickets if I had room.”
MacLeod began his career as a bass player in St. Louis in 1962. He said he had been abused as a child and developed a stutter, but when he sang there was no trace of a speech impediment. He said he’d “rather be in that world without a stutter.”
MacLeod watched as lead players had better success with women, so he switched from playing bass to guitar to change his luck.
“The old blues men liked me,” he said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have been allowed with them. If they had an honest feeling about you, they would accept you, and maybe teach you.”
MacLeod’s main influence was George (Harmonica) Smith, who called him Dubb, “or Dubbless when he was mad at me. For some reason he could never pronounce my name.” Dubb is inscribed on MacLeod’s leather guitar strap. “He taught me a lot. Not just about music. About life, and overcoming adversity,” he said.
MacLeod’s original music is in the style of early blues musicians. He has written over 250 songs and recorded 22 albums, CDs and “a whole mess of download only music.” The most memorable experience in his career was “opening for and meeting BB King,” he said.
Recognition of MacLeod’s work includes two blues music awards and three nominations. He said, “It’s a ‘humblization’ to know all the musicians gone on before you, and here you are. If the King is carrying his own luggage, like he did when I saw him at the airport in Amsterdam, I don’t need a big head.”
Denny Hall, a longtime blues musician now living in Gig Harbor, said, “The fact that so many of the old blues legends have recorded his songs tells me he is true to the idiom.” Both Hall and Kitsap resident Tom Welch have attended all three of MacLeod’s Key Peninsula concerts. Welch said, “I told Don (Swensen) that I would pay $100 to hear Doug play. He is a storyteller. He’s funny and imaginative.”
MacLeod plays a National brand guitar with three internal cylinders that produce a mellow tone, similar to a dobro. He tunes it “with too many G’s…one foot on the sidewalk, one foot in the gutter.” He bends the strings into soulful notes as he sings his blues stories, which he says “go exactly like this.” He keeps a steady, strong beat with the heel of his ostrich leather boots.
MacLeod has a project in the works to “record the ilk” with his reminiscences of legends Wes Montgomery, Honeyboy Williams, John Lee Hooker, Louis Jordan, Duke Ellington and Tony Joe White.
MacLeod was in Gig Harbor with an organization called United by Music, where he is mentoring young musicians. His advice to aspiring entertainers: “Make sure your partner has health insurance.” Then his face turned serious: “Be honest.” He quoted Ernest Banks, “Never play a note you don’t believe,” and Luther Allison, “Leave your ego. Play the music. Love the people.”
If he had his life to live over, MacLeod said, “I would have found my right mind sooner. I wouldn’t have hurt so many women. I was a scoundrel when I was young.”