Timeless blues man Seals lives by the music he sings

Kyle Sederstrom

In the 30 years since his first appearance at the Maintenance Shop, Son Seals’ outlook on life has not changed considerably. He still has the blues.

The Chicago blues guitar great will return to the M-Shop for a pair of shows Saturday night. His first show in Ames was in 1974, the year the M-Shop opened.

Seals credits the environment he grew up in for his attraction to the blues. He grew up in Arkansas in the back of his father’s juke joint.

“Dad always had someone out there on the bandstand,” Seals says.

“You couldn’t help but get involved.”

Seals began playing the guitar when he was 12, growing up with such blues greats as Albert King and Robert Nighthawk as his teachers.

“All the people I’ve come up under have been gone a long time,” Seals says.

After the death of his father in 1971, Seals moved to Chicago, where he quickly attracted the attention of the blues scene. He released his first album, “The Son Seals Blues Band,” in 1973. He has released eight more albums and has appeared on numerous blues compilations over the last 30 years.

Since his first show at the M-Shop, Seals says, the music scene has experienced quite a few changes.

“A lot of different styles of music have come and gone, and pushed blues to the back burner for a while, but blues will always be around,” Seals says.

Since the mid-’70s, Seals has undergone a 20-year struggle with diabetes, which led to the loss of part of his leg in 1999. That has not dampened Seals enthusiasm for performing, however. He has continued to play at the M-Shop almost every year.

“It’s hard with my health and whatnot, but when they call me I try to come down,” Seals says. “It’s a good place; I’ve been coming there a long time.”

Ultimately, it’s the fans that keep him coming back to Ames.

“Well, if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t keep coming back,” he says. “I’ve got people who come up to me after the show and say, ‘I saw you 25 years ago.'”

Although it rarely gets much attention from the mainstream media, Seals says he doesn’t foresee the demise of the blues anytime soon.

“[The blues] will always be around because all other music comes from the blues,” he says.