Guitar Shorty Biography

David William Kearney, 8 September 1939, Houston, Texas, USA. A penchant for acrobatics disguises Shorty’s real talent as a blues guitarist. He grew up in Kissimmee, Florida, where his uncle Willie Quarterman introduced him to the guitar. At 17 he was playing in the house band at Tampa’s Club Royal, where he first acquired his stage name. A year later, he went to Chicago with singer Clarence Jolly and recorded a single, ‘You Don’t Treat Me Right’, for Cobra Records. After returning to Florida, he toured with Ray Charles and Guitar Slim, whose own onstage antics led him to incorporate flips into his act. By 1959, he was in Los Angeles, where he recorded three singles for the Pull label. He then spent the next five years touring through Canada, before settling in Seattle and marrying Jimi Hendrix’s step-sister, Marsha.

While continuing to work up and down the west coast, it was not until 1985 that he had another record release, ‘They Call Me Guitar Shorty’, on Olive Branch. Another single, ‘On The Rampage’, followed, which in 1989 became the title track of his first album. Two years later, he made his British debut at the Langbaurgh International Blues Festival and also recorded My Way Or The Highway with the Otis Grand Blues Band. Topsy Turvy was recorded in New Orleans and Austin, Texas, in April 1993, with second guitarist Clarence Hollimon and his wife, Carol Fran, duetting on the opening track, ‘I’m So Glad I Met You’. Get Wise To Yourself (1996) and I Go Wild! (2002) were further proof of the ‘late developer syndrome’, and the 2004 release Watch Your Back even made the Billboard chart.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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