Ross William Perry
By Kevin Sheedy, The Wichita Eagle
Many an aspiring bluesboy stoked his passion by wearing out albums of the masters and sneaking into bars to hear the locals.
Count Ross William Perry among them. But the young guitarist from Minnesota did his peers one better: He raided the library.
After discovering the wonders of blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, Perry made a shopping list of albums by musicians that Vaughan liked. "Then I went to the library and found a ton of books on the blues, and tried to track it that way," a very youthful-sounding Perry says.
"In school we had study halls. I was never doing homework, I was reading books on music and the blues."
Perry, who will play at the Roadhouse on Saturday with his three-piece band, was primed at an early age to love music. His father owned a bar with live music, but more importantly jam sessions were held at the Perry house starting when Ross was about 3 years old.
A few years later he was given his first guitar.
"I'd go out there in the living room and irritate them, strum my open-strung guitars as loud as I could and not make any music," Perry says with a chuckle.
"For the first couple of years Dad taught me chords, taught me some surf songs. Then when I was about 7, 8, 9, I wanted him to teach me a song. He said, 'You know what I think, it's time for you to learn on your own.' "
Cutting the leash was tough on the young pup. "It really upset me. I didn't realize what he was doing back then, but I eventually figured how to play by ear."
His dad had records from the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Booker T. and the MGs. Perry and his buddies were naturally drawn to that music, "but we didn't really know why."
"Then I stumbled upon Stevie Ray Vaughan. I started reading some interviews that he did and found out that the style of music that we really liked and didn't know what to call was called blues music."
Perry, 24, formed his first band when he graduated from high school and has performed mainly in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. The gig at the Roadhouse is part of an effort to expand the band's touring base.
Perry has released two albums, 2000's "Live: Blues in Greenville," with a mix of originals and covers such as "Pipeline" and "Superstition," and 2003's "The Move," with all original songs.
"I enjoy writing. It's interesting to give your own perspective,"Perry says, all of a sudden sounding older. "Playing other people's songs is great, but art is about expressing yourself and sometimes you feel like you can do that better playing your own material."
Perry says he struggles with his desire to remain true to the blues yet at the same time expand his horizons.
"I don't want people to think that I forgot my roots. I'm torn between two things because I don't want to keep doing what Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters have done, I want to come up with my own thing. I don't want it to be a final destination."