South Charlotte

New Orleans sound inspires guitarist

New Orleans-inspired blues musician Michael "Wolf" Ingmire brings the heart and soul of the blues to Charlotte.

Ingmire, 54, of Pineville, has been playing the blues for more than 43 years. During his career as a guitarist, songwriter, blues historian and journalist, he has managed bands and jammed with artists including Wilson Pickett and Big Jack Johnson.

Ingmire's band, Michael Wolf and the Voodoo Brothers - Ingmire on guitar and vocals, bassist Bill Buck and drummer Mike Scarboro - was established in August 2007 and currently is playing at the Double Door Inn in Charlotte, where its next performance will be May 26. The group focuses on the diverse music of New Orleans.

Ingmire, who moved to Charlotte from Norfolk, Va., in 2004, describes his music as a combination of New Orleans funk, blues, reggae, rock and soul.

He became interested in guitar in 1968 when, at 11 years old, he attended a Jimi Hendrix concert and was mesmerized by his style and sound. The following year, at an Allman Brothers concert, Duane Allman gave Ingmire some personal tips on playing guitar, which influenced Ingmire to play slide guitar.

Ingmire said one of his most memorable moments was in 1996, when, with press pass in hand, he interviewed one of his biggest blues-guitar heroes, Otis Rush, at the First Annual Western Maryland Blues Festival in Hagerstown, Md.

"Otis has jammed with Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and they were all influenced by his music," said Ingmire.

Later that evening, Ingmire went to a nearby club where Clarksdale, Miss., musician Johnson was hosting a jam session. Ingmire convinced Big Jack's guitarist to let him use his guitar so he could jam with the band. A few minutes later Rush arrived.

"Getting to jam with the band in front of Jack and Otis was one of the highlights of my life," said Ingmire. The best part, however, came three weeks later, when during a college radio interview Rush "complimented my musicianship three times in the interview, and I have the tape to prove it," said Ingmire.

A few months later, Johnson offered Ingmire a spot in his band, but because Ingmire's brother had died only three days before, he knew the timing wasn't right to start something new. Ingmire turned the offer down, "one of my most regretted refusals," he said.

A few days after his brother's death, Ingmire turned his grief into lyrics, writing two songs, "Lost Train" and "Unforgiven."

"My music has gotten me through some tough times," said Ingmire. "People think that the blues are sad, but I think it is spiritual music that speaks to the acceptance of the joys and pains of this life."

"Part of the appeal of listening to the blues and the music of New Orleans as a kid was that the blues seemed like history in continuous action. It was not a disposable culture," he said.

Because he is passionate about preserving blues culture for the next generation, he supports and participates in various mentor programs, including the Charlotte Blues Society's Blues in the Schools program.

Ingmire will kick off this year's mentoring program in partnership with the Gaston County Schools system with participants in the high school music program.

In addition to his mentoring programs, he gives private guitar lessons, writes a monthly column for Rocks magazine and is a member of the Charlotte Blues Society.