Walter "Wolfman" Washington celebrates 74th birthday with several shows in New Orleans_lowres

Walter "Wolfman" Washington celebrates his 74th birthday with a week of shows.

Guitarist and bandleader Walter "Wolfman" Washington turns 74 on Dec. 21, but he's celebrating a week early with a series of concerts around New Orleans.

Washington performs with his Roadmasters at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13 at d.b.a. and 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art during Ogden After Hours. He's also performing alongside Anders Osborne, Ivan Neville and Rickie Lee Jones at 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15 at Tipitina's.

The week of shows culminates at his annual birthday party performing with the Roadmasters at 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16 at The Maple Leaf. Tickets are $10.

[jump] [content-1] Born in 1943, the New Orleans native taught himself to play guitar while performing with a spiritual group, and as a teenager he got his first "real" gig in the house band at the Dew Drop Inn. He lived in a small apartment nearby ("it wasn't but a room," he told Gambit.

Washington has performed with his R&B and funk powerhouse the Roadmasters for more than 30 years, and he held a longtime slot at the Maple Leaf in a trio with keyboardist Joe Krown and drummer Russell Batiste Jr. But the beginnings of his signature style trace back to Lee Dorsey, who hired a 19-year-old Washington to tour with him after hits like "Ride A Pony," and Johnny Adams, who hired Washington for nearly 20 years.

"Johnny Adams was the one who really helped me with my voice, showing me how to utilize my voice where I can sing and have freedom," Washington told Gambit. "He showed me how to sing in different keys and utilize as wide a range as I can. He'd come and get me every day, and we'd go by his house, he'd show me how to play guitar, show me different chords, different phrases. ... A lot of cats don't play the blues anymore. What I've done is combine blues and funk into a way that I know: my style of music."  [location-1][location-2][location-4][location-3]