Sid Whelan Guitarist /Singer /Songwriter/Bandleader
A blues-influenced Americana guitarist and songwriter, Sid Whelan cut his teeth on rock & roll and charted on Midwestern indie college radio in the mid ‘80’s with his song “NY Taxi.” Early in his career, Whelan was lead guitarists with various world music acts including the Lijadu Sisters and later Afroblue, which also experienced indie radio success with their cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get it if You Really Want.” Following the breakup of Afroblue, Sid left his guitars in their cases for the better part of a decade while he made a life and family in New York City. Now he’s back and again on the radio and web with Americana and Blues show airplay around the country of “Frisco Lines,” the rollicking country-blues opening track on his comeback album “Flood Waters Rising.”
The comeback all started in July 2012 when Sid’s niece, the NPR award-winning singer/songwriter Lora-Faye, called him to replace her previous lead guitarist. Whelan joined her for a baptism-by-fire return to performance for a string of gigs in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Rejuvenated, he began writing music again, returning for inspiration to his love of pre-1960 American music, particularly the blues but also country, folk, bluegrass, Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and jazz. His songs tackle difficult themes of contemporary American life.
In 2013 He created the band “Whelan,” featuring Naido Vargas on keys and harmonica; Richard Huntley on drums; and Doug Berns on bass. The group’s first CD “Flood Waters Rising,” a blues-inspired collection of nine songs, was self-released last October. It is the first installment in Whelan’s “Americana Trilogy” project – a concept run of three discs. The next installment in the Trilogy will be “Grandpa’s Rye,” a country-inspired collection, followed by “New York Taxi,” a rock and soul inspired collection. Songs from all three CDs are part of the band’s current live show, as is repertoire from their upcoming blues recording, “The Story of Ike Dupree,” which is began tracking in August 2014 and will be the first Whelan album to feature a horn section. The arrangers for the horn section are the funk and soul trombone legend Fred Wesley (James Brown, Parliament, Count Basie Band) and trumpeter Ron Horton (Jazz Composers Collective, Andrew Hill, Ben Allison).
A big fan of bottleneck guitar playing, Whelan’s primary influences for the “Flood Waters Rising” project were Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Son House, Ledbelly and Fred McDowell. Inspirational figures and other guiding lights were Woody Guthrie, Cole Porter, Bob Dylan, Kelly Joe Phelps, Eric Clapton, Carl Perkins, Robert Randolph, Bonnie Raitt, Cassandra Wilson, Taj Mahal and Ben Harper. Whelan studied guitar, jazz and/or world music with Woody Mann, Howard Morgen, Jack Baker, Steve Tarshis, Bob Sinicrope, Wendell Logan, Roderick Night and Ronny Lee.
Sid plays the following guitars: A late-model Martin DC16E cut-away; a 1970 Les Paul Custom; a Custom Schecter Tele modified with Tom Anderson & Lindy Fralin Strat-style pickups; a 1968 reissue Fender custom shop Strat relic; an Epiphone Emperor AS Archtop; an early 1940’s Oahu lap steel and a 2012 Fender American Standard Tele with Custom Shop pickups. He uses hand-blown glass slides and Ernie Ball, D’Addario and Martin strings.