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Busta’s Person of the Week: Legendary blues singer and musician Eric Gales has earned his crown

Busta’s Person of the Week: Legendary blues singer and musician Eric Gales has earned his crown
April 28
11:02 2022

By Busta Brown

In 1992, the legendary Carlos Santana was a guest on The Arsenio Hall Show. Arsenio asked Santana, “You’ve worked with Hendrix. Are there any Hendrix-caliber musicians around today?” Santana replied, “Sure! There’s a young brother from Memphis, Tennessee, his name is Eric Gales. He’s 16 years old, still in high school, and he’s absolutely incredible.” 

In 1994, Carlos Santana invited Eric to join him onstage at Woodstock. “I received a call from Carlos. He said, ‘What do you think about being my special guest at Woodstock?’ It was a million people in the crowd. We did a tribute to Hendrix and it was the most people I’ve performed for in my life. They had the fighter jets flying over the stage with purple smoke coming out. It was the biggest and most intense gig I’ve ever done in my life!” The purple smoke was a salute to Jimi Hendrix’s classic “Purple Haze.” 

Since 1991, due to his swagger and electrifying showmanship, fellow musicians and fans have heralded Eric Gales as the second coming of Jimi Hendrix. “That’s serious, Busta! To have my name in any sentence with his is the highest honor and compliment in the entire world. I hold the guitar left-handed like he did, and I favor him somewhat. But, just to be clear, I am not trying to be the next Jimi Hendrix. I’m distinctly trying to be the first Eric Gales. And if I can continue to be successful and create my own legacy, that would be the best way I can honor him,” he said with a very humble spirit. 

Eric’s sound and style is incomparable. The closest I can get to describing Gales’ sound is a perfect mixture of B.B. King, Carlos Santana and of course, Jimi Hendrix. His vocal skills are just as dope. “I think I can hold a tone,” jokes Eric, as he laughs. “Let my wife tell it, I’m around the house singing gospel and R&B. But gospel is what I came up singing. 

“My style is a mixture of the influences I had coming up. Such as gospel, old traditional blues, funk, soul, rock’n’roll. So, I try to stay out of the way and let my body allow the spirit that’s coming through me do its thang. And it hasn’t disappointed me yet. I chose to sing and play the blues because it was in me since I was four years old. Blues and gospel were the seeds.”

At the age of 47, the future Rock’n’Roll Hall of Famer has etched his own legacy into the music industry. It’s been 30 years, 18 albums and sold-out shows throughout the world. Eric Gales has definitely earned the title of legend. His good friend and music producer Joe Bonamassa told Gales, “After all that you’ve been through, you deserve to stand on the mountaintop and get your crown.” 

Crown is the title of Gales’ latest album, which is fitting, due to an extremely rough journey. He’s overcome substance and alcohol abuse. But it wasn’t a smooth transition, “It was a combination of curiosity and getting caught up with the streets. It started with weed and cigarettes, and then came the heavy drugs. And that went on for about 30 years, man. I don’t know how I survived that, Busta.” 

In 2009, he served time in jail for possession of drugs and a weapon. “When I was doing drugs, it gave me the wrong kind of notoriety. And I had nothing but ‘yes’ people around me, having people always telling me yes, and very few people told me no. It wasn’t good, and it almost killed me.”

Gales’ addiction hindered his relationships with his close friends and family. Yet, the distance gave him time to do some serious soul searching. “I finally got to a point where I just got tired. I got the right people in my circle and I think about what I’ve been through, and I’m not going back. I didn’t come up in a broken home or the projects. My parents were together. So, I don’t have any of that to blame. It was just curiosity and by my own hand, I took myself through it. My parents always raised me to be focused, never stop praying, and take care of business. To God be the glory, that’s how I live my life today,” shared Eric. 

Today, Eric Gales is six years clean and has reconnected and rebuilt his relationships with family and friends, such as Carlos Santana. “I’m so glad I was able to harness our relationship again. Every other day we text, zoom or talk on the phone,” said Gales. 

In 2019, he reconnected with his good friend Joe Bonamassa and then the magic began. Joe produced Gales’ highly acclaimed album, Crown, which is on the Provogue/Mascot label group. “My life has turned around tremendously. So, when Joe and I reconnected and decided to do Crown, he said, ‘You deserve this and I’m going to do everything to make it happen.’  

“This record was done amid the COVID pandemic and a lot of racial injustices. And let’s be honest. Racial injustice has been happening since I was born, and now I have a platform to unitize and get the message out there. There’s a lot of people that want to hear what I have to play, so now I want them to hear what I have to say. So, Joe, my wife LaDonna, and all of us thought about the best way to present the best Eric Gales’ record possible. And I think Crown is a perfect example of that,” said the proud husband of ten years. 

Eric developed a raw and rugged vibe, because weakness isn’t optional if you’re going to survive in the streets of Memphis. But, during the recording of Crown, his gentle and sensitive side was exposed. He would break out in tears as he was singing. “I was already emotionally drained from playing these songs, and then lyrics and topics of some of these songs personally happened to me and I had to be consoled a couple of times. If you take the lyrics from songs such as ‘The Storm,’ ‘Too Close to the Fire,’ and ‘Stand Up,’ if you just read them without singing them, the same thing may happen to you as well,” said a very passionate Eric Gales. 

The foundation of his strength and how Eric continues to stay clean, focused and driven he credits to his beautiful, resilient, talented and brilliant wife LaDonna Gales. She’s also his manager and percussionist in The Eric Gales Band. “When I was at my bottom, she was my lifeline. And she still is today. It was her love and strong care for me that helped me realize that there’s something out here called life. And I wasn’t limited. It’s an extreme point of pain that I play from, and now I use that as passion to keep moving forward.” 

After listening to Crown myself, it conjured up a lot of emotions due to my personal experiences as well. It also inspired me to continue putting boots on the ground in our fight for love, peace and equality. The Crown album is the soundtrack for the world we live in today, and a definite contender for Album of the Year at the 2023 Grammy Awards.

“My favorite quote is: It’s not about the years you have in your life, it’s about the life you have in your years. Are you out there living, or barely existing?” 

My phenomenal Person of the Week is Eric Gales. 

For more info about Eric, tour dates or to purchase a copy of Crown, visit ericales.com. On social media @ericgalesband.

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