When a man who plays the blues like Blue Barry Faust plays them calls a young man of 16 “a prodigy,” you need to pay attention. Ben Kreider is the young man.
Ben plays the harmonica (actually he plays about 10 of them), the guitar, the banjo and the mandolin. He says that he “plays some on the piano” and has a new trumpet he’s learning.
Faust, now 70, is a rock-solid part of the Smoky Mountain Blues Society and for 21 years has led its BITS – Blues in the Schools – program. He’s at home there. He was a teacher for more than 20 years, 11 years at Bearden High School. During this past year Faust and Ben teamed up and have been busy playing in our schools.
On Wednesday, the duo performed for the Rotary Club of Farragut at Fox Den Country Club and put on quite a 30-minute show – a mixture of music and information about the blues. They played “The Catfish Blues” from 1929, the Rev. Gary Davis’ “Hesitation Blues” and Mississippi John Hurt’s “My Creole Belle.” They ended their performance with “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan.
Two years ago, Ben and his mother began asking around town about someone who could teach Ben the harmonica. The first man who was recommended said he was no longer teaching and sent them to Blue Barry.
But a prodigy? “I knew it almost right away,” Faust says. “Everything I showed him on the harmonica he could do right away. I played a song for him that it took me two years to learn. It was hard. He came back in a month and played it better than me. Is he a prodigy? Yes. The Creator poured a whole lot of prodigy over this young man’s head.”
Faust also works with Ben on the guitar. “Right now, today, he’s a better guitar player than I am.”
Here is more from Faust about the BITS program and Ben: “We play a little of everything from country blues, one-chord stuff, to harmonica chugging, to Piedmont Blues, Mississippi blues, taking them through Memphis and Chicago with lots of different styles of music, from each area. Ben is also a killer guitar player. I let him show off a lot because the kids love him, and he’s better than I am on guitar. He plays some mandolin now and then, and that’s also a hit. His harmonica work really knocks them out.”
Ben’s mother homeschools him and his four siblings. He’s been playing the guitar for eight years, the banjo and mandolin for about two to three years, he says. The trumpet was a Christmas present; he’s also taking trumpet lessons these days.
The variety of instruments reflects the genres of music he enjoys – the blues, jazz, bluegrass and classical. “Yes, I enjoy classical guitar, too,” he added. “I just have fun playing.”
If you’re interested in exploring membership in Farragut Rotary, drop Tom King an email. You also can call him at 865-659-3562.