Guitar Red

Guitar Red


Guitar Red is the real deal -- he is a homeless, finger-style bluesman, that actually has an album thanks to some "pay it forward" thinking people. His work is already critically acclaimed.



Frequently Down But Never Out, The Self-Taught
Singer and Guitarist Captures The Humor And Hurt
Of An Authentic Blues Lifestyle That Includes
Battling Drugs, Alcohol, Loss of Family and Homelessness

On July 29, Decatur, Georgia based blues guitarist and singer Guitar Red fulfilled an unexpected lifelong dream with the release of his debut album that truly lives up to its moniker Lightnin’ In A Bottle.
As the first release by recently launched Atlanta indie label Backspace Records, the day could have easily called for a dual celebration. But there was no formal fanfare, no scheduled record release party at a big club, no streamers and balloons or packaged performance with a backing band.
Instead, the 44 year-old street musician—real name, Billy Christian Walls—spent the day doing what he always does around the square of Decatur, strumming his guitar and singing songs of women, drinking and hard times in the raw, unvarnished tradition of real blues. Not those slick modern pop-rock blues of Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal and B.B. King—no offense meant to those legends at all. But those raw, Robert Johnson blues that can only come from knowing hunger, poverty, heartache, loss, drug and alcohol addiction, not to mention homelessness.
Big Red is the real deal, a “busker” who spends most mornings on E. Court Square, sometimes in front of the Brick Store Pub, whose management is kind to him, where he frequently plays for hours. On a good day, he goes to sleep with a pocketful of tips. But not every day is a good day. No matter. For Red, it’s all about authenticity, staying true to who he is.
That sort of integrity, not to mention a spirited roller coaster ride of humor and hurt, shines through on the 11 tracks of Lightnin’ In A Bottle, which he recorded live (with the exception of a guitar solo and clavinet solo) at Backspace Records studio in December 2007.
His titles chronicle his hard luck, down but not yet out life: “Box Car No. 9,” “Ain’t Got Nobody But Myself,” “Three Legged Dog Blues,” “Chain Gang Blues,” “Decatur Boy Blues,” “Song About A Jimi Hendrix Song” and “I Believe.”
In an article called “On The Road With Guitar Red,” a writer called The Blues Blogger ( says, “Red’s work is raw but refreshing at the same time. I really enjoy the vibe and groove that (he) creates…The selection of tunes shows off Guitar Red’s personality, allowing him to play through his hardship in a passionate, playful and witty manner.”
Graham Clarke of Blues Bytes adds, “Even though he’s lived a tough life (losing his family in the span of a decade,, battling alcohol, drugs and homelessness), he has used his music as his means of expression and as a coping mechanism. He writes songs that mix humor and pathos in equal blends and is a fiery guitarist and passionate singer.”
Wrapping his rave critique with a flourish, Clarke boldly muses, “Wonder what it was like in the days when there was (a street musician) on nearly every street corner in these Southern towns? However it was, I’ll imagine not many of them could have held a candle to Guitar Red.”
True to classic blues form, Guitar Red’s backstory is pretty simple. In 1975, the Walls family left Morristown, New Jersey for Atlanta with hopes of greener pastures. The outcome was dramatically different. Ten years later, Red’s parents and brothers and sisters were all dead, and he felt tired and overwhelmed with life. Drinking and drugs became his pacifier and he essentially gave up on himself. But he never gave up on music.
Backspace Records founder Ben Rowell was the lead guitarist for the popular Gainesville, Florida band Big Sky for over ten years. When he decided to start a label, his first instinct was to develop pop/rock singer songwriters. That narrow notion quickly expanded when he first heard Big Red, who quickly overcame Rowell’s long held belief that there’s no such thing as an authentic blues player anymore.
“My buddy Dean asked me at dinner on my birthday last year if I’d consider recording a blues artist,” he says. “My inclination was the real deal doesn’t exist anymore. Dean said, ‘If that’s what you are looking for then you’ve gotta see Red.’ So that Sunday I peeled myself off the couch and drove to downtown Decatur to take a listen. I met him at maybe his first show ever (he’s typically a street musician) outside of a restaurant I can’t remember. Within the first thirty seconds I realized Red was more of the real thing than a bottle of Coke.
“His songs are fresh and traditional all at once,” he adds. “We sat down to chat and he told me about his hardships and life in general. Uber famous acts use (use being the most appropriate word) Guitar Red on their albums and unethically send him on his way with a bot


Lightnin' in a Bottle is Guitar Red's Debut Album.