The Story of a...Blues Singer
For Orlando singer-songwriter Ruth King, 50, hitting the big time means connecting with her audience through songs from the soul.
Photo By Mark Losh Photography
I knew at age 4 that I wanted to be a singer, always knew it. That’s why what I am feels like a claim to fame.
James Brown uses his voice as a percussive instrument, and that’s what I got from him. James Taylor is good soul music. Now that I’ve blended the acoustic with the blues, I’ve got a soulful way of playing the guitar. It’s a blend, a hybrid.
Every true blues song is a sort of prayer, wrenching from the gut—‘Lawd, Lawd when will I see my baby again?!’ The blues of hope.
My first big break was being born to singer/entertainer Gabrielle Bergeron, who married drummer Lynn King and gave me every encouragement toward song and musicianship. All I needed to do was listen and watch them entertain audiences in the ’60s and ’70s.
A big thrill for me was meeting my birth father and seeing him in concert in Washington, D.C., when I was 8: Phil Flowers, the late blues Dot Records performing artist named ‘Mr. Entertainment.’ That’s a great beginning!
A lone friend in the projects [in New York] gave me an old guitar. I sat on the projects steps practicing that guitar until I could actually play it. That’s when other 9-year-olds started wanting me around! An overnight success!
I had experienced severe racism and abuse at an early age and sought relief through drugs, alcohol and anything that could change the way I felt. By the time I entered recovery in 1995, I’d known almost 28 years of substance abuse. My audience friends kept me going until recovery could take hold. I’ve been clean and sober now 15 years.
The sound of my singing voice is the story of that struggle. I have no message to preach. Thankfully my audience isn’t looking for that. They simply like my music and this means the world to me.
Special moments happen in every performance any time a listener connects and notices this is a human being who lives, breathes and feels life just like they do. I do have a magic song, ‘Safe in Love.’ I’ve sung it for family members at a suicide funeral of a 19-year-old, for the mother of a son deployed to Iraq and at a wedding’s mother-son dance. It creates an intimacy that feels life-changing.
I’m having a CD release party on May 14 and 15 at the House Of Blues. I’m inviting people I’ve played with throughout my career and opening up my arms to everyone and saying, ‘Come, come! Listen to the band and be with us.’
If life is short, then do I have time to worry about hitting some ‘big time,’ or should I work on getting around the world and trying to sing to as many people who want to hear my songs? ‘Big time professionally’ for me pales in comparison to personal success. Amazingly, I have a quiet mind and a peaceful heart. Hopefully my joy is contagious and will spill out and over through my music.