Blues Guitarist John-Alex Mason, R.I.P.

Blues guitarist John-Alex Mason

The Gazette newspaper, out of Colorado Springs, Colorado is reporting on the tragic death of blues guitarist John-Alex Mason at the young age of 35 years old. Mason had gone into the hospital for an out-patient procedure to remove cancerous tissue, and passed away from complications after the surgery.

Born in 1975 in Colorado Springs, Mason began singing in the church while a child, and later taught himself the guitar at the age of 13 years old.

Influenced by Robert Johnson and the Delta blues, Mason first made a name for himself a decade ago when he won the 2001 Telluride Acoustic Blues Competition. He spent time in Memphis working street corners as a one man band, performing with a drum kit and a cigar-box guitar, and gradually added a Mississippi Hill Country influence to his sound.

Mason recorded his debut album, Walking Tracks, in 2000 and followed it with Mason and Hundt, a collaboration with fellow multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hundt, in 2002. Mason released his 6th album, Jook Joint Thunderclap, to widespread critical acclaim in early 2011. Mason had developed into a talented multi-instrumentalist himself, playing fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, djembe, and bolofon on Jook Joint Thunderclap as well as guitar, bass, and drums. The album also featured contributions from Hundt, brothers Cedric and Cody Burnside, Steve "Lightnin'" Malcolm, Lionel Young and, from Guinea, Fara Tolno (djembe), Fasinet Bangoura (bolofone), and Alya Sylla (djembe).

Mason was a familiar figure at blues festivals across the United States and Canada, performing both solo and with a four-piece band that often included Hundt, Young, and Tolno. His friendship with the Burnside brothers often led Mason to tour with the Burnside Exploration, and through his brief career the guitarist had the opportunity to perform with idols like B.B.

King, John Mayall, and John Hammond. A bright young talent who brought a new vision and energy to the blues, John-Alex Mason will be missed by family, friends, and blues fans around the world.

John-Alex Mason photo courtesy Naked Jaybird Music