Keyboardist Joseph Wooten

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — Keyboardist Joseph Wooten has achieved distinction in two different settings for several years. He’s probably best kown as a member of the Wooten Brothers, one of Middle Tennessee’s finest bands and a group that performs with equal ferocity and brilliance funkm, rock, soul and blues numbers, both originals and classics. But Joseph Wooten is also well known and highly respected among rock fans for being a principal member and keyboard contributor to the Steve Miller Band. Next year will mark the start of his third decade in that role, plus he’s also an arranger and songwriter and producer.

But Sunday night Joseph Wooten will be doing something very special in the Nashville area. He’ll be hosting his annual birthday celebration along with his siblings in The Wooten Brothers Band and some special guests.It will be held at Analog at Hutton Hotel in West End beginning at 7 p.m.

Joseph Woten took some time off from his busy schedule this week to answer a few questions for the Tribune.

What is the significance of this year’s event? “It is significant that this will be celebrating my 61st birthday. 61 is a prime number, and I feel like I am in my prime!

My actual birthday is on December 15th, the anniversary of the First Amendment and Bill of Rights, so, for me, every birthday is not just a celebration of my birth, but a celebration of the freedom that we enjoy here and the freedom that we still strive for.” 

Any special songs or material for t his event?  “I will be playing a song that I wrote for Shonka Dukureh years ago. She was a friend of mind and a great person! She used to refer to ame as  “Big Bruh”. Shonka made everyone feel as if she had a special love for each one. Shonka was a Fisk graduate and played the role of “Big Mama Thornton” in the new Elvis movie. You can hear her voice all over Doja Cat’s recording, “Vegas”.  She passed away unexpectedly a few months ago and I will play a song to tribute her. I look forward to hearing the audience sing her name. She deserves to be remembered. My brothers, Regi, Roy, and Victor will be my big feature, and we will play some original music that we re-discovered from decades ago! I owe my brothers everything, especially my oldest brother, Regi, who taught Victor and me to play when he was only 10 and we were five and two years old. I also plan of playing a song I wrote to tribute a Veteran, Keith Prather. I wrote a song about his life and, hopefully, can get him to say a few words.” 

Are you writing any new music for this event or in general? “I am always writing new music and trying to think of ways to cut through the division with music as a tool. 

 My brothers and I have plans for cutting new music in the new year. Its been too long!”

How did you originally get in the Steve Miller Band? “In 1993 I did a recording session for a man named Chris McCarty. He was a co-writer on a couple of Steve Miller’s greatest hits and told me that I would be perfect for the gig, since Steve’s keyboard player was leaving the band. I sent in an audition cassette tape to Steve and got the gig.  30 years later, Steve has been inducted into the 2016 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and just last year into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. He is still, even at age 79, still growing. I am honored to be a part of it. Music has kept us together for three decades!”

When did you move to Nashville? “I moved to Nashville in 1990 from Newport News, Virginia. When I moved here there were not nearly as many people. Traffic was not nearly what it is now. The cost of living in Nashville was much more affordable. Iconic venues have been torn down to make room for new housing developments. The city has become one of the most famous cities in the world and that is good, but investments and growth, in my opinion, have gotten Nashville to lose some of its “magic”. That is often the price of growth. “

What makes this event so special? “This will be my 11th Birthday/Holiday celebration! I had my first one when I turned 50 and only skipped a year in 2020 for the COVID shutdown. The show wont actually be four hours long, but when the music gets good, it is hard to stop! It has always been a big night. This year I am hoping that it will be the biggest!

Will there be any new music coming soon? “I am surely planning to release new music in 2023! With my brothers and on my own. I am feeling very creative and I have a lot to say!”

The Joseph Wooten Annual Holiday and Birthday Celebration, Sunday at Analog st Hutton Hotel, 1808 West End Avenue. The event starts at 7 p.m. $24-$30).