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Alumni Profiles

A Little Blues on the Side

When Jason Lockwood ’95 was born, his arrival brought the professional music career of his parents to a screeching halt. But his mother and father continued to make music around the house, especially at large family gatherings where Lockwood got his first taste of performing in front of an audience.

Jason Lockwood

“My mom and dad had been traveling folk musicians before I was born, and I grew up in an environment where singing and playing was pretty much a focal point of everyday life,” Lockwood says.

So it’s not surprising that Lockwood, an executive with the human resource firm Spherion in Lexington, uses music as an avocation and an artistic and emotional outlet.

Lockwood plays guitar and does vocals for the Chicago-style blues band The Stella-Vees, based in Lexington, which has won two regional contests and will perform about 50 shows this year at clubs, festivals, competitions, and other venues in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. The band has a 16-track CD titled Come Round Baby (http://cdbaby.com/cd/stellavees) that includes covers of classic blues pieces along with original material.

Lockwood, who has no formal music training, got bitten by the blues bug while watching bands perform at Sassy Ann’s, a club in his native Knoxville where his band now sometimes performs.

“That’s where I started to hone in on what I wanted to do musically,” he says. “They had an open blues jam on Wednesdays that was quite a scene. You hear the sounds, the interaction, the looseness of it.”

His guitar style evolved as he got more and more into the blues traditions. “I picked it up purely by ear, and by being around other guitar players,” says Lockwood, who also cites legendary blues player T-Bone Walker as an influence on his guitar playing. “Blues is a very communal music. The cadence and the tone of it get passed down, like Appalachian folk stories are passed down from one generation to the next.”

The style his band emulates is based on the Chicago blues, which developed in the late 1940s and is derived from the Delta blues brought to the city by African-Americans migrating from the South, with the critical addition of the electric guitar replacing the traditional acoustic guitar. Besides Lockwood on guitar, the three other members of The Stella-Vees are on drums, bass (standup or electric) and harp (harmonica), a typical configuration for Chicago blues groups.

“We’re really into the basic design of music, with no effects,” says Lockwood. “You have this raw, base, driving music, with open E and A chords. When we play, people will come up and say, ‘Wow, it’s nice to hear a straightforward style, and to hear some of the old stuff.’”

That approach has reaped accolades for The Stella-Vees from the Kentuckiana Blues Society, based in Louisville, where the band won the Unsigned Blues Talent Contest in 2004 and 2006. The win in 2006 included automatic entry into an international competition in Memphis last January.

Perhaps it’s his background in philosophy and psychology—his two majors at Transy—that give Lockwood a thoughtful approach to his involvement in the blues.

“It’s sanity for me,” he says. “There’s nothing like blues music, and there’s no other resolve that I’ve found. It’s fundamental in my life, for sure.”

Lockwood and his wife, Courtney Jacobs Lockwood ’95, live in Georgetown, Ky., with their daughter, Ellington, 6, and son, Emery, 4. Courtney is the owner of Hopscotch Childrens Boutique in Lexington.

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