Comedian and actor Lenny Henry wants to know why there have been so few black British blues stars.
He’s explored the question in a three-part documentary series, featuring Wilko Johnson, Van Morrison, Georgie Fame, Geno Washington and others.
Henry tells the Daily Mail: “We’d seen black people sing in a bluesy style – but they had never been lauded in the same way that Elton John, John Mayall or Eric Clapton were.
“I wanted to know if there were any unsung heroes of black blues who came from the British Isles and not from America.”
The music has played a role in his own life, helping him deal with some of his most difficult times. “It was only when I started to write blues songs that the emotional self-documenting thing came out,” he says. “All the poems and lyrics I’d written before hadn’t worked – because they’re not about anything.”
Henry was once part of an all-celebrity R&B band, also featuring Hugh Laurie and Adrian Edmondson, who played private film and TV parties before Laurie found new success in the US and as a blues musician in his own right.
“But I don’t claim to be Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters,” says Henry. “I’m just a bloke from Dudley who loves the blues and can sing a bit.”
Lenny Henry’s Got The Blues consists of three hour-long episodes and features a one-off concert by his band. It’s to be aired on Sky Arts in the coming weeks, with dates to be confirmed.