Pokey LaFarge

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Pokey LaFarge
Pokey LaFarge 2012 - Reutlingen.JPG
Pokey LaFarge
May 2, 2012
Background information
Birth name Andrew Heissler
Born (1983-06-26) 26 June 1983 (age 33)
Bloomington, Illinois, United States
Origin St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Genres American folk, American roots
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar, mandolin
Years active 2006 (2006)–present
Associated acts Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three, Jack White, JD McPherson, Old Crow Medicine Show, Rum Drum Ramblers, Maximum Effort
Website www.pokeylafarge.net

Pokey LaFarge (born June 26, 1983 in Bloomington, Illinois) is an American musician and songwriter focusing on the American roots genre. As of 2016, he tours with a 6-piece band consisting of Joey Glynn (bass), Adam Hoskins (guitar), Ryan Koenig (harmonica, washboard, and snare drum), Luc Klein (trumpet), Ryan Weisheit (clarinet, saxophone) and Matthew Meyer (drums).[1]


Early life[edit]

LaFarge was born Andrew Heissler in Bloomington, Illinois.[2] It has been noted that the nickname “Pokey” was coined by his mother, who would scold him to hurry when he was a child.[3]

LaFarge took an interest in history and literature during his childhood, and was greatly influenced by his grandfathers. One was a member of the St. Louis Banjo Club, who gave Pokey his first guitar and tenor banjo. The other, an amateur historian, taught LaFarge about the American Civil War and World War II.[4]

LaFarge always wanted to be a writer, and had a keen interest in American literature.[5] He enjoyed the writings of John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and Jack Kerouac. As a teenager, LaFarge combined his appreciation for history and writing with his discovery of blues music.[6]

In his early teens, while he was living in Normal, Illinois, LaFarge first heard blues in a local pizza parlor run by a man named Juice who played artists like Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon.[2] He soon discovered an appreciation for older blues artists, like Skip James, Robert Wilkins, and Sleepy John Estes. After hearing Bill Monroe at age 16, Pokey traded the guitar his grandfather had given him for a mandolin.[6]

He adopted the name Pokey LaFarge later because it sounded like what he was looking for musically during the time he was moving around the country.[2] After graduating from University High School in 2001,[2] LaFarge hitchhiked to the West Coast at age 17, where he earned a living playing music on the sidewalks, streets and pedestrian malls. He continued hitchhiking through the United States, and met Ryan Koenig and Joey Glynn of the St. Louis band The Rum Drum Ramblers while he was playing on a street in Asheville, North Carolina. Adam Hoskins joined Glynn and Koenig to form the South City Three.[7] The band joined LaFarge in 2009.[8]


Pokey LaFarge
May, 2nd 2012
At the Square Room
Knoxville, TN
April 17, 2010

During his solo years, LaFarge released two albums. Marmalade, a self-released effort that came out in 2006. That same year he toured and played mandolin with The Hackensaw Boys.[9] His second solo album, Beat, Move & Shake, was released in 2008 by Big Muddy Records.

In 2009, Pokey released Riverboat Soul, becoming the first record with The South City Three. Recorded in July 2009 at the Nashville studio (pH Balanced Recordings) of producer/engineer Phil Harris. The album was recorded over a 3-day period using many vintage instruments and microphones, including a pair of Neumann U87's used by luminaries such as Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson. The album was mixed and mastered to tape by Phil Harris and was released in Spring 2010 by Free Dirt Records. Riverboat Soul won the Independent Music Award for Best Americana Album of 2010. In addition to releasing their first album as a band, Pokey and The South City Three toured heavily in The United States and Europe, with highlight appearances at festivals such as the Big Chill Festival (U.K.), the Tønder Festival (Denmark), and the Newport Folk Festival (USA).[8]

In 2011, the group released Middle Of Everywhere, which went on to win the Independent Music Award for Best Americana Album, LaFarge's second consecutive win. Additionally, the band also released Chittlin’ Cookin’ Time in Cheatham County with Third Man Records, produced by Jack White.[8] Around the same time, White asked the band to collaborate on the song “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” for White’s 2012 release Blunderbuss.[10] In conjunction with the release of Blunderbuss, LaFarge and The South City Three toured with Jack White throughout most of the summer and fall of 2012, opening for White’s shows in The United States and Canada.

In the spring of 2013, Pokey LaFarge—now the official name of the band due to the addition of musicians T.J. Muller (Cornet,Trombone) and Chloe Feoranzo (Clarinet, Saxophone)—signed with Third Man Records and released a self-titled album Pokey LaFarge in June 2013 (produced by Pokey and Old Crow Medicine Show front man Ketch Secor).[11] Throughout the summer, the band toured heavily promoting the new album, with notable highlight appearances at Bowery Ballroom (NY), The Birchmere (DC), and several major music festivals in Europe. In January 2014 the band played several shows in Bangalore, India. Pokey LaFarge went on to tour Australia and New Zealand in March 2014, including performances at notable festivals WOMAD, WOMADelaide, and Port Fairy Folk Festival.


  • The group was featured by NPR on the Tiny Desk Concert series in 2011.[12]
  • LaFarge wrote a song for the soundtrack of Brick By Chance and Fortune, a documentary directed by friend of the band, Bill Streeter, released in 2011.[13]
  • On New Year's Eve 2012 the group appeared on the UK BBC2 Jools Holland's Hootenanny television show.
  • Pokey and the members of the South City Three played on "I Guess I Should Go To Sleep", a track from Jack White's album Blunderbuss released on April 24, 2012.[14]
  • On September 23, 2012, LaFarge contributed to the soundtrack of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire with his rendition of the famous pop standard “Lovesick Blues”. The song was featured in the last scene and end credits of the episode “Spaghetti & Coffee”[15]
  • LaFarge collaborated with JD McPherson on a rendition of country legend Bob Will's “Good Old Oklahoma”, released on June 28, 2013. All of the proceeds from the track go to the Oklahoma City Community Fund’s Tornado Relief endowment.[16]
  • Pokey & The South City Three recorded Jack White’s track “Red’s Theater of The Absurd” which appeared in The Lone Ranger 's original score. The film was released on July 3, 2013 and the band made a brief appearance in the movie.[15]
  • LaFarge and his group made an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman on July 16, 2013. They performed "Central Time" from his eponymous album.
  • LaFarge and the group made an appearance on the APM "live" radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion, with Garrison Keillor on October 5, 2013. They performed four selections, including "Central Time", "What The Rain Will Bring", "Garbage Man Blues" and "Close the Door".
  • Pokey LaFarge performed on The Late Late Show (RTÉ One Ireland) on September 13, 2013.
  • Pokey made a special solo appearance on the widely popular Dutch television program De Wereld Draait Door (DWDD) on February 15, 2014
  • The band made an appearance on Good Morning New Zealand on March 18, 2014
  • LaFarge appeared for a second time on A Prairie Home Companion on June 14, 2014 in St. Louis, MO. They performed "Riverboat Shuffle", "Bow Legged Woman", and "Central Time".
  • He and the band appeared and performed at the Cambridge Folk Festival UK on August 1, 2014.
  • The band played the Mustang Stage at the Stagecoach Music Festival on April 30, 2016, in Coachella, California.
  • The band played on episode 136 of The Marty Stuart Show.

Musical style[edit]

The group is thought to be "artfully dodgy ambassadors for old-time music, presenting and representing the glories of hot swing, early jazz and ragtime blues" who have "made riverboat chic cool again."[17] Stephen Thompson of NPR says of LaFarge's . .

". . music evokes the old-timey spirit of a thousand crackling 78 RPM records . . and even when you encounter him face to face, he seems to gaze at you out of a dusty archival photo . . Maybe the effect wouldn't be so jarring if LaFarge's music felt inauthentic in some unsettling way . . But his albums never feel like cheap exercises in nostalgia, in part because LaFarge directs his old-fashioned sensibilities in the service of sharp, infectious new material. It feels strange to listen to his work on a CD . . but his songs aren't stiffly posed wax-museum sculptures . . Their energy makes them feel new and alive.[18]

Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show said

“Pokey’s got a St. Louis thing going. His muse is the Mississippi; maybe that’s what makes his songs run so deep and muddy, though it was on the Ohio that I first met him. With a Bardstown tune he stopped me dead in my tracks—just a kid back then, cutting his teeth on primitive blues, rust jazz, drunk swing – Lord! – what saintly patron brought Clifford Hayes back from the dead and sent him back to Carpet Alley to reclaim his crown? Well, all I can say for certain is nobody sings much like Jimmie Rodgers anymore and nobody crows, rakes, rips, yips, shouts, buzzes or croons quite like Pokey LaFarge either.”


His acoustic music uses the guitar, guitjo, bass, kazoo, tenor banjo, washboard, snare drum, cornet, trombone, piano, lap steel guitar, fiddle, upright bass, and harmonica.


His repertoire consists of a mix of Americana, early jazz, ragtime for string instruments, country blues, Western swing, Vaudeville, and Appalachian folk.[6]

"American music is the tops: People respond to it all over the world because it's expressive and powerful," LaFarge told Madison's Isthmus newspaper in 2011.[3]


Musicians that have influenced him include Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe, Milton Brown and the Musical Brownies, Modern Mountaineers, Sleepy John Estes, Henry Townsend, Frank Fairfield, Fats Waller, Emmett Miller, and Willie Dixon.[4]


  • Pokey LaFarge - lead vocals, guitar, guitjo
  • Adam Hoskins - guitar
  • Joey Glynn - upright bass
  • Ryan Koenig - harmonica, washboard, snare drum
  • Luc Klein - trumpet
  • Ryan Weisheit - clarinet, baritone & tenor saxophone
  • Matthew Meyer - drums


Studio albums[edit]

  • 2006: Marmalade (self-released)
  • 2008: Beat, Move, and Shake (Big Muddy Records)
  • 2010: Riverboat Soul (Free Dirt Records)
  • 2011: Middle of Everywhere (Free Dirt Records)
  • 2012: Live in Holland (Continental Song City)
  • 2013: Pokey LaFarge (Third Man Records)
  • 2015: Something in the Water (Rounder Records)
  • 2017: "Manic Revelations" (Rounder Records)

EPs and singles[edit]

  • 2011: "'Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County'" (Third Man Records)
  • 2013: "Central Time/St. Louis Crawl" (Third Man Records)
  • 2016: "Goodbye, Barcelona" b/w "Blue Morning Lullaby" (Rounder Records)
  • 2017: "Riot in the Streets" (Rounder Records)

Compilations and other appearances[edit]

  • 2009: Face a Frowning World: An E.C. Ball Memorial Album (Track: "Poor Old Country Lad")
  • 2009: The White Belt (with Joe Manning) (Karate Body Records)
  • 2012: Blunderbuss- Jack White (Third Man Records) (Track "I Guess I Should Go To Sleep")
  • 2013: You Don't Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold -Eddy Arnold (Plowboy Records) (Track: "Lovebug Itch")
  • 2013: Boardwalk Empire Soundtrack Volume 2 (AVKCO) (Track "Lovesick Blues")

Honors, distinctions, and awards[edit]


  1. ^ 12 March 2016, “[1]
  2. ^ a b c d Craft, Dan (2013-02-21). "Twin City native Pokey LaFarge digs our musical roots". Pantagraph.com. Retrieved 2013-02-21. Wouldn’t you know: Bloomington-Normal spawns a music original like Pokey LaFarge and Wikipedia tells the world that Benton, half a state away, performed the honors. “Benton?” responds LaFarge in a bemused tone that suggests the popular online information resource should be consulted but never believed. “No, I was born in Bloomington, at St. Joe’s.” 
  3. ^ a b Steinhoff, Jessica, “Isthmus”, 8 December 2011, “Pokey LaFarge is a musical time traveler
  4. ^ a b Kasten, Roy, “Riverfront Times”, 17 February 2012, “Pokey LaFarge forges his own path through old-time country and blues
  5. ^ Hicks, Janelle Renae, “Columbia Daily Tribune”, 15 December 2011, “St. Louis Troubadour Pokey LaFarge digs out timeless greatness of roots music
  6. ^ a b c DeYoung, Bill, “Connect Savannah”, 15 November 2011, “Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three
  7. ^ Mooney, David, “The University News”, 8 December 2011, “Straight from St. Louis
  8. ^ a b c Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, “About Mr. Lafarge”, “[2]
  9. ^ Hackensaw Boys Facebook info page.
  10. ^ "Pokey LaFarge and The South City Three" Nashville Music Guide, April 20, 2012
  11. ^ "Pokey LaFarge Album Coming This June" Third Man Records
  12. ^ "Pokey LaFarge: Tiny Desk Concert" NPR, April 20, 2011
  13. ^ Tucker, Justin, “Inside STL”, 18 November 2011, “INTERVIEW: Director Bill Streeter of ‘Brick by Chance and Fortune’ Makes Brick Interesting
  14. ^ "Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three" Nashville Music Guide, April 20th, 2012
  15. ^ a b "Pokey LaFarge Talks Jack White, Boardwalk Empire, and More" Listen Up Denver, September 17, 2012
  16. ^ "JD McPherson and Pokey LaFarge Celebrate "Good Old Oklahoma"-Song Premiere" Rolling Stone, June 28, 2013
  17. ^ Danielsen, Aarik (September 13, 2012). "Roots N Blues field guide: Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three". Columbia Daily Tribune. Retrieved 14 September 2012. 
  18. ^ Thompson, Stephen (July 10, 2011). "First Listen: Pokey LaFarge And The South City Three, 'Middle Of Everywhere'". National Public Radio: Music. Retrieved 14 September 2012. 
  19. ^ "11th Annual Independent Music Awards Winners Announced!" Independent Music Awards, 2 May 2012. Retrieved on 4 Sept. 2013.
  20. ^ "U-High University Homecoming 2014" (PDF). Uhigh.ilstu.edu. Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  21. ^ "Peter Jones' Best Folk Albums of 2015 - WTJU". WTJU. Retrieved 2016-01-10. 

External links[edit]