Pokey LaFarge

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Pokey LaFarge
Pokey LaFarge live at Reutlingen, Germany, May 2, 2012
Pokey LaFarge live at Reutlingen, Germany, May 2, 2012
Background information
Birth nameAndrew Heissler
Born (1983-06-26) June 26, 1983 (age 38)
Bloomington, Illinois, U.S.
OriginSt. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Genresblues, folk, country, swing, jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, mandolin
Years active2006 (2006)–present
LabelsThird Man, Rounder

Pokey LaFarge (born Andrew Heissler, June 26, 1983)[citation needed] is an American musician, writer, and actor.

Early life[edit]

At the Square Room in Knoxville, Tennessee, April 17, 2010

LaFarge was born Andrew Heissler in Bloomington, Illinois.[1] The nickname "Pokey" was coined by his mother, who would scold him to hurry when he was a child.[2]

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 him his first guitar and tenor banjo. The other, an amateur historian, taught him about the American Civil War and World War II.[3]

LaFarge enjoyed the writings of John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and Jack Kerouac. As a teenager, he combined his appreciation for history and writing with his discovery of blues music.[4]

In his early teens, while he was living in Normal, Illinois, LaFarge first heard blues at Jake's Pizza, run by a man named Juice. Jake's Pizza was decorated with portraits of blues musicians, and exclusively played blues; the music of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon in particular inspired LaFarge.[1] He discovered an appreciation for older blues musicians like Skip James, Robert Wilkins, and Sleepy John Estes. After hearing Bill Monroe at age 16, LaFarge traded the guitar his grandfather had given him for a mandolin.[4]

He adopted the name "Pokey LaFarge" because it sounded like what he was looking for musically during the time he was moving around the country.[1] After graduating from University High School in 2001,[1] at the age of seventeen he hitchhiked to the west coast and earned a living as a busker on streets, sidewalks, and pedestrian malls. He 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. Koenig and Glynn began playing with LaFarge in 2008, and the addition of Adam Hoskins in 2009 resulted in the formation of the South City Three.[5][6]


LaFarge in Reutlingen, Germany, May 2, 2012

LaFarge independently released his first album, Marmalade, in 2006.[7] During the same year, he toured with The Hackensaw Boys. His second solo album, Beat, Move & Shake, was released in 2008 by Big Muddy Records.

Riverboat Soul, the first album with The South City Three, was recorded in July 2009 at the Nashville studio of producer Phil Harris using vintage instruments and electronics. It was released in 2010 by Free Dirt Records and won the Independent Music Award for Best Americana Album.[6] The group's second album, Middle of Everywhere, won the same award in 2011. The band released Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County produced by Jack White for his label Third Man Records.[6] White asked the band to collaborate with him on the song "I Guess I Should Go to Sleep" for his album Blunderbuss, followed by opening for him on tour.[7]

In 2013, LaFarge signed with Third Man Records and released his first album on the label, accompanied by a larger band that included Chloe Feoranzo, Matthew Meyer, and T.J. Muller. During the next year, he signed with Rounder Records and released Something in the Water in April 2015.[7][8]

In 2017 his album Manic Revelations was released on Rounder Records.[9]

On January 22, 2020 LaFarge announced the release of a new album called Rock Bottom Rhapsody[10] which was released on April 10 on the New West label.[11]


  • 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]
  • LaFarge 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 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 Wills' "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 film.[15]
  • The band played on episode 136[17] of The Marty Stuart Show.
  • The band appeared in thedocumentary film The American Epic Sessions directed by Bernard MacMahon and recorded "St. Louis Blues" on the first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s. The film premiered June 6, 2017.[18]
  • The band appeared on Conan on August 17, 2017 and performed "Better Man Than Me"[19]
  • He appeared as "Theodore" in the Netflix film The Devil All the Time and contributed to the soundtrack.[20]

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."[21] Stephen Thompson of NPR says 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.[22]

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 repertoire consists of a mix of Americana, early jazz, ragtime for string instruments, country blues, Western swing, Vaudeville, and Appalachian folk.[4] "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.[2]


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.[3]


  • Pokey LaFarge - lead vocals, guitar, guitjo (2006–present)
  • Adam Hoskins - guitar (2009-2018)
  • Joey Glynn - upright bass (2008-2018)
  • Ryan Koenig - harmonica, washboard, guitar, guitjo, snare drum (2008-2018)
  • Matthew Meyer - drums (2014–present)
  • Chloe Feoranzo - clarinet, saxophone (2013-2015)
  • Timothy Muller - trumpet, trombone (2013-2015)


Studio albums[edit]

  • 2006: Marmalade (self-released)
  • 2008: Beat, Move, and Shake (Big Muddy)
  • 2010: Riverboat Soul (Free Dirt)
  • 2011: Middle of Everywhere (Free Dirt)
  • 2012: Live in Holland (Continental Song City)
  • 2013: Pokey LaFarge (Third Man)
  • 2015: Something in the Water (Rounder)
  • 2017: Manic Revelations (Rounder)
  • 2020: Rock Bottom Rhapsody (New West) (release date 4/10/20)
  • 2021: In the Blossom of Their Shade (New West) (released 10/15/2021)

EPs and singles[edit]

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

Compilations and other appearances[edit]

Honors, distinctions, and awards[edit]

  • 2011 Independent Music Awards: Riverboat Soul – Best Americana Album
  • 2012 Independent Music Awards: Middle of Everywhere – Best Americana Album[23]
  • 2014 U-High Alumni Hall of Fame: Inducted by University High School in Normal, Illinois at the U-High Alumni Association Awards and Recognition Program on 26 September 2014[24]
  • 2015 Something In The Water was named one of Peter Jones' Best Folk Albums of 2015 in the Folk Department of WTJU, University of Virginia radio station.[25]
  • 2017 Ameripolitan Music Awards Western Swing Male - Winner


  1. ^ a b c d Craft, Dan (21 February 2013). "Twin City Native Pokey LaFarge Digs Our Musical Roots". Pantagraph. Retrieved 21 February 2013. 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.'
  2. ^ a b Steinhoff, Jessica (8 December 2011). "Pokey LaFarge is a Musical Time Traveler". Isthmus. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  3. ^ a b Kasten, Roy (17 February 2010). "Pokey LaFarge Forges His Own Path Through Old-Time Country and Blues". Riverfront Times. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b c DeYoung, Bill (15 November 2011). "Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three". Connect Savannah. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  5. ^ "Straight from St. Louis: Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three | The University News". Unewsonline.com. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  6. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-17. Retrieved 2011-12-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ a b c Collar, Matt. "Pokey LaFarge". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  8. ^ Thomas, Gideon (8 June 2015). "Pokey LaFarge: Something in the Water". PopMatters. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  9. ^ "Pokey LaFarge - Manic Revelations | Releases". Discogs. Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  10. ^ "Pokey LaFarge". Pokey LaFarge. Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  11. ^ https://www.countrystandardtime.com/news/newsitem.asp?xid=10930
  12. ^ Bob Boilen. "Pokey LaFarge: Tiny Desk Concert". NPR. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-23. Retrieved 2012-01-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Amanda. "Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three". Nashville Music Guide. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  15. ^ a b Hyten, Ty. "Pokey LaFarge Talks Jack White, Boardwalk Empire, and More". Listenupdenver.com. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  16. ^ Blistein, Jon (2013-06-28). "JD McPherson and Pokey LaFarge Celebrate 'Good Old Oklahoma' - Song Premier". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  17. ^ "The Marty Stuart Show - Episode 136 - February 8. 2014". Martystuart.com. 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  18. ^ "American Epic: The Collection & The Soundtrack Out May 12th | Legacy Recordings". Legacy Recordings. 2017-04-28. Retrieved 2018-02-27.
  19. ^ http://teamcoco.com/video/pokey-lafarge-better-man-than-me-08/17/17
  20. ^ "Pokey LaFarge".
  21. ^ Danielsen, Aarik (September 13, 2012). "Roots N Blues field guide: Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three". Columbia Daily Tribune. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ "11th Annual Independent Music Awards Winners Announced!". Independent Music Awards. 2012-05-02. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  24. ^ "U-High University Homecoming 2014" (PDF). Uhigh.ilstu.edu. Retrieved 2015-05-21.
  25. ^ "Peter Jones' Best Folk Albums of 2015 - WTJU". WTJU. 2 January 2016. Retrieved 2016-01-10.

External links[edit]