Concert preview: 14-year-old guitar prodigy among highlights at Blues for a Cure

By
From the April 25, 2013 edition

Quinn Sullivan might be able to trade licks with the likes of blues vets B.B. King and Buddy Guy, but ask the 14 year old how his parents feel about his burgeoning music career and you’ll see his guitar chops belie his age.

“They always say, ‘We’re your biggest fan,’” he said, with a slight laugh of embarrassment. “And I think they always will be.”

Teenage guitar prodigy or not, there’s no escaping parental embarrassment; but unlike other kids his age, Sullivan’s next biggest fan is Guy, the blues legend who’s mentored him since he joined the icon on stage at 8 years old.

“You don’t come across talent like this every day,” Guy is attributed as saying on Sullivan’s website. “People called Ray Charles a genius? I think you’ve got another one here.” 

Sullivan’s since played on Guy’s Grammy-nominated album Skin Deep, accompanied him on a nation-wide tour and received advice on record deals and avoiding drugs.

“He just knows [the business], and he tells me [what he knows],” Sullivan said. “He’s shown me a lot. I’m so thankful to have him leading me in this business.”

Others are taking note, too.

Sullivan’s appeared on “Oprah,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “Ellen,” was the youngest performer ever to play the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and just this month played Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival at Madison Square Garden. (“It was a thrill I’ll never forget,” Sullivan said of the fest.) His second album, Getting There, is due June 18.

And yet even at such a young age, Sullivan’s success has been, relatively, a long time coming.

He first picked up a toy guitar at age three (“Everything felt right and natural, so I just wanted to keep doing it.”), and took lessons over the next few years. When he was five, Sullivan watched a DVD of Clapton’s Crossroads festival, saw Guy perform, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Some people probably think blues should be played by an older guy that’s worked and paid his dues,” he said, “but I’m just playing a certain kind of music I like. … I like [blues] and I’ll keep doing it. I’ll keep listening and always trying to get better. You should never think you’re at your best.”

The sky, as they say …