Boise, Idaho is hardly the place anyone would think of as a hotbed of soul music, but for John Németh, it’s where his love for the genre began. It was the starting point for a journey that’s taken him from his first gigs fronting a teenaged band to five Blues Music Award nominations in 2013 alone.
Németh’s first paid performance came in 1991, when he was hired to play drinking songs for a pinochle luncheon held by the Catholic Daughters of America. He then set his sights on the Boise club scene, where, for nearly a decade, he played seven nights a week at local pubs, taverns, joints, and parties. After opening a show for Junior Watson, Németh was tapped as tour opener for the guitar great—a gig that took him across the United States, to Scandinavia, and into the recording studio for his 2004 solo debut, Come and Get It, featuring Watson. Feeling like a big fish in a small tank, Németh and his girlfriend set their eyes on California. Shortly after the move, he was signed to Blind Pig Records and had a three-album deal.
“I learned a lot living in Oakland and San Francisco,” Németh says, “from recording and performing with Elvin Bishop to hearing Jimmy Hughes perform. Oakland is like a truly southern city, only it’s on the west coast. It wasn’t until after I arrived that I discovered that so many great songs I love actually originated there.” A couple years and albums later, Németh and his then-girlfriend-now-wife moved to Memphis, Tennessee and he again landed in a coveted position with Eletraphonic Studio. Electraphonic is home of producer and musician Scott Bomar, who composed the film scores for Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan, and produced Cyndi Lauper’s Memphis Blues.
Németh is backed by Bo-Keys, a group of veteran Memphis performers who made their name by backing the likes of Al Green, O.V. Wright, Rufus Thomas, and the Bar-Kays.