Jake Nielsen is heading to Lake Tahoe with his sights set on Buddy Emmer.
“I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a Texas gunslinger,” said the young blues guitarist from Santa Cruz.
Nielsen, who performed twice recently at Whiskey Dick’s Saloon, will make his debut this week as the featured guest artist at Tuesday Night Winter Blues at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. If he performs well, he might be added to the rotation of featured guests, which includes Sacramento’s Jeff Watson, Vacavillain Matty T., Reno’s Rick Hammond, San Jose’s Maxx Cabello Jr. and North Shore’s Chuckie Dunn and a handful more.
The weekly show, which is entering its third year, opens at 8 p.m. with a set by the Buddy Emmer Blues Band, which includes Kim Emmer on vocals. Buddy Emmer is a native of Texas, but has lived in Reno for several years. The second set features songs by the guest artist. The final set is an improvisational jam, which is what Nielsen said he relishes.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but there’s no challenge,” he said. “That’s right up my alley. I like to have a song thrown at me, where I can see what I can do with it. I am not much of a runner, but I can run with music.”
Nielsen, 30, has cerebral palsy, which limits the use of his feet, but that hasn’t given Nielsen the blues. As a youngster, he competed in rodeo calf riding and in wheelchair basketball. He became serious about music when he was 15 and played in a punk rock and reggae bands. But he was destined to become a bluesman.
“Blues was always on in the house,” Nielsen said. “My dad took me to blues festivals and my uncle showed me videos of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins.”
Vaughan and Collins, of course, were from Texas, along with another Lone Star State gunslinger Nielsen listed as an influence, Freddie King.
Nielsen said he met Jimmie Vaughan, Stevie’s older brother, at a festival. Nielsen was just 17, but he had a backstage pass, which included an unlimited supply of Red Hook beer.
“A security guy tried to kick me out but Jimmie Vaughan told him to let me stay,” Nielsen said. “I wish I remembered more of our conversation. When I woke up, I had his autograph on my shirt.”