Remembering San Diego Blues Legend Tomcat Courtney
San Diego blues legend Tomcat Courtney died this month in San Diego at the age of 91. Jojo Riegel, his partner of 30 years, said Courtney tested positive for COVID-19 in December before being hospitalized.
Courtney traveled from the cotton fields of Texas to dancing in a three-ring circus and along that road he found the music that sustained his life. He was an award-winning, nationally known bluesman and a staple on the San Diego music scene.
Courtney said his main musical influence was Lightnin' Hopkins, who led him to learn to play guitar, but his first instrument and the one that led him out of the Texas town where he was born was his feet.
"When we lived on this farm there was a cotton gin and a store, that's all there was. And there was a creek, a big wide creek, so they had a bridge cross it where they crossed the cattle," Courtney said in a 2013 interview with KPBS Midday Edition. "So I'd be on that bridge, and a train would leave it with a load of cotton and it would go, 'choo-choo-choo-choo-choo-choo' and you know I'd imitate the train."
Courtney continued to perform throughout San Diego until coronavirus lockdowns made that impossible. Riegel said Courtney was full of life and missed being able to play music.
KPBS Midday Edition remembers Courtney with an interview we first aired in 2013.