By Tom Speed
The Burnside and Ayers families go way back. Now they’re coming together again as a new generation keeps the hill country blues spirit alive. Cedric and Garry Burnside, along with Trenton Ayers, are picking up where their forefathers left off.
For years, Earl “Little Joe” Ayers served as a member of the Soul Blues Boys, Junior Kimbrough’s backing band. Though he started off as a second guitarist, he later moved to bass and remained in that spot for decades. During this time, Garry Burnside, son of Kimbrough contemporary R.L. Burnside, was learning to play too. In time, he’d take Ayers place in the band, playing bass as a member of the Soul Blues Boys and appearing on Kimbrough albums in the 1990s.
“I played bass with Junior when I was eleven,” recalls Burnside. “When I was nine he started teaching me.”
Ayers’ son Trenton grew up in the same family tradition too, learning to play under the tutelage of his father and Burnside family members too, family members who happened to be master bluesmen. One of those family members was Garry’s nephew Cedric Burnside. Though Garry is Cedric’s uncle, the pair are just two years apart in age as Garry is the youngest of R.L.’s eight sons.
Cedric played drums for R.L. (whom he calls “Big Daddy”) at a young age, and soon Ayers was hanging around too.
“Trent was coming around to the house parties that Big Daddy used to throw since he was four or five years old,” says Cedric.
But while Garry would later travel with Kimbrough and Cedric would tour the world with R.L., Ayers never strayed too far from home.
“His daddy wouldn’t let him come out because he was young,” explains Garry.