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‘Music can save your soul’

Brandon Lakota Sprague Blues Band Performs at Sheridan College

Brandon Sprague Band, April 25 at Sheridan College, Photo Courtesy

SHERIDAN, Wyo. – How good of a guitarist must you be to open for BB King, the legendary king of the blues?

That is how good Brandon Lakota Sprague, enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, is.

He toured with BB King, the iconic blues man in 2004, both as an opening act and as rhythm guitar player.

“BB was one of the kindest, most humble men,” Brandon recalled. “He elevated me. Shortly before he passed, he came to Deadwood and did a show with us, for free, just out of the kindness of his heart. People there were very surprised about that, an importune thing. I loved that guy”.

The Brandon Sprague Band has regularly performed at many casinos in Deadwood, South Dakota for fourteen years every weekend; around the country, even Nashville and will be a featured act at many blues festivals around the country this summer. For example, an upcoming performance will be at the Magic City Blues Festival, August 4, Billings, Mont., a two-day gathering of great blues players.

On Tuesday, April 25, his band provided a show at the Whitney Center for Performing Arts, Sheridan College. The event was sponsored by the Sheridan College Native American Students Association.

The concert was opened by a Northern Cheyenne student, Mickey Wolf who sang a tribal honor song, accompanied by hand drum. “That was something very special and unique,” Sprague commented, “I felt gifted.”

Brandon knows about things like that because during his youth he spent many summers with grandparents, Velda and Darrel Sprague at Cheyenne River, which grounded him in tribal tradition.

During the two-hour performance, Sprague used four different guitars, depending upon the song. He can make those instruments sing, scream, moan, groan, laugh or cry, talk, and probably whisper, although the Sheridan show was on the louder side. He accompanies in a low bluesy, gravely,voice.

The first hour was dedicated to music he personally composed, a mix of blues, soul and slightly jazzy, extremely creative. The second hour presented old-time rock and roll, blues and even classics such as “When a Man Loves a Woman” bringing tears to eyes. Many of the audience knew a man like that. So true for many women.

After each song, the audience enthusiastically clapped, whistled, cheered, and hollered with appreciation. One lady in attendance remarked “I felt like I was back in Chicago! Imagine this happening in Sheridan, Wyoming.”

The four man-band includes Doug Perry, bass; Fred Epstein, drums and Jesse Christian, rhythm guitar. Originally, Christian is from South Dakota, a former journalist who is now delighted to have a story written about the band wherein he plays.

When asked about his inspiration for music, Brandon shared an interesting life story. As a young child, his family lived in Oklahoma with the Choctaw Nation. The entire Sprague family, including his father Donovin (now a professor at Sheridan College) are musicians. Donovin owns several record outlets around the country and at the time booked many bands, specializing in blues music which inspired Brandon.

Bandon, now forty-five has been playing music since age ten. By fifteen he started making money by playing music and has since managed to make that into a self-sustaining career

When asked what advice he would give to young aspiring Native and other musicians, Brandon shared several thoughts:

“Stick with it. I, for example spent years in the basement practicing, practicing, driving my parents crazy until I got it half-way right.

There were times when I was at the bottom, but music saved my soul.

When you are going through tough times, music can make you feel better. It helps the spirit. Even better than a counselor or doctor.

It doesn’t matter what style you play. Play from your heart.

Music can make people feel happier”.

That’s exactly what happened to many, while listening to Brandon Sprague, on April 25 at the Whitney Center for the Performing Arts in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Indians can rock it in several venues, bringing joy to our souls.

Everyone was hooting and a hollering. Just loving the music and feeling happy.

Brandon Sprague can be reached at brandonspraguebluesband@gmail.com.

(Contact Clara Caufield at acheyennevoice@gmail.com)


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