John Nemeth and The Bo-Keys

John Nemeth & The Bokeys

John Nemeth & The Bo-Keys, presented by FedEx

Boise, Idaho is hardly the place anyone would conjure up as a hotbed of soul-blues. But for John Németh, it’s where his love for the genre began—and the starting point for a journey that’s taken him from his first gigs fronting a teenage blues band to five Blues Music Award nominations in 2013. It’s where this preternaturally talented son of a Hungarian immigrant gained his early chops on the harmonica, building on the style of blues heroes like Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson.

After logging over 1,000 concerts between 2007 and 2011, Németh released a pair of live solo albums showcasing his 25 most popular songs. Those discs, titled Blues Live and Soul Live, received five Blues Music Award nominations—the most ever for any live release. They also earned critical acclaim that places Németh in, as Nick Cristiano of the Philadelphia Inquirer put it, “a cadre of young and relatively young artists such as James Hunter, Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed, and Sharon Jones.”

In early 2013, Németh and his family moved to Memphis. “It is the epicenter for soul and blues,” Németh says. “The wealth of knowledge runs deep in the instincts of its musicians and its studios.” Németh landed in the perfect place: Electraphonic Studio, 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. Backed by the Bo-Keys, Bomar’s group of veteran Memphis performers who made their names playing with the likes of Al Green, O.V. Wright, Rufus Thomas, and the Bar-Kays, Németh quickly laid down thirteen tracks that, as he describes it, “live in the style like I live in the style.”

In the early parts of their careers, members of the Bo-Keys performed in B.B. King’s orchestra, anchored the Hi Rhythm Section, nailed the unforgettable intro to “Theme From Shaft,” and survived the plane crash that claimed Otis Redding. The Bo-Keys features alumni both of Stax Records and Hi Records, plus younger musicians who grew up loving that classic sound. The band has garnered an Emmy award and a Grammy nomination. The Bo-Keys’ debut effort The Royal Sessions drew raves, and can still be heard in snippets on National Public Radio broadcasts.