The songwriter recalls her first musical taste as the classic rock of The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty, alongside contemporary artists like Sheryl Crow and The Black Crowes, but after several underage clandestine visits to the Knuckleheads Saloon blues club in her native Kansas City, she followed the thread from modern masters like Zito and Tab Benoit, through fallen ’80s heroes like Stevie Ray Vaughan, right back to the pre-war Delta masters. “I fell in love with it,” she told Premier Guitar of her growing passion for the form, “and started doing my homework by listening to the old guys like Son House and Skip James.”
Soon enough, appreciation for the blues had spilled over into application, and by the age of 18, Samantha had settled on a searing lead guitar style that expressed her own voice rather than mimicking the clichéd blues licks note-for-note. Home practice didn’t scratch the itch, and she broke into a dues-paying period on the Kansas City jam circuit: an apprenticeship at the sharp end that tightened her musical chops, polished her stagecraft and gave her the grit to overcome occasional scepticism about her age, hair tone and gender. “I always hated the idea of the gimmick,” she told Premier Guitar. “People come out just because you are a girl, but then you have so much more to prove once you get them in the door.”
But Samantha got them in – and kept them in – and after an early live recording from Knuckleheads found its way into the hands of label supremo Thomas Ruf, the young bandleader’s trajectory was changed from dreamer to signed artist.