On Music: Prodigy ‘future of the blues’

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

Listening to a child practice the guitar can be anything but pleasant. Wrong notes are a given, and proper tempos are sometimes difficult for a kid to comprehend. For 10-year-old Tallan Latz of Elkhorn, Wis., working on the basics is something he’s beyond—way beyond. Latz is known as the “youngest performing blues guitarist in the world.” Some call him the future of the blues.

Known as “T-Man,” Latz received an acoustic guitar at age 4 and graduated to an electric by 5 after seeing a video featuring virtuoso Joe Satriani. It didn’t take Latz long before he mastered the blues style. Today, young Tallan is a household name in the Midwest and is amassing a national following. Latz says playing the guitar is his favorite thing to do and doesn’t regret choosing the instrument over traditional toys.

“I love to play the guitar,” Tallan told a Wisconsin TV reporter. “It’s my favorite feeling to play.”

Tallan’s father, Carl Latz, realizes his son is unique. On stage, he said, Tallan personifies the blues and plays like he’s got decades of experiences with it under his belt. After a show, he reverts back to an ordinary elementary school kid, enjoying time on playgrounds and mingling with other fourth-graders. From where his son draws the ability to play like guitarists who’ve been at it for 20 and 30 years or more, Carl doesn’t know.

“It’s just something that’s in him,” Carl said. “He’s an old soul (and) has a feel for the blues.”

Unlike some parents, who often pressure talented children to pursue stardom or financial success, Carl doesn’t push Tallan to perform. He’s along for whatever journey his son wants to take him on, even if it means shelving the instrument. For now, however, the journey is one of song.

Tallan owns more than a dozen guitars and already has endorsement deals for various gear, including Curt Mangan strings. He competed last July on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.

The journey to the national spotlight, although short, has not been without roadblocks. The state of Wisconsin ruled Tallan is too young to perform in night clubs for pay. His booking agent even received death threats, accusing her of exploiting the prodigy. Still, Tallan keeps playing. While he’s not scheduled to appear on bar stages in the near future, Tallan is a featured act at blues festivals and music events across the country.

Listen to Tallan Latz at www.myspace.com/tmanlatz.

From the Feb. 24-Mar. 2, 2010 issue

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