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Pokey LaFarge (born June 26, 1983) is an American musician, writer, and actor raised in Illinois, and now is based in Los Angeles, California.
At the Square Room in Knoxville, Tennessee, April 17, 2010
LaFarge was born Andrew Heissler in Bloomington, Illinois. The nickname "Pokey" was coined by his mother, who would scold him to hurry when he was a child.
LaFarge took an interest in history and literature during his childhood, and was greatly influenced by his grandfathers. One was a member of the St. Louis Banjo Club who gave him his first guitar and tenor banjo. The other, an amateur historian, taught him about the American Civil War and World War II.
In his early teens, while he was living in Normal, Illinois, LaFarge first heard blues at Jake's Pizza, run by a man named Juice. Jake's Pizza was decorated with portraits of bluesmen, and exclusively played blues; the music of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon in particular inspired LaFarge. He discovered an appreciation for older blues musicians like Skip James, Robert Wilkins, and Sleepy John Estes. After hearing Bill Monroe at age 16, LaFarge traded the guitar his grandfather had given him for a mandolin.
He adopted the name "Pokey LaFarge" because it sounded like what he was looking for musically during the time he was moving around the country. After graduating from University High School in 2001, at the age of seventeen he hitchhiked to the west coast and earned a living as a busker on streets, sidewalks, and pedestrian malls. He met Ryan Koenig and Joey Glynn of the St. Louis band The Rum Drum Ramblers while he was playing on a street in Asheville, North Carolina. Adam Hoskins joined Glynn and Koenig to form the South City Three. The band joined LaFarge in 2009.
LaFarge in Reutlingen, Germany, May 2, 2012
LaFarge independently released his first album, Marmalade, in 2006. During the same year, he toured with The Hackensaw Boys. His second solo album, Beat, Move & Shake, was released in 2008 by Big Muddy Records.
Riverboat Soul, the first album with The South City Three, was recorded in July 2009 at the Nashville studio of producer Phil Harris using vintage instruments and electronics. It was released in 2010 by Free Dirt Records and won the Independent Music Award for Best Americana Album. The group's second album, Middle of Everywhere, won the same award in 2011. The band also released Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County produced by Jack White for his label, Third Man Records. White asked the band to collaborate with him on the song "I Guess I Should Go to Sleep" for his album Blunderbuss, followed by opening for him on tour.
In 2013, LaFarge signed with Third Man Records and released his first album on the label, accompanied by a larger band that included
Chloe Feoranzo, Matthew Meyer, and T.J. Muller. During the next year, he signed with Rounder Records and released Something in the Water in April 2015.
The group was featured by NPR on the Tiny Desk Concert series in 2011.
LaFarge wrote a song for the soundtrack of Brick By Chance and Fortune, a documentary directed by friend of the band, Bill Streeter, released in 2011.
Pokey and the members of the South City Three played on "I Guess I Should Go To Sleep", a track from Jack White's album Blunderbuss released on April 24, 2012.
On September 23, 2012, LaFarge contributed to the soundtrack of HBO's Boardwalk Empire with his rendition of the famous pop standard "Lovesick Blues". The song was featured in the last scene and end credits of the episode "Spaghetti & Coffee"
LaFarge collaborated with JD McPherson on a rendition of country legend Bob Will's "Good Old Oklahoma", released on June 28, 2013. All of the proceeds from the track go to the Oklahoma City Community Fund's Tornado Relief endowment.
Pokey & The South City Three recorded Jack White's track "Red's Theater of The Absurd" which appeared in The Lone Ranger 's original score. The film was released on July 3, 2013 and the band made a brief appearance in the movie.
LaFarge and the group made an appearance on the APM live radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion, with Garrison Keillor on October 5, 2013. They performed four selections -- "Central Time", "What The Rain Will Bring", "Garbage Man Blues" and "Close the Door".
The band appeared on Conan O'Brien on August 17, 2017 and performed "Better Man Than Me" 
The group is thought to be "artfully dodgy ambassadors for old-time music, presenting and representing the glories of hot swing, early jazz and ragtime blues" who have "made riverboat chic cool again." Stephen Thompson of NPR says of LaFarge's . .
". . music evokes the old-timey spirit of a thousand crackling 78 RPM records . . and even when you encounter him face to face, he seems to gaze at you out of a dusty archival photo . . Maybe the effect wouldn't be so jarring if LaFarge's music felt inauthentic in some unsettling way . . But his albums never feel like cheap exercises in nostalgia, in part because LaFarge directs his old-fashioned sensibilities in the service of sharp, infectious new material. It feels strange to listen to his work on a CD . . but his songs aren't stiffly posed wax-museum sculptures . . Their energy makes them feel new and alive.
Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show said
"Pokey's got a St. Louis thing going. His muse is the Mississippi; maybe that's what makes his songs run so deep and muddy, though it was on the Ohio that I first met him. With a Bardstown tune he stopped me dead in my tracks--just a kid back then, cutting his teeth on primitive blues, rust jazz, drunk swing - Lord! - what saintly patron brought Clifford Hayes back from the dead and sent him back to Carpet Alley to reclaim his crown? Well, all I can say for certain is nobody sings much like Jimmie Rodgers anymore and nobody crows, rakes, rips, yips, shouts, buzzes or croons quite like Pokey LaFarge either."
^ abcdCraft, Dan (21 February 2013). "Twin City Native Pokey LaFarge Digs Our Musical Roots". Pantagraph. Retrieved 2013. Wouldn't you know: Bloomington-Normal spawns a music original like Pokey LaFarge and popflock.com resource tells the world that Benton, half a state away, performed the honors. 'Benton?' responds LaFarge in a bemused tone that suggests the popular online information resource should be consulted but never believed. 'No, I was born in Bloomington, at St. Joe's.'