Leo "Bud" Welch
When 81-year-old Leo “Bud" Welch from the Mississippi backwoods released his debut album Sabougla Voices in 2014, it took the blues world by surprise: Where has this guy been the last 60 years? Why has nobody ever heard of him before?
When he started playing 10-15 shows every month, even receiving invitations to Europe and Africa, more questions arose: How is this possible for a guy his age? Who makes all these shows happen?
Answers are given in Late Blossom Blues, a feature-length documentary about the bluesman and his very late rise to stardom. It's the quintessential blues story — a story about poverty, about work in the cotton fields and the woods, about the Lord and the Devil, and of course a story about life that reminds us that it's never too late to live your dream.
Late Blossom Blues will be released in the U.S. on DVD through San Rafael, Calif.'s City Hall Records, with an in-store street date of April 20, 2018. Amazon will stream the documentary on that date as well.
The film follows Leo and his friend and manager Vencie Varnado, a Gulf War veteran, as they balance the tight rope between business and geriatrics, between jet lag and sound check. It also paints a heartwarming portrait of Leo's small hometown Bruce, Miss., where Leo's daily life is still untouched by his late global fame.
Documenting the most exciting times in the life of one of the last real bluesmen, Late Blossom Blues is a film of historic dimension for all music lovers. It's a moving account of a hard-working man, who, despite all adversities, never wavered from his passion.
The documentary won the Audience Award at the Naples International Film Festival, the Board of Directors Award at the North Carolina Film Awards, and was named Best Music Documentary 2017 at the NEO Film Festival.
According to director Wolfgang Pfoser-Almer, who first encountered Welch in 2013 while in contact with Fat Possum Records about a European festival booking for Mississippi bluesman Cedell Davis, Davis was not available, but Fat Possum's Bruce Watson suggested he interview the 82-year-old bluesman who'd just released his debut album. Pfoser-Almer immediately booked Welch in what would become the Mississippian's first European festival, and his first travel overseas.
The director describes the night of the show: “The club was still so packed, I couldn't even get in. People were dancing like crazy, the club was literally smoking — all because of an 82-year-old man, at 1:30 in the morning! Even Vencie and drummer Dixie (Swearingen) refer to that concert as their best show ever . . . I still had no idea that I was about to make a movie about Leo — otherwise I would have put some cameras in that room.
“Throughout filming and editing, we realized that even though the story of Leo's late success is incredible, what's even more amazing is Leo's good-hearted, down-to-earth character. So we structured the movie more and more about Leo himself and less about his story, though it of course still plays an important part in the movie.
“I believe we created a movie that provides many insights into black America and the still very much existing blues world. It also tells the story of a poor black man who never wavered from his dream to be a musician. And that's what we're hoping to remind our audience: With passion and patience, it's never too late to live your dream."