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INTERVIEW: Pokey LaFarge 

Gather 'round children and let me tell you of a man that plays a mean guitar and sings pretty. You can practically hear him jump out of a gramophone. St. Louis musician Pokey LaFarge is coming to town with his jumpin' style of hi-tone bop. LaFarge plays what some call "hot music." He mixes country, blues, and old-time jazz and jump with slick swing and even slicker rhythm changes.

The cat waxes cucumber while his music is downright wild and curious. It telegraphs the truth the way a palooka throws a punch.

CITY gave LaFarge a blast on the blower to pull on his coat for the what's what in his world. An edited transcript follows. Dig...

CITY: What is "Pokey LaFarge music"?

Pokey LaFarge: That's a good question. It's one I've been asked many times over the years, and I don't think I've ever given people the answer they want. It's an ever-changing answer. It's a mixture of all the obvious genres, you know, jazz and blues and country. But I also feel like there are elements of rocksteady in there, some elements of Cajun, of R&B, of rock 'n' roll. The easiest way to put it is it's roots rock 'n' roll. It's the roots of rock 'n' roll.

Who has influenced you?

There is a lot of different music I listen to and am influenced by, so it's ongoing. But the source was the blues when I was about 13 years old. Muddy Waters, stuff like that.

How do you keep historic music relevant?

I don't really see it as historic. I'm writing all the time.

But you're writing in an historic vein.

So is Bruce Springsteen. So is Bob Dylan. Those guys are timeless. My pursuit is timelessness.

All-time favorites?

Well I certainly love and respect the work of Tom Waits, especially post 1981. I really like Henri Salvador; he's like the French Harry Belafonte. You've gotta put Bob Dylan in there. Esther Phillips. I could go on forever, but that's a good start. I'm learning French now, so I'm listening to a lot of French artists new and old. Let me look here in my iTunes — some really cool Latino music. I listen to a lot of world music, Latino music, and African music.

Is there anything you avoid musically?

No, not really as a general rule. I used to put boundaries on music. But not anymore.

Pokey LaFarge plays Friday, June 29, at Martin Luther King Jr. Park at Manhattan Square, 353 Court Street. 9 p.m. Free.

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