You can’t make a soup without water, and you can’t make American music without the blues, says Bad Brad Wheeler. The harmonica player and DJ spins the blues—and the best in Americana, rock, rockabilly, surf, psychedelic and the like—during drive time on community radio station KRCL 90.9FM from 2–7pm, Monday thru Friday. Wheeler is a big force in Utah—literally, he stands at well over six feet tall; figuratively, he has a booming baritone, and he’s bustling with charisma and energy. However, as numerous folks in the local music scene can attest, he’s one of the most humble and kind humans you could ever meet. His generosity can be seen in his work as part of the Utah Arts Council Artist in Residency Program, where for more than a decade he has taught 25,000 school children how to play the harmonica.
Wheeler’s mother was a church organist for the Lutheran Church, but it wasn’t until college when Wheeler picked up the harp. He became obsessed with it, and between bartending at Utah’s former, most prominent music establishments (the Speedway Cafe and Dead Goat Saloon), he was known to play 300-plus gigs a year. Wheeler is one half of the Legendary Porch Pounders, a blues band that was recognized as the band of the year in 2005 at the City Weekly Showdown to SXSW. Now, he holds it down at KRCL. The blues are in Wheeler’s bones.
Wheeler has really lived two lives in one. From working as a farm hand as a boy to graduating with a degree in Anthropology to kicking a drunken Hunter S. Thompson out of a downtown Salt Lake City bar to becoming an ordained reverend, he’s seen and done it all. And Wheeler is a veritable encyclopedia of Utah history, and, more so, of Utah music history—he’s a real treasure.
Pictured above is Oscar, a stray cat that essentially chose Wheeler—it showed up one day and wouldn’t leave. Wheeler can appreciate a thing or two about persistence.
Photographer and award-winning journalist Austen Diamond specializes in creative portraiture, commercial photography and editorial photojournalism. For booking inquiries and to view his portfolio, go to www.AustenDiamond.com.