Darren “Lil’ Bluesman” Thiboutot got a taste of the music business beyond Maine in January, when he performed at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

Sponsored by the Maine Blues Society, Thiboutot was there as a noncompeting youth performer under age 21. Guitar in hand, he took the stage at Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale Street alone, without the two older members of his Topsham-based band, Memphis Lightning.

Before an audience of about 200 people, he played and sang a few of his originals, including “Trouble” and “Go Away,” and a few classics, including “Dust My Broom,” which was recorded first by Robert Johnson and later by Elmore James.

“It was surreal,” recalled Thiboutot, a Cheverus High School graduate. “It was a little frightening because I was used to playing with a band. But it was fun and it was great exposure, and afterward I had a great feeling of accomplishment.”

In the audience was his dad and fellow band member, Darren “Big Red” Thiboutot, a drummer who backed the great blues guitarist Eddie Kirkland in the 1990s. The bass guitarist in Memphis Lightning is Rick “Slow Driver” McLennan, another accomplished Maine musician.

Memphis Lightning’s first album, “Trouble,” is due out this summer. A video of the band performing ” ’67 Cadillac,” with music and lyrics by Thiboutot, is available on youtube.com and on the band’s Facebook page. The band is set to perform at the Maine Blues Festival in Naples next weekend and the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland July 16-17.


Now 18, Thiboutot has come a long way in a decade.

“I got my first guitar when I was 8, but I didn’t really get into it until I was 10,” Thiboutot said. “My first paying gig was about 12 at Bentley’s Saloon in Arundel. It was with my dad. I was pretty much hooked then.”

Thiboutot’s father gave him his first guitar and showed him how to play. He also took lessons from prominent Maine guitarists Mike Hayward and Scott Hughes, and he picked up a few things from Eddie Kirkland, too. Now, he teaches himself.

“You see other bands and you always learn something new,” Thiboutot said. “And you learn a lot just by doing it.”

Playing in pubs and at festivals at such a young age, Thiboutot got some early life lessons, but his father always watched over him.

“I had to mature sooner and act older,” he said. “Being in a band kept me in line, in a way. Knowing I had a show coming up, I had to have all my homework caught up.”

Thiboutot, who played in the jazz combo at Cheverus, said he’s grateful for his family’s unflagging encouragement, including his mom, Deborah. He plans to study music education at the University of Maine at Augusta, where he received a president’s scholarship for half tuition. And he’ll keep on playing the blues.

“I’ve always loved the blues,” he said. “You can encompass several styles when you play the blues, including rock, country and roots music. And I like the rawness and the emotion in the blues. There’s always something more to it than the eye can see.”

– By Kelley Bouchard

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.