Brody Buster is only in his early 30s, but he is already a music industry veteran, one preparing to give success a second chance.
“I started so young,” he told The Star recently. “I played ‘The Tonight Show,’ I played with B.B. King a bunch of times. But I was just a kid. And then I didn’t want to do it for a while. When I was a teenager, I wanted to play rock ’n’ roll. I wanted to skateboard and party. And then I had kids.”
These days, Buster, 32, is the father of a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. He’s also trying to revive a career that started when he was 9 and a blues-harp prodigy from Paola, Kan.
His career included several moments of celebrity and fame, with guest appearances on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” the TV shows “Full House” and “Baywatch,” and an endorsement from King, who called the young Buster “one of the greatest harmonica players of our time, despite his age.”
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Music remained a consistent component of his life, but not the primary focus.
“I’ve always played music, but I wasn’t really pursuing it,” he said.
He is now, and at the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., this month, his pursuit received a significant boost after Buster placed second in the solo/duo category and won best harmonica player.
“It has already kick-started my career,” he said. “My email and phone have been flooded with too many offers to get back to. I’m looking for an agent to help me get through it all. I’ve had offers all over the U.S. and Canada to play blues festivals.”
Buster advanced to Memphis after winning a spot through the Kansas City Blues Society’s local competition. Fellow Kansas Citians Amanda Fish and the trio the Old No. 5s also competed in Memphis. Neither made it past the semifinals.
It was Buster’s second attempt at the IBC. The first attempt inspired him to change his approach from working in a trio to performing as a one-man band (drums, guitar, harmonica, vocals).
“I entered the challenge two years ago as a full band but didn’t make it out of Kansas City,” he said. “All the judges said, ‘You’re really good, you’re just too much rock.’ So I started this one-man-band thing Monday nights at the Westport Saloon. And I built it there. It’s pretty much the same music, but it’s toned down, not so loud and in-the-face. It’s a lot bluesier.”
Buster has released an album on Mudstomp Records as Brody Buster’s One Man Band, and he performs regularly around Kansas City beyond his regular Monday night gig at the Westport Saloon. He also has a weekly Wednesday night gig at the Oak Bar in the InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza. On Friday, he’ll perform at the Hillsdale Tavern in Hillsdale, Kan., and on Saturday he has a show at the Phoenix in downtown Kansas City.
His calendar is likely to start including gigs far outside Kansas City and require the kind of travel he grew accustomed to when he was a child — something the father of young children is prepared for. And another Kansas City band has already validated his intentions.
“I’m trying to do it again,” he said. “I figured if I could go down there and even just make the finals, let alone win something, it could do something for me. I mean, Katy Guillen and the Girls, they made the finals (in 2014), and it really boosted their careers. So far so good.”
Brody Buster’s One Man Band performs from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday at the Hillsdale Tavern in Hillsdale, Kan., and from 9 to midnight Saturday at the Phoenix, 302 W. Eighth St.