Before he was 22, guitar prodigy Tyler Bryant shared the stage with Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. But it was a 63-year-old bluesman from Honey Grove, Texas, who inspired the musician when he was just a boy.
Roosevelt Twitty happened to be jamming inside a small-town music store when the 11-year-old Bryant walked in and followed the sound to the source.
That's the day Bryant said his life changed, when Twitty began teaching him to play the blues.
"I started going to his house almost every day, and he would play me all these old records and cassettes, and turned me on to a lot of music that I wouldn't have heard as a little white kid growing up in the South," says Bryant, who appears with his band the Shakedown in The City on Tuesday.
Twitty and Bryant then began playing in public together, in backyards, bars or cafes — the location didn't matter.
Bryant's parents, who drove him to the shows, wanted him back in the car by 11 p.m. But he would close his eyes, solo and pretend not to notice them motioning to their watches.
"'Cause how lame is that? You're in the middle of the set, and you have to pack your amp up because your parents think it's getting too rowdy?" he says.
Bryant was given his first guitar at age 6. He wanted to be like Elvis, so his mother dyed his hair black and bought him a gold jacket and leather pants he proudly wore to first grade. "The teacher told my mom I had an identity crisis," he laughs.
He started his own band at 16, getting his first dose of touring beyond Texas. He also began listening to more rock 'n' roll, like Tom Petty and the Black Crowes, and those influences seeped into his songwriting.
At 16, Bryant was honored by the Robert Johnson Foundation, run by the family of the famed 20th-century bluesman. Soon after, one of Bryant's original songs was featured on "Guitar Hero 5."
Two years later, he moved to Nashville, where he started the Shakedown with drummer Caleb Crosby, bassist Noah Denney and guitarist Graham Whitford, son of Aerosmith's Brad Whitford. The band's debut album, "Wild Child," was released in January.
Through the years, Bryant remained close to Twitty, who died in May at 74. At the memorial, Bryant found out his teacher left him his guitar.
"He was my best friend," Bryant says. "He's one of the most special people I've met in my life."
IF YOU GOTyler Bryant and the Shakedown
Where: Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $13 to $15