Musician McKnight heading home to Altoona for show

Internationally touring drummer John McKnight is coming back to his hometown.

The Altoona native began playing with The Chris Duarte Group full time in November, and while on tour, the group will play at 30 Something on Saturday.

Guitarist, singer and songwriter Chris Duarte, who is often compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan, leads the mostly blues and hard rock group that includes bass player Dustin Sargent.

McKnight, who recently played in Japan with Duarte, will head to Poland in July for the Suwali Blues Festival.

The three musicians make a “really powerful trio,” Duarte said.

“John is such a tremendous asset to the band because his playing … can move in any direction, and then he sings great. He’s got so many weapons in his arsenal,” said Duarte, who has released 13 albums and is currently signed to Shrapnel Records.

McKnight remembers crawling up to beat on his dad’s drum set as a kid. He started taking formal lessons at age 7 and played throughout his schooling in Altoona.

Claudio Castrechini, 30 Something owner, went to school with McKnight.

“John was a drum prodigy early in life,” he said. “I can remember at Roosevelt they would hold assembly just to watch John play drums because he was sponsored by Zildjian at like 13.”

Despite a college scholarship, McKnight took to the road right after graduating high school in 1983, he said. Before going after music full time, he held odd jobs.

McKnight, who played with Felix and the Hurricanes and the State College-based band The Wood, moved to Atlanta in 1998, he said.

“He’s been one of the best drummers [and] singers that I know,” said Bobby Watters, drummer for Felix and the Hurricanes, who will open for The Chris Duarte Group on Saturday. “Everybody back here is just really happy and glad to see that all his hard work has paid off.”

McKnight has played professionally for more than 30 years and has recorded on more than 50 CDs, according to chrisduartegrp. com.

He has played and recorded with such artists as Dangerous Dan Toler, Chris Hicks of The Marshall Tucker Band and the late Hughie Thomasson of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

McKnight is excited to return to Altoona, and is “expecting a great night, crowd wise and musically,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.