Linsey Alexander

Chicago is the blues capital of the world, and if recent popularity is any kind of benchmark, Linsey Alexander just might be the hottest sound in town right now.  The Entertainment Committee was tipped off about Linsey by Sugar and Junior of Big City Blues magazine.  When we heard Linsey’s music, we knew he was the real deal.

Born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Linsey’s first guitar—a gift from a family friend who played on the front stoop of Linsey’s home in Memphis—was never retrieved from the pawn shop where he left it almost 50 years ago. He used the money to help pay his way to Chicago’s South Side.  In much the same way as many great blues artists before him, he grew up in a poor but honest and hard-working family, learning early on that music has the power to lift the spirit and comfort the soul. In Linsey’s  own words, “Blues music is not hard—it’s just a documentary about life.”

Although having played with B.B.King, Bobby Rush, Buddy Guy, Little Milton, Magic Slim, Johnnie Taylor, A.C.Reed, Larry McCray, John Primer, Otis Clay, Eddy Clearwater  and other great blues performers, Linsey Alexander has remained  true to his own style.  His latest realease, If You Ain’t Got It, is a compilation of original blues and r&b tunes.

Karen McFarland


Eric Gales Band

Eric Gales is a blazing blues/rock guitarist that has been compared to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.  Those two legends were influences for him, as are Robin Trower, John Mayer, Albert King, Muddy Waters, and Joe Bonamassa, among others.

Eric was born into a musical family with four brothers, and two of them also learned to play the guitar upside down and left-handed, the same way that Eric does. Together the three brothers from Memphis released a CD in 1996 entitled Left Hand Brand featuring The Gales Brothers on the House of Blues label.

This was actually Eric’s third CD. His first CD was released when he was a sixteen-year- old guitar prodigy in 1991 simply titled Eric Gales Band on the Elektra Record label.  He also released his second CD on the same label in 1993, Picture of a Thousand Faces. In 2001 he released That’s What I Am on MCA records.

By now I’m sure his fans couldn’t get enough of him, which is exactly what I believe you’ll think after hearing him. So he released a CD every year for five years in a row, starting with 2006’s Chrystal Vision on Shrapnel Records, 2007’s The Psychedelic Underground on Shrapnel Records, 2008’s The Story of my Life on Blues Bureau International, 2009’s Layin’ Down the Blues on Blues Bureau International, and 2010’s Relentless also on Blues Bureau International.

In the fall of 2008 Eric performed on stage with Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, and blues legend Hubert Sumlin on the Experience Hendrix USA tour, in tribute to Jimi Hendrix. This was just the first of several Hendrix tribute tours that Eric has done.

If you want to see someone in his prime that has blistering guitar powers and amazing vocals to go with it, you won’t want to miss the Eric Gales Band! Enjoy!!

Steve Heston


Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hellraisers

Dwayne Dopsie comes from one of the most prominent Zydeco families in the world. He is the son of the legendary “King of Zydeco,” Alton “Rockin’ Dopsie” Rubin, an accordion master. The young Dwayne traveled the zydeco circuit with his family, and by the age of 19 he had formed his own band. Since then he has achieved national and international recognition. Dwayne Dopsie has performed on CBS, The Travel Channel, Discovery, 20/20, Good Morning America, and The Fox Television Network. He has also been named “Hottest Accordionist” by the American Accordionists’ Association.

When he was four years old, late one night after his parents were both asleep, he found his father’s accordion. He was captivated with it so he slid the straps on, but when he moved away from the table the accordion was so heavy that it crashed to the ground and caused him to fall face first on the floor. Well, after you see his performance, the only thing on the floor will be your jaw in sheer amazement of his talent! It’s hard to imagine that the Dwayne we see today was once a small child known to his brothers as a “crybaby.” Dwayne would cry every time he performed as a child.  He says he doesn’t know why he would cry, just that every time he would start playing, the tears would start streaming. I believe that was the music emanating from his heart. He just didn’t know it then.

Dwayne is known for his heart-pounding licks and interaction with the crowd even though his band never practices! He says that the accordion leads the band, and the others fill in. The Hellraisers include Alex McDonals on the washboard, Dion Pierre on the bass guitar, Calvin Sam on the drums, Damon Sonnier on the saxophone, and Shelton Sonnier on the guitar.

Get ready to be free and dance with Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers!

Amanda Coulter


Smokin’ Joe Kubek Band featuring Bnois King

Here are just a few ways to describe the Smokin’ Joe Kubek Band featuring Bnois King.  GuitarOne describes their music as “Potent, undiluted 100-proof Texas blues honed to a razor’s edge.”   Living Blues notes that they play “Powerful, hard-nosed, authentic roadhouse blues…Punchy Texas shuffles, fierce boogies, tough slow blues and mighty fine roots rock.” And Billboard says that “Kubek is one of the fiercest electric guitarists currently plugged-in.  Hard-hitting original Texas blues-rock.”

Shortly after being born in 1956, Smokin’ Joe Kubek’s parents packed up the family and  moved from Pennsylvania to Irving, Texas. By the age of 14 he was playing the night clubs of Dallas. By the age of 17 he fell for the blues. He played rhythm guitar backing up Freddie King  till  Freddie’s death in 1976 . He played with the legends of the Dallas blues scene, including Robert Whitfield, Al Braggs, Charlie Robinson, Big Ray Anderson and Ernie Johnson. In 1989 he met up with a singer/guitar player named Bnois King from Monroe, Louisiana They played countless shows and went on to get a recording deal with the Bullseye label. With a number of releases afterwards they have a solid reputation as a well-rounded blues band.

Kubek is one of those people who was born to play the guitar. He has a way with his licks and chops to tear up the stage any day. Kubek has said about Bnois, “He has a way to pull the jazz out of me and in return I pull the blues out of him.”

The band’s most recent release is their Alligator debut.  Blood Brothers has 14 songs, and 13 of them are originals. According to Alligator owner Bruce Iglauer, “Joe and Bnois are a real powerhouse blues combination. Joe is an amazing guitarist who can play anything in blues, from the most traditional Texas style to totally blowout blues-rock. Bnois is a gorgeous singer with deep Texas soul, and his guitar playing is subtle and melodic. Together they make an unbeatable two-man front line backed by a solid, versatile rhythm section.”

Smokin Joe and Bnois exist to play live, so come on down on Friday night to hear them!  You won’t be disappointed!

Jack Allen


Jimmy Burns

A singer, guitarist, and songwriter, Jimmy Burns is a contemporary bluesman who combines his Delta roots with r&b and soul to come up with a sound uniquely his own. He is a charismatic performer with an expressive, soulful, voice and a melodic guitar style to match.

Born near Dublin, Mississippi in 1943, Jimmy loved the sounds coming out of the church, and the blues he heard on the streets. He sang in church and taught himself how to play guitar while he was still in the Delta. One of his particular favorites was Lightnin’ Hopkins. His oldest brother, renowned Detroit bluesman Eddie Burns, is also a guitarist who played with John Lee Hooker for a number of years before striking out on his own.

Burns was 12 when his family moved to Chicago. Within a year he was singing with a gospel group, but secular music also beckoned. In 1959, at the age of 16, he joined The Medallionaires, an established vocal group, and did some recording. Jimmy was also part of the folk scene in the early ‘60s. He sang and played guitar at The Fickle Pickle, (booked at that time by Mike Bloomfield), the Gate of Horn, and coffeehouses around town.

As r&b turned to soul in the ‘60s Burns cut a few soul singles for the USA, Minit, Tip Top and Erica labels. One of his Erica singles, “I Really Love You,” is a collector’s item in Great Britain. The reality of raising a family, however, cut short Jimmy’s full-time musical career. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s he stayed close to home, continuing to play clubs and concert venues around town.

With the blues never far from his soul, Jimmy returned to playing full-time in the mid-nineties. He started out with a regular gig at Smokedaddy’s in Chicago, and it wasn’t long before Bob Koester of Delmark Records signed him to record a CD. Leaving Here Walking was a hit right out of the gate, winning Best Blues Record of the Year from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors (NAIRD), the French Academie Du Jazz’s Big Bill Broonzy Award, and two W.C. Handy Award nominations. National and international tours followed, as Jimmy Burns played to enthusiastic audiences in clubs and festivals across the country, and in Europe, Canada, and Japan.


R.J. Mischo with Earl Cate and Them

“Mischo far surpasses many better known at harp-driven blues.”–Living Blues Magazine

Singer/harmonica player R.J. Mischo began his music career over 20 years ago in Minneapolis. He worked with the area’s legends of the blues scene like Muddy Waters alumni Mojo Buford and Sonny Rogers, as well as Percy Strothers and Milwaukee Slim. R.J. then led his own groups and gained a reputation as one of the region’s top blues acts.

R.J. was introduced to audiences worldwide when he and guitarist Teddy Morgan formed the RJ & Kid Morgan Blues Band featuring Percy Strother. In 1992 they released Ready To Go on the W. C. Handy award-winning Blue Loon Records.

In 1998 R.J. Mischo moved to San Francisco, where he quickly established himself in the local music scene, as each performance typically runs the gamut from mellow-down-easy acoustic to highly-charged full-on electric.  R.J. waxed three more albums in California plus appeared on two volumes of Blues Harp Meltdown CD compilations featuring live recordings of Mark Hummel’s famous blues harmonica blow-outs with Kim Wilson, James Harman, Billy Branch, Rick Estrin, Gary Primich, Johnny Dyer, Annie Raines, and Phil Wiggins.  His latest and 9th CD, King Of a Mighty Good Time (2008), was recorded “live” in the studio to best capture the energy and interplay of sympathic musicians under optimal recording conditions.

R.J. and his wife now reside in Fayetteville, Arkansas. R.J. works in the area with Northwest Arkansas’ finest, including guitar-ace Jimmy Thackery, Zack Bramhall and Arkansas legend Earl Cate, who will also perform here at Mississippi Valley.

R.J.’s music is a combination of originals and obscure gems that create an exciting mix of grooving boogies, bump & grind shuffles, and electric Chicago blues. RJ is endorsed by Hohner Harmonicas. His harmonica playing can be found on nationally-aired TV commercials as well as documentaries on the Discovery Channel and independent movie scores. He has contributed his harmonica expertise to two published instruction books and has conducted workshops at music schools in the U.S., Europe, and Brazil.


Paul Rishell and Annie Raines

Billboard notes of Paul Rishell and Annie Raines:  “Rishell is a master of country blues styles, particularly slide played on a National steel guitar.  Raines, a rare female ace blues harmonica blower, shows that she is as strong an acoustic country harp accompanist as she is a harder-edged, electrified Chicago-style lead player a la the great little Walter.”

Paul and Annie met in Boston in 1992.  Their five recordings have garnered them a W.C. Handy Award (for Best Acoustic Blues Album in 2000) and two additional nominations.  They last played the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in 1995.

Despite the difference in their ages, Paul and Annie are equally passionate about their craft and devoted to the study and performance of a wide range of blues styles, from the syncopated acoustic guitar wizardry of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Son House to Little Walter’s swinging amplified harmonica.  Paul has reached what Boston Phoenix writer Ted Drozdowski calls “a place deep and resonant as Robert Jonson’s crossroads, where authenticity, soul, and a sense of purpose and commitment ring out in every note he sings and plays.”  Annie has added vocals, mandolin, piano, and other instruments to her musical arsenal while being recognized by top professionals and fans worldwide as the “queen of the blues harmonica.”  Said blues legend Pinetop Perkins, “She plays so good it hurts!”

Touring internationally at festivals, clubs, and concert halls, and teaching workshops and seminars, Paul and Annie have earned loyal fans around the globe.  They are featured in a jug band music documentary, Chasin’ Gus’ Ghost, which debuted at the San Francisco film Festival in 2007, and they have performed on diverse radio and TV shows including A Prairie Home Companion and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.  Paul and Annie have performed, toured, and recorded  with Susan Tedeschi, John Sebastian, and Pinetop Perkins among others.

Paul and Annie will also be giving a free workshop on Saturday, July 2, at 4:00.


The “Way of Blues” Revue

Mississippi Blues Trail Musicians featured in “The Way of Blues” Revue are King Edward, Bill Howl-N-Madd Perry, and Mickey Rogers along with Dr. Alphonso Sanders, who is the Master of Ceremonies for “The Way of Blues” Revue and also the accomplished horn player for the group. These musicians have been noted on Mississippi Blues Trail Markers and honored by Mississippi Blues Festivals for their life work. They perform but they also teach as they were taught. All are involved with blues education.

Bill Howl-N-Madd Perry is a performer, songwriter, and educator.   In his early career Bill Howl-N-Madd Perry spent some time in Chicago. He wrote for musicians such as Lil Johnny Taylor and Cash McCall. He worked for Phil Chess as a studio musician, and he wrote for Jewel Paula Records.  He joined up with Little Milton for a while before he started his own band.  Bill Howl-N-Madd Perry has performed in most of the Mississippi Festivals at one time or another. He has performed internationally in clubs and festivals and toured all over the United States during his long career.   He is noted on a Historical Blues Marker located in front of Po Monkey’s, Merigold MS for his contributions to the blues.  And  he is the 2nd Place Winner in Solo/Duo competition at the 2010 International Blues Challenge along with Dr. Alphonso Sanders.

Dr. Alphonso Sanders plays sax, trumpet, flute and various other instruments, as well as being a vocalist and blues educator.  He has been involved in music education for over 25 years as an educator and performer.  He is presently the Chair of Fine Arts and Director of the BB King Recording Studio at Mississippi Valley State University in Mississippi. As the Director of the BB King Recording Studio he is involved in archiving the music of Delta musicians.  Dr. Sanders has performed at many recognized festivals including the Lucerne Blues Festival in Switzerland,  the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.  As a Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Sanders studied abroad in China visiting 12 major cities, exploring the culture of Chinese music and visual arts.

Dr. Sanders and Bill Howl-N-Madd Perry  put on educational workshops called  The School of Juke and Jam as well as perform at clubs, private parties and festivals throughout the U.S. and internationally. Alphonso Sanders Education Workshops with Bill Howl-N-Madd Perry are popular.  They have been presented at universities, communities and school systems K through seniors throughout the U.S.

King Edward (Antoine) is an authentic Mississippi blues musician with Louisiana and Chicago roots.  He was born in Rayne, Louisiana into a musically talented family and taught himself to play guitar.  King’s cousin Clifton Chenier taught him zydeco music, and King became a vocalist for Clifton’s band. King Edward then moved to Chicago and lived there for 15 years where he performed at the Regal Theater and toured with his brother Nolan Struck.   He played there with legends such as Junior Wells, James Cotton, Lonnie Brooks and others.  King later moved to Jackson, MS and recorded his first album, Genuine Mississippi Blues, for Johnny Vincent with the ACE Record Company. In Jackson he met and played with Sam Myers and worked as a session musician at Malaco with McKinley Mitchell. He was a regular guitarist at the famous Subway Club in Jackson, MS and was featured in the documentary The Last of the Mississippi Jukes. King has been honored  on three blues markers in Jackson MS on the State of Mississippi Blues Trail: The Subway Lounge, The Queen of Hearts and The Ace Records marker.

Mickey Rogers is one of Mississippi’s real deal blues musicians. He spent some time back in the day at Chess Records and at Motown doing studio work. He has been playing festivals and clubs in the U.S. and internationally for over 40 years.  When Mickey was a teenager he was playing in bars in Chicago. He played with Howlin’ Wolf when he was fifteen at Sylvio’s Lounge in Chicago. He was so young that Howlin’ Wolf would hide Mickey behind the amps so the police wouldn’t catch him performing underage. According to Mickey in Blues & Rhythm:   “Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player Hubert Sumlin, he didn’t live for from us and my uncle knew him well, and my uncle would take me over there and I would be with Hubert learning how to play stuff with him. Howlin’ Wolf was playing at Sylvio’s in Chicago and his bass player one evening got messed up drunk and Hubert came and got me and I played bass for Howlin’ Wolf that time.”  Mickey first trip to the UK was with Wolf and Hubert Sumlin.  During Mickey’s career he has played with Jimi Hendrix, Otis Clay, Hubert Sumlin, Gladys Knight & The Pips, the Temptations, Chi-Lites, Tyrone Davis, and Bobby Rush.  Mickey is honored with a stone on the Musician Walk of Fame in Greenville, Mississippi.


Chocolate Thunder

CD Baby describes Chocolate Thunder’s latest release, Ear Candy, by saying:  “To-die-for blues; if you like Bessie, Etta or Koko, try this.”

Noted for her charismatic stage presence and her mesmerizing vocal talent, Linda Rodney (AKA Chocolate Thunder) channels everyone from LaVern Baker to Aretha Franklin while delivering a soulful mix of Delta blues and Muscle Shoals-style r&b. From Greenville SC, she is backed by some of that area’s finest musicians, including drummer Big Tez Sherard, guitarist Kym McKinnon and bassist Franklin Wilkie.

Real Blues Magazine showered Chocolate Thunder with multiple accolades in 2010, including Female Artist of the Year and Best Female Vocalist, while Ear Candy was ranked sixth on the magazine’s top 100 CDs chart.

Growing up in South Carolina, Rodney was immersed in the music enjoyed by family and friends at a very young age. She grew up listening to everything from Patti LaBelle and Shirley Cesar’s gospel to Muddy Waters and Aretha Franklin. Her church mentored her while she polished her vocal prowess singing in the children’s choir. There, she astonished church parishioners with her powerful and mature vocal abilities.

Rodney’s career has always included performing on stage. For several years she acted and modeled, but her first love has always been music—particularly the blues.   After expanding her vocal skills training with opera singer Sarah Reece, Rodney hit the music scene in South Carolina, crossed the continent to perform in California and traveled overseas to perform in Paris, France.  Eventually she stepped out on her own and formed her own band, Chocolate Thunder.

In 2007, as a result of numerous fan requests, Rodney entered the studio to record her original blues tunes on her debut CD, Barkin’ Up the Wrong Tree.   With the demand for her music continuing to grow, her sophomore CD, Ear Candy, was released in 2009. The album is a soulful mix, again with every song an original. And now, Rodney is touring to support her new musical calling card. “I love to give it all I’ve got. In the past years of pursuing my career in singing the blues, it has been a beautiful and unforgettable ride.”


Lionel Young Band

The Lionel Young Band is the winner of the 2011 International Blues Challenge band competition!  I was there at the IBC band finals this February, and it was obvious that the Lionel Young Band would win.  Besides playing guitar, Lionel plays his violin like a guitar at times, including behind his back.  Don Wilcock, in Blues Revue, described the Lionel Young Band IBC finals set perfectly:  “The Lionel Young Band, representing the Colorado Blues Society, had played the Montreux Jazz Fest, and Lionel had won the 2008 IBC in solo/duo division. This six-piece group is composed of virtuoso performers. Young has a butterscotch vocal delivery and is a guitar and violin master. Keyboardist Ricardo Pena plays Professor Longhair-style boogie. Supported by trumpet and sax, the band elaborates on a retro feel with unique interpretations of originals and covers, like ‘Night Train’ and Magic Sam’s ‘Feels So Good.’ They nailed first prize, however, with an a cappella arrangement of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” done by the whole group that took me back to the Blind Boys of Alabama.”

Born in Rochester, New York, Lionel Young began taking violin lessons at the age of six with Anastasia Jempelis at the Eastman School of Music. He was a member of the Pittsburgh Opera-Ballet Orchestra and the National Repertory Orchestra, which commissioned him to play bluegrass and blues for their summer festival and on a tour of Japan, Taiwan, and Korea during the 1988 Summer Olympic Music Festival.  Lionel Young has played with numerous luminaries (Count Basie, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Elvin Bishop, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Tab Benoit, Chris Cain, Bob Margolin, Otis Taylor, Kenny Neal, Tommy Castro, Jimmy Thackery, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Paige/Robert Plant, Doc Severenson, Linda Ronstadt, Living Color, Woodie Herman, Stanley Turrentine, Homesick James) and at major world venues and festivals.

Fans of the driven, classically trained Young love his distinctive brand of blues on the electric violin. His show features not only Young originals but interpretations of blues classics by Willie Dixon, Leadbelly and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and highlights the strength and passion of Young’s playing, as well as his smooth vocals.  The other members of the Lionel Young Band are Andre Mali – trumpet;  Dexter Payne – sax, clarinet, harmonica;  Ricardo Peña – piano, organ, vocals;  Kim Stone – bass;  and Jay Forrest – drums, vocal.

Karen McFarland


Ryan McGarvey

Over the past two and a half decades the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival has earned a very well-deserved reputation of bringing artists to town that you probably are not familiar with. But once you see/hear them, you ask, Why the **** aren’t these people household names? Ryan is in that league! You will be telling your friends about young McGarvey for quite some time.

Ryan is from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Born in 1986, by age two father Pat had gotten Ryan his first Harmony acoustic guitar. The music thing got more serious by about age six or seven when he realized that he could actually play along with Heart’s “Barracuda.” Led Zepplin’s “Gallows Pole” was an early favorite tune of Ryan’s. When he found out that was actually a Leadbelly song, he began to explore more of the blues archives.

The current result is a very long list of awards and accolades from the cream of the crop in the music business. The most noteworthy is the fact that Ryan and his band won the Ernie Ball competition for a spot at the 2010 Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Fest. Did I mention there were over 4,500 other bands trying for that lone spot?

At press time Ryan’s only CD is Forward in Reverse, released in 2007. It did not get the recognition it deserves! It is one of those rare CDs that does not have a bad song on it. Ryan’s ability with a six-string is obvious, but being able to compose songs to highlight that ability makes Ryan a very complete package!

John Downard


Mississippi Heat

Mississippi Heat is a five-piece band from Chicago that plays traditional blues steeped in Chicago’s golden era of the 1950s.  Pierre Lacocque is the founder and plays harmonica, Inetta Visor is on vocals, Kenny Smith (son of Willie “Big Eyes” Smith) is on drums, Michael Dotson is on guitar, and Stephen Howard is on bass.  The band was founded in 1991 and has featured a who’s who of Chicago players, including alumni Billy Flynn, Bob Stroger, Deitra Farr, Mary Lane, Zora Young, and Barrelhouse Chuck.

According to David Whiteis of the Chicago Reader, “Mississippi Heat not only breathes new life into the classic sounds of Chicago Blues, but they also uplift with joy and dedication everything they play. Pierre Lacocque is that rare younger-generation harpist who’s absorbed the lessons of subtlety, silence, and solo construction from the masters—Big and Little Walter, the Sonny Boy Williamsons—as well as their raucous, hawklike tonal power.”

The band’s latest release, Let’s Live It Up! (their 9th album and 3rd release on the Delmark label), has been receiving rave reviews and radio airplay.  About the CD, Living Blues had this to say:  “Pierre Lacocque’s Mississippi Heat solidifies its reputation as one of the best ensemble musical forces in the blues. [This is] a convincing slice of 1950s-leaning electric Chicago [blues]. Mississippi Heat’s secret weapon, the sinewy, compelling soulful voice of Inetta Visor, often steals the show on this latest record. [She] melds the intonation and soaring heights of Etta James with the ragged, commanding edge of Koko Taylor. … By constantly stirring the pot with fresh soulful, bluesy ingredients, Pierre Lacocque ensures that Mississippi Heat remains vital.”

Blues Blast reviewer Mark Thompson of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford IL also praised Let’s Live It Up! “Mississippi Heat offers up another recording of no-nonsense, 1950s-style Chicago blues that packs quite a punch. This veteran aggregation has a romping, stomping good time blasting through this collection of lively original tunes,” with the one cover being of Sugar Pie DeSanto’s hit “I Want to Know.”

Mississippi Heat has played all over the world, including three times at the Chicago Blues Festival, on the main stage there in 2000.  They’ve also performed at the Lucerne Blues Festival in Switzerland, the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Caracas International Music Festival in Venezuela, and Norway’s Notodden Blues Festival.


Joe Louis Walker

Recently voted Most Outstanding Guitarist by Living Blues critics, Joe Louis Walker belongs in the very select club of original blues greats who revolutionized the art of the electric guitar.  He’s considered one of the last of the great blues guitar heroes, alongside B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Otis Rush.  Joe Louis Walker took home the Blues Music Award last year for Album of The Year, and he’s been nominated forty-eight or forty-nine times – he’s lost count – for a Blues Music Award, more times than any other blues act, save one. He has performed for two presidents, and has released 22 albums in 26 years. He’s also appeared on 200 other LPs, including his own BMA winner Live on The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, which featured sit-ins by Johnny Winter, Duke Robillard, Tommy Castro, Tab Benoit, Nick Moss, Kenny Neal and more.

Joe Louis Walker was born Christmas Day, 1949, in San Francisco, California.   He came from a musical family, so his early influences were T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, Meade Lux Lewis, Amos Milburn, and Pete Johnson. Walker first picked up the guitar at the age of 8 and became  known  within the Bay Area music scene by the age of 16. While performing through his teens, he soaked up many more influences (especially vocalists like Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Bobby Womack, and  Otis Redding). And while honing his skills locally with Lightnin’ Hopkins, Fred McDowell, and Magic Sam, he was very much part of the local psychedelic scene.    During these early years, Walker played with John Lee Hooker, JJ Malone, Buddy Miles, Otis Rush, Thelonious Monk, The Soul Stirrers, Willie Dixon, Charlie Musselwhite, Steve Miller, Nick Lowe, John Mayall, Earl Hooker, and Muddy Waters.

By 1968, he had forged a close friendship with Mike Bloomfield; they were roommates for many years.  Through Bloomfield (of the Butterfield Blues Band), he also rubbed elbows with Jimi Hendrix, Steve Miller, and members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.  “Through Michael, I met everybody,” Walker said. “Michael was the first real guitar hero. Eric Clapton was heard but not known or seen. Michael was seen, known and heard.”

Bloomfield’s untimely death was the catalyst that forced Walker into an immediate lifestyle change. He left the world of the blues and enrolled himself at San Francisco State University, achieving degrees in Music and English. Throughout this time, Walker was regularly playing guitar with The Spiritual Corinthians gospel group. After their 1985 performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, he was inspired to return to his blues roots. “There’s no contradiction between blues and gospel. They are the two faces of the same coin, with soul music somewhere in between,” he says.

Early on Walker developed a signature sound on his Fender Strat marked by stinging, lyrical lines and elegant, economical phrasing.  Walker rapidly worked his way to the top of the profession with a series of stellar albums, produced by such luminaries as Steve Cropper and Scotty Moore (Elvis’s original guitar player) that radically changed the blues landscape of the late 20th Century.  Subsequently he won several W.C. Handy Awards for Contemporary Male Artist of the Year (1988 and 1991) and Band of the Year (1996). He also won the 1995 Bammy (Bay Area Music Award) for Blues Musician of the Year.  In 2009, his second album for Stony Plain produced by Duke Robillard, Between a Rock and the Blues, became his 20th release overall.

“Glowing like a blue beacon,”  in the words of noted blues critic Bill Dahl, Walker is one of the most brilliantly innovative guitarists on the contemporary blues scene today. This fact garners him the unbridled admiration of certified fans like Sir Mick Jagger, B.B. King, The Edge, Bono, and Herbie Hancock, who show up at his concerts whenever the occasion arises.


Kevin Burt

Born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa,  Kevin “B.F.” Burt, like Ernie Peniston, grew up singing in church choirs and became a social worker. When a co-worker praised his powerful voice several years ago, Kevin began attending local blues jams, where he met a group of talented musicians who decided to form their own band, Kevin Burt and The Blues Instigators.  Today he sings tunes that are on the funky side of blues.

Kevin “B.F.” Burt has been a staple on the Iowa blues scene for almost two decades with countless performances with The Blues Instigators and as a solo act. With a stunning voice, great guitar work and mastery of the harmonica, his brand of hybrid blues is as fun and inspirational as it is soulful. When not on stage or lending his music to non-profit and fundraising events, this dedicated family man conducts blues education programs.  He’s also written  a curriculum guide for how to teach and play the harmonica called “Just Play It!”

Kevin “B.F.” Burt’s  soul-inspired brand of blues is consistently compared to a range of premium artistry from Bill Withers to B.B. King. Kevin is a self-taught musician whose smooth, warm vocal presentation sets a mood of relaxed exhilaration, with a welcome mixture of serious music and infectious humor audiences of all ages seem to enjoy. His voice and presence are powerful.  Though he performs between 350 and 400 shows per year, he holds nothing back night after night, and audiences leave knowing that.


Johnny Nicholas

No matter if he’s playing rhythm and blues, Chicago blues or even Texas swing, it’s more than a safe bet to say that while legendary guitarist Johnny Nicholas has lived, traveled, and played the embodiment of a varied career, there’s one place that’s special to him and his style.

“Texas is the ‘bestest,’” Nicholas said.  “(It’s) friendly, soulful, hot, and the music is danceable, uninhibited, and eclectic.”

The 62-year-old Nicholas  would know what’s the “bestest,” given his travels through a more than 40-year career full of timeless music, starting in his home state of Rhode Island, where a brother tipped him off to rhythm and blues, which started him on a lifelong musical journey.

In 1970, he formed the Black Cat Blues Band, with, among others, Duke Robillard, Steve Nardella, and Fran Christina (who went on to play drums with Roomful and the Fabulous Thunderbirds). After Black Cat broke up, Nicholas and Nardella hitchhiked to Ann Arbor, where they formed the Boogie Brothers, while Robillard and Christina joined Greg Piccolo and Rich Lataille and formed the first Roomful of Blues with horns.

In 1972, Johnny left for San Francisco, where he joined the legendary Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. After a relatively short stay there, Nicholas relocated to Chicago, where he played with Big Walter Horton, Boogie Woogie Red and Robert Jr. Lockwood, and cut his first album, Too Many Bad Habits, for Blind Pig Records in 1974.

Returning to Boston, he formed the Rhythm Rockers, which included Kaz Kazanoff on saxophone and Ronnie Earle on guitar. In 1978, Nicholas moved to Austin to join  Asleep at the Wheel. When the western swing revivalists weren’t working, he’d be over in Louisiana playing with Cajun great Nathan Abshire.

In 1981, Nicholas grew tired of touring and moved out to the Hill Country of Texas, where he and his wife bought an abandoned gas station. They dubbed it the Hill Top Café, which was so successful that it grew into one of the Hill Country’s  most popular restaurants and music venues.   In 1991, he went public again, producing and playing guitar on Back to the Country, with Johnny Shines (another of his mentors) and Snooky Pryor, and joining them for a two week European tour.

Since then, he’s returned to Europe, where his popularity never tapered off, every two years, while playing selected dates in Texas and at blues festivals around the rest of the country. “I want to be remembered, “he said, “as somebody who put everything he had into every song he sung.”


Peaches Staten

Peaches Staten was born in Doddsville, Mississippi on March 19, 1961.  Her family moved to Chicago in 1966, and there she discovered her love of the blues.  Her stepfather deejayed parties for social clubs in Chicago, so the blues has always been in her life.  Before she started performing, Peaches worked full time as an activity director and part time as a waitress at Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago.  After being prompted by a friend at the club, she decided to try singing—and it just went from there.

Peaches started with a zydeco band, then moved to a Brazilian band, and then to blues.  She is passionate about writing her own material.  “Her shows are defined by three main characteristics that keep audiences coming back: her stage presence, her unique skills on the frottoir (washboard), and song sets combining original songs and obscure cover material.”  When she is on stage performing, Peaches says her goal is to keep the audience interested from start to finish.  She likes to play some New Orleans-style blues, zydeco, classic rock, boogie and r & b as well.  She mixes it up and it comes out blues.

Peaches’ skills are good enough that zydeco artist Terrance Simien asked her to join him on stage in Chicago for a few shows when his washboard player couldn’t be there.  Peaches always knew she had a knack for the washboard, but when a Grammy Award-winning zydeco artist asked her to step in for his absent player, she thought “Wow, I really must be good at this!”

Peaches spends much of her time performing outside of the United States, which may be why she is only now becoming known to many blues fans here.  Her first U.S. release, Live At Legends, was released on Swississippi records in September 2010.  Currently she performs at the House of Blues once a month and B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted in Chicago.

Compiled by Nanci Livermore from an article by Erik Watson in Living Blues Magazine, April 2011

Tent—Saturday—7:30 and 9:30

Koko Taylor Tribute

Saturday is Koko Taylor Day at the Fest!  Joyce Threatt (AKA Cookie, Koko’s daughter) has gathered members of the Blues Machine, Koko’s band, to back up four fabulous singers who knew and viewed Koko as their mentor:  Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Melvia “Chick” Rodgers, Jackie Scott, and Delores Scott.  This lineup is so spectacular that it will take up two sets on the Tent stage—from 7:30-9:00 and then from 9:30-11:00.  One of the purposes of this tribute is to raise awareness for the Koko Taylor Celebrity Aid Foundation, whose mission is to provide social services to the arts and entertainment industry.

Nellie “Tiger” Travis was born deep in the Delta of Mississippi in the early ‘60s. As in most small towns, the church was a main focal point, and Nellie grew up singing gospel music. Since then, Nellie has come a long way and in November 2009 was crowned the New Queen Of The Blues for Chicago by Bluesman Purvis Spann (who also bestowed that honor on Koko Taylor, the original Queen). Koko was a mentor and friend to Nellie, and when she passed in early 2009, Nellie used her songwriting skills to write and record a tribute song to her friend entitled “Koko Queen Of The Blues.”

Nellie Travis has headlined at the Chicago Blues Festival and performed at numerous festivals and clubs around the world, such as Japan, Greece, Italy, Germany, and Brazil.   She has shared the stage with such greats as Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Koko Taylor, Gladys Knight, and Ronnie Baker Brooks, to name a few. She has been influenced by many powerful performers such as Big Mama Thornton, Koko Taylor (of course) and Etta James. In addition to being an outstanding singer and songwriter, Nellie is an accomplished actress. She has performed in the plays The Lust Of A Man and I was There When The Blues Was Red Hot.

Melvia “Chick” Rodgers-Williams, to give her full name, was born and raised in Memphis. She began to sing in church with her father at the age of nine, then grew musically in the ‘80s, becoming soloist in the group Clockwise.  She came to Chicago in 1989 to sing at a friend’s birthday party. The audience received her with such enthusiasm, she decided to stay and make Chicago her home.  And here her fame grew thanks to her strong, soulful voice.  Chick was the featured artist at The Kingston Mines nightly. Then she toured the U.S. and Canada with Cicero Blake.   She began to be known outside the United States with tours in Europe and Japan.

She performed as supporter of her mentor Koko Taylor (including special performances at Koko’s wedding and reception) and participated in many international blues festivals.  In 2000 she won the Bessie Smith Award.  She made appearances in Rome (2000) and Paris (1999 and 2001). Other appearances include at Isaac Hayes clubs in Chicago and Memphis and The 11th Expo for Today’s Black Women in Chicago. Chick made her theatre debut as a musical play cast member in A Tribute to Phyllis Hyman.  She also acted in The Forgotten Pearls, Ebony on Ice , Georgia Tom: A Thomas Dorsey Story , and Soul Heaven.

Jackie Scott is a native of Virginia and received her training early singing in the Baptist church.  But after singing gospel for 20 years, she felt a call to the blues.  After visiting Chicago to attend a wedding, she heard Chicago blues live in its element and was determined to capture the sound that swept her off her feet.

Her “schooling” paid off with the opportunity to open for B.B. King and Taj Mahal as well as performing on stage with  Hubert Sumlin, Magic Slim, Eddie Shaw & The Wolfgang, Nellie Travis, Bobby Parker, Biscuit Miller and other well-known acts in the blues.  Koko Taylor, Ruth Brown, Alberta Hunter and Big Mama Thornton are some of the many influences that have allowed Jackie to carve out a unique style of her own.   In 2009, Jackie completed her first CD, How Much Woman Can You Stand.   Jackie was also honored to be asked to perform at a birthday tribute for Koko Taylor, with family, friends, blues greats and others in the entertainment industry  present.

Jackie Scott & The Housewreckers won the Baltimore Blues Society’s Battle of the Bands, representing them in the finals of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January, 2010.  Then they played the 2010 Chicago Blues Festival on the Petrillo Stage, as well as many other festivals, opening for acts like Keb Mo, Lyle Lovett, Duke Robillard, Eddie Shaw, and Ronnie Baker Brooks.   Jackie Scott was nominated for three Blues Blast Awards for Best Blues Song, Best New Artist Debut Release and the Sean Costello Rising Star Award and took home the award for Best New Artist Debut Release.  In 2011 they will release their second CD, Going To The Westside, with special guest Eddie Shaw.  “Mississippi Hook,” one of the tracks from the album, has been nominated in the International Songwriting Competition’s finals in the blues category.

Delores Scott began singing at the age of nine in her church choir. Her recording career began at the age of thirteen at Chess Recording Studio with Rev. Clay Evans and the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Choir. As a result of these recordings she had an opportunity to record and travel with the Revs. Milton Brunson, Jesse Dixon, Marvin Yancy, and James Cleveland.  She sang prior to keynote addresses by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Al Sharpton. Delores has to her credit twenty six recordings as a soloist and more than seventy recordings as a background vocalist. Her most recent recording was with the Gospel Music Workshop of America Choir ( Denver chapter).

Delores has performed at the Regal Theater with the Rev. James Cleveland, at the The Apollo with Roberta Flack, and at Chicago ’s Navy Pier with Natalie Cole. She  frequently travelled with and opened for  KoKo Taylo and opened for Bobby Rush.  Her festival performances include the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport , Iowa with Billy Branch and the Sons of the Blues,  the Blues From The Top Festival in Winter Park , and the Greeley Colorado Blues Festival.   She has performed abroad in Belgium, Italy, France, and Greece.

Workshops—Saturday—In the Freight House (across the tracks from LeClaire Park)

1:00—Lionel Young, blues violin

2:30—The “Way of Blues” Revue

4:00—Paul Rishell and Annie Raines

5:30—Koko Taylor Tribute


2:30—David Berntson (free harmonicas and lessons for all the kids)

3:45—Winter Blues Kids, moderated by Hal Reed and Ellis Kell

5:00—James Culver Workshop


The Candymakers

The Quad-Cities band the Candymakers won the 2011 Iowa Blues Challenge with their horn-driven soul and funk blues. The Candymakers perform original blues songs, as well as covers of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Ben Harper.   They will represent the state of Iowa next February at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

The eight-piece band is young (with members from ages 18 to 30), and features founder Alan Sweet and vocalist Siri Lorece Mason.  “Each of us brings such a specific flavor to the combination of the group,”  Siri Lorece told David Burke in a Quad-City Times interview. “It’s people-pleasing when we can switch up the style easily and still stay within our groove.”

Alan Sweet  started a blues band five years ago with musicians he had met through the years, including those at the open mic and jam sessions he hosts in various clubs.  About five months ago, the group added a horn section and Mason as a singer.  The result is a big sound complemented by Siri Lorece’s big voice that will have you up dancing!

Come out early on Sunday and see why the Candymakers wowed both the judges and the audience at the Iowa Blues Challenge!


Studebaker John & the Hawks

When the subject of Chicago Blues comes up the name Studebaker John (Grimaldi) and the Hawks should be included. John and the Hawks have been illuminating the Chicago scene since the early 1970s. The list of blues greats he has shared the stage with is very long and very impressive.

John started playing harmonica around the age of seven. And then—he saw a Hound Dog Taylor concert! That changed everything. The chills that show sent up and down John’s spine told him what he wanted to do. From then on it was slide guitar for John. Not that he abandoned the harp altogether;  he still plays both.

John’s nickname of Studebaker came about from two different directions. One is for his classic Studebaker Hawk, which he still owns. Another is a tribute to his friend J.B. Hutto and his Hawks.

After starting out as a construction worker in the day and playing blues around Maxwell Street at night, John has honed his craft well. John has evolved a playing style that incorporates the influences of past blues greats while stretching the boundaries of both the instruments he plays. He’s also an accomplished songwriter, composing and arranging all the material for the band, creating a unique and unmistakable sound all his own. Citing this originality, Blues Access remarked, “John has taken lessons from his teachers without reverting to mimicry. He’s his own man.”

After 40 some years and eleven albums you will hear what an outstanding talent John really is. Add that to the fact the he is truly a down to earth nice guy, very fan friendly.  As Thomas J. Cullen III noted in Blues Revue about a live Studebaker John performance, “It’s rare to hear a blues artist perform three sets of irrestible originals, and it’s even rarer for that artist to stay ‘in the zone’ from first song to last.”

John Downard


Chris Beard

When you grow up in a house filled with the blues, when your father grew up on Beale Street, when music was in your DNA, then blues is who you are and what you do.  Chris Beard is a modern blues guitarist and singer like few others. His personal connections to the blues were forged with the living bluesmen he’s sat in with since childhood.

Born in 1957, Beard is the son of Joe Beard, a blues guitarist who grew up on Beale Street in the 1950s before moving to Rochester, NY. When family friends like Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Buddy Guy stopped by, young Chris became their willing pupil.

After years playing the clubs in and around Rochester, in 1998 Chris released his debut recording, Barwalkin’, that earned him a W.C. Handy nomination as Best New Blues Artist. Chris produced his follow-up disc, Born To Play The Blues, in 2001 to the critical acclaim of the blues press and earned Beard the title Prince of the Blues. Then, in 2005, Beard released Live Wire, a stirring combination of live and studio performances.

Chris Beard plays the blues as if his pants were on fire. His fleet fretwork is deadly, often reducing his guitar to five, four, and sometimes three strings before the song is through.   His blues have plenty of soul and sweat and show no signs of letting up. Beard is equally relentless.

On June 7, 2005, Beard had a mild stroke and spent three days in the hospital. The stroke affected his speech and the use of his right arm. He had just released Live Wire, a real lid-blower, with mostly live cuts recorded in Chicago and Grand Rapids. Beard and his band needed to tour and push it, live.

Determined not to lose any of his hard-earned momentum, Beard hit the road with a second guitar player to fill in his gaps.  “And my therapist tells me, ‘Look Chris, guitar playing isn’t normal.  We can get you back to doing normal things. The only person that’s going to get you back to playing guitar like you were is you.'”  So Beard dropped the second guitar player.  “Finally I said: Look, I gotta do this myself.” Today, Chris says he’s recovered 90 percent of his ability while also rediscovering what’s at the heart of his playing.  “I’ve turned a negative into a positive.” he says.  “It’s made me a better player.”

Who I Am and What I Do is Chris Beard’s most recent album.  Art Tipaldi of Blues Revue says of the CD, “On this new record, Beard, a world class guitarist, devoted time and energy into establishing his unique and compelling voice.  With the combination of Beard’s assertive voice and his exciting guitar, this record is a seamless combination of traditional blues with a contemporary edge.”


The Doris Pierre Memorial Outstanding Volunteers Award


Sherman Robertson

Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Sherman Robertson is a product of the region of the country that he grew up in: he’s one part zydeco, one part swamp blues, one part electric blues, and one part classic rhythm & blues. His guitar playing style is extremely rhythm-based, but at the same time, he plays some extraordinary slide guitar. –Richard Skelly in AllMusic Guide

When I saw him… he was on fire. He ruled the stage, had the audience in the palm of his hand, and his just plain physical showmanship reminded me of Albert Collins… He’s got that Texas energy, great guitar chops, and is a wonderful, soulful singer. –Bruce Iglauer, President, Alligator Records

Sherman Robertson deserves to have his name added to the short list of the finest musicians who play electric blues. – Living Blues

Sherman Robertson was born October 27, 1948, in Beaux Bridge, Louisiana and raised in Houston, Texas. In high school, he quickly earned a reputation as a very good guitarist. While still a teenager, he spent six weeks on the road as lead guitarist for the legendary Bobby “Blue” Bland. That experience gave him the confidence to form his own band.

During the 1970s, Sherman was content playing weekends while raising a family and holding down a “regular” job until Clifton Chenier, “the King of Zydeco,” asked him to do some dates with his band. Those few dates turned into five years, as he toured Europe and the U.S. with Chenier. Sherman then joined Terrance Simien’s hot, young zydeco band, playing also with Rockin’ Dopsie and Johnny Clyde Copeland. Another big opportunity came when Paul Simon asked Sherman to record on what would become his blockbuster Graceland album. Soon after, he signed with acclaimed British producer Mike Vernon (Eric Clapton, Freddie King, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie) for Atlantic Records.

Sherman’s first solo recording, I’m The Man (1994), was nominated for a Blues Music Award. His second Atlantic release, Here And Now, brought additional critical recognition. But Sherman was convinced he would have more promotional support and artistic freedom from an independent label. Producer Joe Harley and Sherman’s manager, Catherine Bauer, assembled a first class backup band (including Little Feat charter members keyboardist Bill Payne and drummer Richie Hayward) for a project on the AudioQuest label, resulting in Going Back Home. Blues Revue said of the album: “Potent singing and sizzling guitar… Robertson is unstoppable.”


Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s

Downbeat says, “Mitch Woods…gives heart and soul to jump blues… Woods sings with smooth ebullience and hammers the piano keys with the unchecked gaiety of mentors Professor Longhair and Amos Milburn.”

Offbeat notes:  “Piano master Mitch Woods is one of the brightest exponents of West Coast swing, Kansas City boogie-woogie, and Chicago blues. Woods also has a fine touch for New Orleans’ piano polyrhythms.”

Mitch Woods and His Rocket 88’s are the torch bearers of a great American musical heritage. Taking their inspiration from the great jump boogie outfits and swingin’ little big bands of the 40’s, they breathe fresh life into the music that gave birth to rock n’ roll. Mitch takes his cue from his jumpin’&  jivin’, shoutin’ & honkin’, pumpin’ & poundin’ predecessors—Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway, Joe and Jimmie Liggins, and Louis Prima, just to name a few.  Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88’s have forged their own swinging brand of music, which they coined “rock-a-boogie.”  They have distilled the essence of jump, swing , and boogie woogie and made it their own.

Mitch Woods was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1971 and began performing as Mitch Woods & His Red Hot Mama, featuring his boogie woogie piano on tunes by Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Fats Waller. The band broke up as Mitch moved to Hawaii to embark on a solo career in the late ‘70s. He returned in 1981 to form the first incarnation of the Rocket 88’s with former members of the David Bromberg Band.

As he widened his performing circle to shows and festivals outside the Bay Area, Woods met and played with such giants as John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, Johnnie Johnson, Earl King and Lee Allen (who all joined him on his all-star 1996 CD, Keeper of the Flame). One of the biggest turning points came in 1981, on Woods’ first trip to New Orleans, when he got to open for the storied pianist James Booker at the Maple Leaf. “After that, forget it,” Woods told the San Francisco Chronicle. “For the last 25 years it’s been like my second home.”  In 2006, Woods released his Big Easy Boogie CD, featuring members of rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Fats Domino’s bands.


Winter Blues All-Stars

Every December for the past handful of years, the River Music Experience here in Davenport has produced a weeklong kids’ blues “camp,” where youngsters learn all about playing the blues and putting a band together, taught by local expert musicians.  The 2011 Winter Blues All-Stars were chosen from the Winter Blues sessions held in December 2010 at RME. The Winter Blues kids lean towards blues rock, but may surprise folks with a downhome blues, too.

The Winter Blues All-Stars for 2011 are:  Kellen Myers – keyboards, Collin Keemle – guitar, Logan Myers – drums, Simon Ertzinger – guitar, and Doug Wiegel – guitar.

Joining the Winter Blues All-Stars, to round out the band, will be Winter Blues coordinators Hal Reed (harmonica and vocals) and Ellis Kell (bass and vocals). The Winter Blues All-Stars will also be invited to sit in with Hal Reed and Ellis Kell during their programs in the BlueSKool Tent on Saturday July 2nd and Sunday July 3rd—at  3:45-4:45 each day—during the blues festival.

Come see the next generation of blues!



What can I say about a guy that at a very young age moved with his family to Australia and then discovered the blues?  And now he ends up right in our own back yard. Harper calls Michigan his home now.  That alone can make us all understand that the blues is alive and well all over this planet. Harper started playing the trumpet in a small band, and then he got into playing the harmonica, and is very, very good at it. You can hear the sounds of the blues, the true blues, in his playing of the harmonica and his strong rhythmic singing voice.

I first encountered Harper at a blues fest in 2006 at Fort Madison, Iowa. He came on stage backed by a great band and started singing, with a very strong soulful voice, a song that he had written. It was like he took a great cluster of all the influences he had encountered and somehow wrapped them into something that he made his own. Then I noticed these long, hollow tubes off to one side of him. I had to ask someone next to me, what the heck are those things? They said, man those are his didgeridoos. What?

After a singing a few songs and playing his harmonica he went over to the didgeridoo and proceeded to blow into it like a horn. It was a really cool sound that somehow melted into the song and seemed to belong there. Was this blues? Well it sounded pretty cool and blue to me. This music evolves with the different artists and sounds they experience. Harper’s music has shown to hang right in there. Harper has a new release titled Stand Together and it has been getting a lot of airplay and moving up the charts.

Linda Cain of Chicago Blues Guide says, “Harper is a complex, multi-faceted artist who takes chances. Call it world music, blues-rock, jam band, 70s retro or whatever. There is no clear label to stamp on Stand Together. But if you are open- minded and want to get down and groove with a harmonica wizard and his funky Michigan bandmates, then Harper’s Stand Together will stand and deliver.”

Michael J. Livermore


Paul Smoker Notet

Seventy-year-old Paul Smoker—recognized by many jazz fans, critics, and musicians throughout the world as one of the best and most original jazz trumpet players performing today—was raised right here in Davenport.  Paul plays jazz clubs and festivals from coast to coast and in Europe several times a year and has recorded many LPs and CDs, but incredible as it may seem, Paul has not been hired to do a gig in the Quad Cities for over fifty (that’s right—50!) years.

Paul Smoker was born in Muncie, Indiana, on May 8, 1941.  His mother started him out on piano at the age of six.  By the time he reached ten, after listening to Harry James and Louis Armstrong over the radio and on records, he switched to trumpet and spent hours practicing the sounds and phrasing of those two legends.  While in high school, he got into the more modern bebop styles of Miles Davis and Clifford Brown, and was soon working gigs at local clubs.

After high school, Paul seriously considered going on the road as a jazz musician, but his elders convinced him to get a musical education, teach for a living, and perform jazz at gigs as a sideline.  He enrolled at the University of Iowa, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree, two Master’s degrees (all in Music), and a doctorate with a thesis entitled “A Survey of Some Recently Developed Trumpet Technique and Effects Appearing in Contemporary Music.”

In the late ‘60s, after listening to recordings of Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and Anthony Braxton, Paul got deeply involved with avant garde jazz.  In 1976 Paul was hired by Coe College in Cedar Rapids to establish a jazz history program where eventually he formed a trio with a local bassist and a student drummer.  Paul arranged a European tour for the trio by sending a tape to the Moers (Germany) New Jazz organization.  When he and his group arrived at Moers, the festival organizers were surprised to see white musicians because they thought they would be black.

Howard Reich writing about the 1990 Chicago Jazz Festival for the Chicago Tribune, stated:  “There was more passion, ingenuity, and musical meaning in the first five minutes of Paul Smoker’s set than in Miles Davis’ hour-long set the night before.”

In 1990, Paul’s wife, a talented pianist, accepted a full-time teaching job at Nazareth College near Rochester NY.  So Paul quit his teaching job at Coe College and moved with his wife to NY state.  Soon after, Paul got a job as Director of the jazz Studies Program at Nazareth College.  In addition, Paul freelances as a performer and performs throughout the U.S. and Europe.

The other members of the Notet are drummer Phil Haynes, Steve Salerno on guitar, and  Drew Gress on bass.
Jimmie Jones


The DelGrosso/Del Toro Richardson Band

Rich DelGrosso and Jonn Del Toro Richardson are two Houston-based, veteran blues musicians who have jump-started new work together this year with their widely-acclaimed Mandolin Blues release Time Slips On By.  The CD is a collection of 14 original songs from the fertile blues territory of Southeast Texas, presenting rocking, solid mandolin with fiery guitar in a new spicy mix of Texas blues and roots.  For this set at the Festival, the rhythm section is made up of Quad Cities’ musicians, including Daniel Rangel on drums.

Jim Hynes of Elmore Magazine says of the album:  “This is a refreshing, unique sound.  It’s not only the clarity of DelGrosso’s electric mandolin, but the interplay with Richardson’s full-bodied guitar that meshes so well.”  Downbeat gave Times Slips On By four stars, and it debuted at #4 on the Living Blues Radio Chart in February of this year.

Rich DelGrosso has played our Fest before, and he’s also conducted blues in the schools for MVBS.  He’s a five-time Blues Music Award nominee, and he’s been performing for the blues, folk, and mandolin communities for over 30 years.  As the leading exponent of the mandolin in the blues, DelGrosso has toured the U.S., the U.K., and Italy performing and conducting numerous workshops.

You may also remember Jonn Del Toro Richardson’s stellar guitar playing with Diunna Greenleaf’s band at the BluesFest in 2009.  He is a winner of the Blues Foundation’s Albert King award, given to the best guitarist at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.  He also backed Pinetop Perkins in the Grammy and Blues Music Award-nominated Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year for Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen.

The set by DelGrosso and Del Toro is sure to be, as Blues and Rhythm noted, “a breath of fresh air for the blues.”  They’ll perform an eclectic collection of songs born and nurtured in one of the richest cultural centers of American blues and roots music.


RiverRoad Lifetime Achievement Award Presented to Otis Clay


Otis Clay

Is he soul? Is he blues? Is he gospel? Yes, and he moved to Chicago from Mississippi as a boy and has become an iconic figure in all those genres. – Chicago Sun-Times

Otis Clay is one of the premier deep soul and gospel singers working today. His raw, fiery vocals drive an energetic and danceable blend of soul, r&b and blues in the tradition of such deep soul singers as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke. A master showman, Otis Clay stays in demand for festival and concert appearances in the U.S., Europe and Japan.

Not only is Otis Clay an acclaimed vocalist, but he’s a humanitarian as well.  He helped out the MVBS with a concert after the great flood of 1993.  Also, as a long-time resident of Chicago’s West Side, Otis Clay is actively involved as a board member of People For New Direction, a community-based non-profit creating economic initiatives.

Born in Waxhaw, Mississippi, Feb. 11, 1942, Clay began his career in gospel singing with groups such as The Pilgrim Harmonizers, The Gospel Songbirds and the legendary Sensational Nightingales. His recording of “When The Gates Swing Open” was a hit in the mid-‘80s and is included on The Gospel Truth CD released on Blind Pig Records, and both the song and the album remain staples on gospel radio today. As a singer and producer, Otis Clay remains very active in gospel. Walk A Mile In My Shoes, a 2007 CD featuring Otis’ version of this classic song, has been released on his own Echo Records label.

Clay launched and established his career as a deep soul singer with his first recordings made in the mid-‘60s for George Leaner’s One-derful label in Chicago. A series of hit singles including “Trying To Live My Life Without You” produced by Willie Mitchell in Memphis for Hi Records followed in the ’70s. The intensity and passion of his live shows are captured on Soul Man: Live in Japan (Rounder) and Respect Yourself (Blind Pig), recorded live at The Lucerne Blues Festival in Switzerland.

The New York Times has noted, “Otis Clay has one of the best presentations — a combination of gospel passion, heavy grooves and a positive attitude… Intensity and grace simultaneously.”

Workshops—Sunday—The Freight House (across the tracks from LeClaire Park)


2:30—David Horwitz, blues photography

4:00—Chris Beard

5:30—Rich DelGrosso and Jonn Del Toro Richardson


2:30—David Berntson (free harmonicas and lessons for all the kids)

3:45—Winter Blues Kids, moderated by Hal Reed and Ellis Kell

5:00—James Culver Workshop

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Thank you for checking out Gig Archives. I hope you found the content to your liking. Gig Archives is the final band orientated website I will operate. It is no longer the labor of love  it once was in 2009- 2015.  Within the site years of special moments are documented in  photos and interviews. Gig Archives will continue have new posts as I am the House Photographer: U.S. Cellular Center, The Paramount Theater, McGrath Amphitheater, and the Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids through Venue Works. When approved I will post photos from my house gigs. I also shoot gigs for Riverside Casino in Riverside, Iowa. I am a drummer and have devoted all my free time to lessons and operating Drummer Photographer. Drummer Photographer is a site dedicated to drummers. Peace