David Gerald, the Man Who Lives the Blues

Blues Singer, songwriter, performer Gerald David at Amelia Island Blues Fest

Blues Singer, songwriter, performer David Gerald at Amelia Island Blues Fest

Opening up for Albert Castiglia on Saturday night at the Amelia Island Blues Fest is Detroit born David Gerald, who’s Blues roots anchor deep into the Mississippi Delta. When I first heard David Gerald back in January I was not hearing someone just doing good copies of standard blues songs like I’ll play the blues for you or the Thrill is Gone. I was hearing someone who was feeling the emotion of the songs. It was like I was hearing the songs for the first time.

For a true blooded musician there is no other option in life then to play music until you somehow develop a following that allows you to make a living doing what you love most: playing music. David Gerald, the son of Mississippi born and raised parents, grew up to the sounds of the blues and R&B music in his hometown, Detroit. As a teenager he started playing guitar, at first influenced by rock guitarists of the ’80s, but eventually he returned to the blues of Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King and B. B. King.

True Blues Roots

As the youngest of eleven children (refugees from Southern Segregation) the Gerald family had happy music ties, but financially times could be rough. “I was lucky enough to have a neighbor who was a guitarist and gave me scrap guitars. I would piece them together and build ‘Frankenstein’ guitars,” says Gerald. “They were horrible to play and sounded bad, but I had to play music. It was and is my destiny. I finally scraped up enough money to buy an old amp and I was happy and on my way.”

Gerald performed in many local blues, R&B, and rock bands cutting his guitar and vocal chops live and in person. And that created the next problem; finding reliable band members with the same gusto and drive to get through the hard times. Due to the difficulties of keeping a band together, David decided to also learn to play bass, keyboards and drums, and in the process started writing and recording his own songs.

Last year’s debut CD ‘Hell and Back’, contains 10 tracks, 5 of which he self penned, self recorded, self produced and self released. The five covers were recorded live with his band (Mike Ruppriecht – keyboards, Bob Bennett – bass, Lou Eurns – drums) at J. Dubs in Riverview, Michigan.
“Cool” was his reaction when he got the news that the CD reached #17 on Real Blues Magazine’s Top 100 Blues Chart nestled between other Blues greats like Elvin Bishop, Elmore James and Charlie Musselwhite; an accomplishment that earned him a place on the Michigan Blues Hall of Fame!

Gerald’s original tunes are excellent and show blues and R&B influences equally. The opener, “My Guitar,” is an autobiographical track that rocks hard, while “How I Feel” sounds like a ’70s R&B tune done to a Texas shuffle. “Postman” is a slow blues about a man who always delivers. The title cut is about a family suffering through hard times, and echoes issues many are going through presently, and “Stay” mixes funk and R&B.

The cover tunes will be familiar to most blues fans and provide a solid representation of Gerald’s live show. “I’ll Play The Blues For You” and “Thrill Is Gone” are tributes to two of Gerald’s major influences, Albert King and B. B. King. “She Caught The Katy” is the old Yank Rachell/Taj Mahal number amped up with horns, and “Cold Shot” and “Red House” are nods to two other Gerald influences, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix.

Gerald’s guitar work is absolutely top notch, showing myriad influences, most especially Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. His vocals are equally impressive and when I heard him do BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone” I closed my eyes to admit that I liked it more than the version from the King himself. He also shows himself to be a songwriter of considerable talent. All the covers on the disc are done with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and spell out a master at work but, David Gerald’s original tunes are actually more interesting. Can’t wait for him to give us a few more originals on his next release.

Hell and Back by David Gerald

Hell and Back is an excellent debut release, made even more amazing by the fact that David Gerald did most of it single-handed. We’ll be hearing more from him in the future for sure. Gerald’s blues have been receiving widespread radio play, along with growing recognition in the blues community. Recently he was listed as #1 on the ReverbNation blues charts for Michigan Blues artists. His debut album “Hell and Back” reached #1 on Roots Music Report’s Blues Chart and this summer he has been performing at clubs and festivals across the United States and Europe. Some notable appearances include: Riverdays Festival (formerly known as the International Freedom Festival) in Detroit, The Summer Concert Series in Oak Grove Oregon,; Chrysler Arts, Beats and Eats in Royal Oak, MI; and Suwalki Blues Festival in Poland and the night before appearing at the Amelia Island Bluesfest on Saturday Sept 17, the band will be headlining at the Naples Bay Blues Bash in South Florida.

Get your tickets now to see this great Detroit Blues Band on Saturday night September 17.

Willie Big Eyes Smith Headlines Blues Fest Friday

Pinetop Perkins and Willie Big Eyes Smith at 2011 Grammys

Pinetop Perkins(l) and Willie Big Eyes Smith (r) at 2011 Grammys

Friday evening September 16 will be a tribute to one of the greatest traditional blues eras this country has known, when Willie “Big Eyes” Smith will headline the Friday performances at the Amelia Island Blues Festival.

Willie “Big Eyes” Smith is one of the last remaining Titans of the Chicago Blues. Born in Helena Arkansas in 1936 he was into the rhythm of the drums from a very early age on after he saw Pinetop Perkins perform in his hometown at the tender age of 6! At the age of 17 he moved to Chicago and heard blues great Muddy Waters for the first time. From that moment on his life was charted to play the blues. In 1954 Willie, playing harmonica, formed a trio with drummer Clifton James and Bobby Lee Burns on guitar. The trio built a following in Chicago and gigged around the area for a few years.  During this same time, Willie played harp with several other artists including Bo Diddley, Arthur “Big Boy” Spires and Johnny Shines.  In 1957 Willie joined Little Hudson’s Red Devil Trio and switched to playing drums.  After gigs or between sets, Willie started sitting in on drums with Muddy Waters’ band.  Muddy liked what he heard, and invited Willie to play drums on a 1959 recording session.  Willie began to fill in for Muddy’s drummer Francis Clay, and continued to play recording sessions with Muddy.  In 1961, Willie replaced Clay in Muddy’s band and played with Muddy till mid-1964.  During this period, as he solidified his Chicago sound, Willie recorded with James Cotton, Jo Jo Williams and Muddy Waters on a tribute to blues vocalist Big Bill Broonzy.

The mid’60s were lean times for the blues in America, even though many British Bands like the Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and the Animals took from the old Blues heritage scoring hit after hit in Europe. So for a few years Willie packed up his drum kit and found himself doing odd jobs including working in a restaurant and driving a cab around Chicago.  One night in 1968 Willie stopped in a local Chicago club to catch one of Muddy’s sets and when Muddy let Willie sit in for a bit, he rediscovered his desire to play. The next day Muddy asked Willie to rejoin his band. Willie played in Muddy’s band till 1980 and appears on all of Muddy’s Grammy-winning albums.

After performing with Muddy Waters, Smith established his own niche within the tradition of the Delta Blues Sound by co-founding the Legendary Blues Band with Pinetop Perkins, Louis Myers, Calvin Jones, and Jerry Portnoy. The group was nominated for several Grammy Awards, recorded four critically acclaimed albums on the Ichiban label, backed up Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf and Junior Wells (who later took Albert Castiglia as his lead guitarist), and toured with Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. They played behind Muddy for the soundtrack of the movie The Last Waltz and appeared in the movie The Blues Brothers where they played street musicians backing John Lee Hooker.

Willie “Big Eyes” Smith traditional shuffle style has been regarded as the heart and soul of the Chicago blues sound, with Willie laying the beat behind many of the blues classics.  But these days fans are just as likely to find Willie “Big Eyes” Smith holding on to a harmonica, his first instrument, as a drum stick. Turns out, this award-winning blues drummer is a 60 year veteran on the harp and a dynamic vocalist.

Willie and Pinetop Perkins were originally contracted for the Amelia Island Blues Festival as one act based on their Grammy Award Winning 2010 co-production “Joined at the Hip”. But after Pinetop’s sad passing earlier this year, the amazing coincidence occurred that another Pinetop prodige, young Conrad Oberg, a blind teenage guitar and piano virtuoso, offered to co-produce a Pinetop tribute together with Willie “Big Eyes”. It will be one of the highlights of the festival.

Moving into his mid seventies, Willie still occasionally climbs behind the drum kit, but most often he now plays the harp and sings, cutting his road trip exposure from a truckload of percussion instruments to a briefcase of harps.

If you want to catch a full glimpse of the old Chicago Blues Era, get your tickets now by clicking here.

Albert Castiglia Performs at Amelia Island Blues Festival

Albert Castiglia Performs at Amelia Island Blues Festival

Albert Castiglia

When Albert Castiglia walks onto the RockTenn Stage to headline the Amelia Island Blues Festival on Saturday night, September 17th, he will no doubt be welcomed back to Fernandina Beach by a solid and enthusiastic Amelia Island fan base.

Locals will recall that Castiglia performed at a fundraiser for the Nassau Humane Society at Sheffield’s at the Palace in February 2010, and played to a standing room only crowd. It is also safe to say that Castiglia won’t fly under the radar this time around, as he is coming off his most successful year as a recording artist. His latest CD, Keepin’ On, made a run up the National Blues Charts a year ago and hit #1 last September. It remained in the top 25 for several months, and was the #15 best selling blues album worldwide in 2010, according to Roots Music Report.

Castiglia played to a captive audience at Sheffield’s, performing some great blues standards and many of his own original songs from his impressive collection of CD’s, including Burn, released in 2002, The Bittersweet Sessions in 2005, A Stone’s Throw in 2006, These are the Days in 2008, and his latest album, Keepin’ On. Castiglia maintained an approachable and intimate style, introducing his mom and dad to the animal-friendly crowd, while talking about the loss of his beloved boxer, Jesse.

In 1990, Castiglia joined The Miami Blues Authority as lead guitarist and vocalist, and in 1997 was selected as the “Best Blues Guitarist” by New Times magazine. He was eventually discovered by Chicago blues great Junior Wells, who hired him as a guitarist/vocalist, and for several years he toured the world with his famous mentor. After Wells’ death he toured with Atlanta blues singer Sandra Hall before venturing into his promising solo career.

The Amelia Island Blues Festival at Main Beach begins on Friday, September 16th and features a wide range of musical talent over two days. Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Que will be on hand serving many of their specialty items, as will the Palace Saloon, and selected other vendors, providing food and drink for the many blues fans expected to turn out for the first ever event of its kind on the island. Festival partner, Rayonier, is providing a second stage near the VIP area to allow for non-stop entertainment. Former State Representative Aaron Bean has signed on to assist as a celebrity “Master of Ceremonies” and will be joined by other local notables throughout the event.

One or two-day tickets can be purchased on line or at several local businesses and there is no charge for children 12 years of age and younger.

For more information visit www.ameliaislandbluesfest.com.

Still Got the Blues For You

Amelia Island Blues Festival Sept 16 & 17

One of my all time favorite blues songs is “Still Got the Blues for You” by Gary Moore, who sadly passed away in February of this year while on vacation in Spain. But only three weeks away, the Blues is raging in me. I have uploaded youTube videos from most of the acts playing on the upcoming Amelia Island Blues Festival on my favorite list during the workday. The event is gathering tons of interest from around the Nation, hitting the website Ameliaislandbluesfest.com in unprecedented numbers and when someone sent me a link to the following story I simply had to share it with you. It’s a fun yet serious take on the Blues.

How To Sing The Blues in 20 Easy Lessons:

1. Most Blues begin “Woke up this mornin’…”

2. “I got a good woman” is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick somethin’ nasty in the nex’ line like, “I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town.”

3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find somethin’ that rhymes… sort of: “Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yeah, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, and she weigh 500 pound.”

4. The Blues is NOT about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch–ain’t no way out.

5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don’t travel in Volvos (well maybe the older ones), BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southboun’ train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain’t even in the runnin’. Walkin’ plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die.

6. Teenagers can’t sing the Blues. They ain’t fixin’ to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, “adulthood” means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are good places to have the Blues. New Orleans, Memphis, Greenwood, Mobile and Statesboro are even better places to have the Blues cause that’s where Blues was born.
Actually, a dirt farm in the Mississippi delta is the best possible place to have the Blues. You cannot have the blues in any place that don’t get warm rain.

8. A man with male pattern baldness ain’t the blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg cause you were skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg ’cause a alligator be chompin’ on it is.

9. You can’t have no Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is all wrong. Go outside to the parkin’ lot or sit down by the dumpster.

10. Good places for the Blues:
a. highway
b. jailhouse
c. empty bed
d. bottom of a whiskey glass

Bad places for the Blues:
a. Nordstrom’s
b. gallery openings
c. Ivy League institutions
d. golf courses

11. No one will believe it’s the Blues if you wear a suit,’lessn you happen to be an ol’ ethnic person, and you slept in it.

12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if:
a. you older than dirt
b. you blind
c. you shot a man in Memphis
d. you can’t be satisfied

No, if:
a. you have all your teeth
b. you were once blind but now can see
c. the man in Memphis lived
d. you have a 401K or trust fund

13. Blues is not a matter of color. It’s a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Boxer Sonny Liston could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the blues.
14. If you ask for water and your darlin’ give you gasoline, it’s the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are:
a. cheap wine
b. whiskey or bourbon
c. muddy water
d. nasty black coffee

The following are NOT Blues beverages:
a. Perrier
b. Dom Perignon
c. Snapple
d. Slim Fast

15. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it’s a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So is the ‘lectric chair, substance abuse and dying lonely on a broken down cot. You can’t have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.

16. Some Blues names for women:
a. Sadie
b. Big Mama
c. Bessie
d. Fat River Dumpling

17. Some Blues names for men:
a. Joe
b. Willie
c. Little Willie
d. Big Willie

18. Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Debbie, and Heather can’t sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

19. Make your own Blues name Starter Kit:
a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit Lemon, Lime, Kiwi,(etc.)
c. last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)

For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, Jakeleg Lemon Johnson or
Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not “Kiwi.”)

20. I don’t care how tragic your life is: if you own even one computer, you should not sing the blues.

So if you want to find out if BLUES and YOU go well together, get your tickets NOW. Click Here.

SearchAmelia Winner for the Blues Fest VIP Package

SearchAmelia Winner for the Blues Fest VIP PackageSearchAmelia drew a winner from the pool of entrants in the Amelia Island Blues Festival VIP Package contest.

The winner will receive two VIP weekend tickets to the concert, two t-shirts, two personalized coffee mugs, an autographed poster and a meet and greet with some of the musicians.

During the most recent Blues Jam at Cafe Karibo in historic Fernandina Beach, we enjoyed the amazing sound of the Beech Street Blues Band and then pulled a winner out of the hat!

The winner is… well, you are going to have to wait a few days, until we notify the winner. I can tell you the winner is someone local, so be on the lookout for the SearchAmelia and Amelia Island Blues Festival prize van… it just may show up in a neighborhood near you!

In the meantime, tickets are on sale now for the Amelia Island Blues Festival, September 16th and 17th at Main Beach on Amelia Island, Florida.

As the Blues Moves into Town

The Amelia Island Blues Festival Poster

As we are moving into top speed gear with the Festival just one month out, here are some very important updates:
The Amelia Island Blues Festival committee encourages everyone to have a wonderful musical experience at our inaugural event.  A few tips about what to expect might make the event more memorable and help us to get this new tradition off to a good start. To that extent we encourage you to read the Blues Etiquette and Festival Strategy.

Tickets are on Sale

Tickets are now available at a selection of Ticket OUTLETS around the Island, in Yulee and in St.Marys. Here is the listing of current outlets:
• Amelia Hampton Inn
at the Beach
• Amelia Hotel
at the Beach
• Amelia Liquors
next to Publix
• Amelia Liquors
next to Harris Teeter
• Books Plus
on Centre Street
• Club 14
on 14th Street
• Club 14
in the Winn Dixie Shopping Plaza, Yulee
• Fast Signs on 14th St. near Sadler
• Jerry Lee’s Music Emporium in St.Marys, GA
Murray’s Grille on A1A in Yulee
Prosperity Bank on Sadler across from Starbuck’s
Red Otter Outfitters on Atlantic Ave
Red Otter Outfitters at the OMNI Amelia Island Plantation
Savage Stone – Retail Therapy on 8th Street
• Sonny’s BBQ
• The Palace Saloon on Centre St.
• Sunoco Gas Station and Deli (former Smile) on Sadler

Tickets in advance of the festival are $15 per day and $25 for Two Day Passes and can also be purchased online at the following link. Tickets at the Gate during the Festival will be $25 and $35, and organizers urge you to buy now, in order to avoid long lines during the festival.

The Festival Grounds

The Festival Ground Lay Out at Main Beach

Besides 14 magnificent Blues Performances over the two day event, the Festival Grounds will be home to a selection of exciting vendors, children’s playground, eateries and yes…there will be Beer and Wine and several tents and a smaller stage for shade and local entertainment.
The Festival Committee is thankful for the many local sponsors that have come out to support this latest of Island Festivals, slated to become an annual cornerstone of Amelia Island’s attraction.

Blues in town

Prior to the festival there are several more opportunities to enjoy good blues music starting with a Blues Jam this coming Thursday at Café Karibo at 6:30pm.  SearchAmelia.com, which has been running a Blues-a-Ton on its website, collecting several hundred entries for a prize drawing for Two VIP Passes,is going to use this occasion to draw the prize winners during the Blues Jam. Even though presence is not required to win, it would be nice to come out and support the cause. Who knows, we may throw in a T-shirt or two and some other goodies?

Sounds on Centre in September will feature the Beech Street Blues Band, which started out as a trio playing the local music scene last November, but has now expanded to a five piece Blues band of superb quality. With TV and Radio (and some impressarios) committed to attend the Festival, they may just turn out to become the big new talent surprise of the year.

Local Exposure

Pick up a copy of the August issue of the Amelia Islander, and yes even though the cover is mostly green, there is a lot of Blues inside with an 8 page insert exposing the entire Festival Program, line-up, times and much more. The Newsleader is gracefully supporting the Festival with weekly coverage and our posters are hanging all over town in large numbers. If any business or organization needs or wants posters to hang on their information or bulletin boards, just drop a quick comment on the Blues Festival Website and it will be taken care of immediately.


Blues Whiz Kid Conrad Oberg is preparing for his Blues in School combo opening act with some of the music students at the Fernandina Beach High School, as well as a Tribute to Pinetop Perkins, who was contracted as a headliner with Willy “Big Eyes” Smith, before sadly passing away at age 97 earlier this year.

All the contracted performers are pushing the Blues Festival via their Facebook pages and overall excitement is growing for this inaugural Celebration of Roots Music at the beach.

The more I listen to Albert Castiglia, the more I hear one of my Gods, Van Morrison. Castiglia is maturing into a massive Blues force with four great albums under his belt. Click on the mp3 while reading the rest of this story to listen to his “Hurricane Blues”.

Click HereHurricane Blues by Albert Castiglia

The David Gerald Band from Detroit has been ready to crack open the Southeast and the rest of the Nation with David’s magnificent BB King style voice and guitar work. In his neck of the woods, Motown-Motor City, he’s the leading blues man, and personally I can’t wait to catch him on stage. I have watched all of his youTube videos and as they say: The Boy Can Play!

For more details on the Line Up Acts go to ameliaislandbluesfest.com and click on the Line Up and then GET YOUR TICKETS.

Music has Universal Power to Connect

Roger Ridley - Blues Man

The other day I received an email from a Greek Blues band calling themselves “The Big Nose Attack”, offering their contribution to the Amelia Island Blues Festival for a stipend towards their travel and some simple accommodations. Since the idea was born for a Blues Festival here on island, we have received numerous offers like these. Blues is connecting the world and we’re taking a spot in it.
Ever since I was old enough to keep a guitar straight in front of me I felt that composing and making music is what makes us humanoids stand out in the universe.

It’s a human accomplishment of unequaled beauty and expression. There is no other human art form that has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people as music does. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race. Wherever I go music is a major part of my journey and when we started developing the idea of enriching Amelia Island with its own Blues Festival, I was largely guided by the inspiration and philosophy of the Playing for Change Foundation, which started with a revival movement in 2007 to connect and bring peace to the world through music.

It started all in March of 2005 when Playing for Change Founder Mark Johnson heard  Roger Ridley perform ‘Stand by Me’ on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica California and realized that Roger’s voice, soul and passion had to be shared with the rest of the world.

He shot and produced this magnificent video that takes you around the world in that one beautiful song.

Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around The World from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

Mark once asked Roger the question: with a voice as powerful as his, why was he singing on the streets? He replied, “I am in the joy business. I come out here to be with the people.” Roger, who hailed from Lumpkin/Charles Junction near Atlanta Georgia, passed away 8 months after this video was shot at the early age of 57. He lived the blues man’s life bringing joy.

Last Saturday night I played at the American Legion for a very appreciative crowd when I got reminded of one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s best songs “Curtis Lowe” and the lines: “People said he was useless, them people all were fools, Cause Curtis Lowe was the finest picker to ever play the blues”. Playing for people is what the blues is all about and that’s why Roger Ridley kind of personified Curtis Lowe for me. Livin’ the Blues but in a positive way. Of his passing he said: ” My Lord and Savior called me home and I had to go. I have made my mark and am very satisfied in knowing that my family is keeping my music alive. Besides his family, Playing for Change and Mark Johnson have given Roger’s beautiful gift more exposure than a lifetime of playing in front of people. But that is what he wanted and enjoyed most.

Over the past 6 years Mark used posthumus footage to have Roger hook up long distance with many great performers around the world to spread the message  of Stand by Me which is here followed up in a video compilation of Otis Redding’s immortal “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (anywhere in the world).

Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay

When we were riding the Subway in New York last week, 3 guys from Peru or somewhere in the Andes Mountains jumped in at one stop, clipped on their guitars and sang a beautiful upbeat harmony rendition of Bamboleo. When they finished two stops further down the tracks, they had made my day, and a $5 dollar tip could not even come close to expressing what this did for my overall well being. That night we saw Sean Lennon and his band “The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger” in a complete free open air concert at South Street Seaport and with pure excitement I recognized flares of his dad’s genius in his music.

Music is what rules my world and looking at the talent we have been able to contract for the first Amelia Island Blues Festival, it’s going to be a blast.

A Magnificent Line Up of Talent for Amelia Island's first Blues Festival

Cajun Blues Queen Beth McKee Completes Blues Festival Line Up

Beth McKee belting it out from deep inside

With the addition of Beth McKee and her band, the Blues Festival Committee announces that they have finalized the line up for this year’s festival to be held on September 16 and 17.

Listening to Mississippi born Beth McKee invites you to daydreaming about Dr. John delivering the female love child of Dusty Springfield (Son of a Preacherman) and Texas All round Musician Doug Sahm (as her bio explains on her website).
And if that visual does not appeal to you than just imagine deep southern roots music with elements of rock, blues, soul, gospel and country.
McKee is a Southern singer/songwriter/pianist/accordion player backed by seasoned musicians from outfits like Hall & Oates, Bellamy Brothers, George Porter, Lester Chambers, etc.  A former member of the popular New Orleans country-cajun group Evangeline (MCA Records) McKee toured extensively behind two critically acclaimed albums. L.A. Weekly raved Beth’s piano is “worthy of some Jerry Lee Lewis arson.”

Long before her career took off nationally, the Mississippi native played piano in church. She solidified her southern at Ole Miss. She played blues on the chitlin’ circuit from steamy juke joints to muddy hog farms, and emerged as a respected player on the New Orleans, Austin and Nashville music scenes.
In 2010, the self-released I’m That Way displays all those southern roots fusing to formulate her swampy and soulful musical identity.
Being swampy and soulful, it’s no surprise her first solo release is devoted to the songs of the late Louisiana legend Bobby Charles. As a member of the historic Chess Records roster in the 1950s, Charles wrote and recorded hits like “See You Later Alligator,” “But I Do” and “Walking to New Orleans.” McKee interprets these and Charles’ lesser known gems on I’m That Way.

In the last year of his life Bobby Charles said Beth McKee is “one talented lady with a great band” and characterized her voice as “easy on my mind.”  McKee’s foray into the inimitable material of this bayou balladeer turns from an intimidating exercise to a license to be righteous as she gigs in support of the record.

In a letter from Mr. Charles shortly before his passing he thanks McKee for “making me feel so proud… doing my songs on your new CD.” He liked Beth’s musicianship and vocals so much he included her on his final album Timeless which was released in February, 2010.

“Louisiana IS Americana,” McKee says, “and when Bobby bared his soul in his work, it was as if he were baring the soul of Louisiana.  Straightforward;  passionate, fun-loving.  When I sing his songs, I just have to lay it all out there, because Bobby was sincere to the core.”
Louisiana’s arts weekly Offbeat Magazine agreed that she just did that and wrote; “She had the absolute right approach for material from the Bard of the Bayous, Guru of the Gulf, Sage of the Swamps.”

Currently a central Florida resident, McKee is still a mainstay on the New Orleans, Austin and Jackson, MS music scenes including a side project with Tommy Malone of the subdudes. She has performed with such legends as Buckwheat Zydeco, the subdudes, Marcia Ball, Jimmy Buffett, the Zion Harmonizers and many more.  She’s performed from coast to coast, including concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, Antone’s, Tipitina’s and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Beth McKee and her band in line up for Amelia Island Blues Festival

McKee is backed by her husband and co-producer Juan Perez, an acclaimed drummer and percussionist in his own right (he was drummer on The Bellamy Brothers’ many #1 Country hits).  Beth plays accordion, and most evidently, is a remarkable piano talent. The Orlando Sentinel’s Jim Abbott, who compares Beth’s vocals to Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams, notes:  “On piano, her driving left hand recalls Professor Longhair.”  When reviewed in concert, the Nashville Scene raved “The show was stolen however by…Mississippi native Beth McKee” The review “put her in a class with a young Bonnie Raitt.”

Once a budding southern belle. Then a top country-cajun MCA recording artist. Recently an interpreter of Louisiana classics. In 2011 Beth McKee will release a CD with original songs of journeys, love, loss, hope and being on the verge…all wrapped in McKee’s sassy southern styles.

In the meantime she continues to collaborate with her husband Juan and producer Tony Battaglia. McKee is completing a collaborative song and short story collection about lost souls in southern Alabama, and of course she keeps her toes wet in the Nashville/New Orleans/Austin music scenes.

Blues Festival Contracts 16 Year old blind Prodigy

16 Year Old Conrad Oberg masters both guitar and piano

When he opened up the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Woodstock at Yasgur’s Farm in upstate New York, he selected Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” tribute as his opening song and blew the audience and critics away. This was in the summer of 2009. Now two years later he will be playing the Amelia Island Blues Festival and do a Blues in Schools appearance here on Amelia Island in September.

Conrad Oberg was born in the Summer of 1994. As a result of profound prematurity, and weighing only a pound and a half, Conrad was left legally blind and fighting for his life. Conrad, has since battled every obstacle that life has presented, and despite it all has managed to take everything in stride and still come out grinning.

At the age of two, Conrad taught himself to play music on a hand-me-down toy piano given to him by his cousins. Conrad progressed quickly to a small electronic keyboard. Playing it non-stop, within sixmonths he could nplay all of the songs programmed into it by the manufacturer. By the end of his third year, Conrad could emulate anything he heard, ranging from Vivaldi to vacuum cleaners. A natural born performer, Conrad began performing in public at local music stores and weddings, and by the age of nine had developed a “one boy” piano and vocal stage act that became legendary in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.

Conrad’s first big break occurred when he recorded his first album at Sun Studios in Memphis, being backed by Jerry Lee Lewis’ touring band, which volunteered a great deal of their time to produce the album “Decade.” The album was completed at Sun, hours before Conrad turned ten years old, when he was given his first guitar.

Performing with the adult band that he fronts at venues and music festivals throughout the country, Conrad has been fortunate to share the stage with some of the legends of the music business, and has amassed a considerable internet following, with some four million worldwide views on YouTube.

In the past few years, Conrad has received accolades on an international level, being chosen by 12 million Cartoon Network viewers as the most talented teen musician in the country, and being selected by the Nikon Corporation to score the film accompanying their newest high-end camera release.

With the eyes of the world upon him, in August of 2009, Conrad was given the ultimate honor of opening the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock Festival at the site of the original Woodstock festival in 1969.

Conrad’s performance of the National Anthem, which he played at Woodstock in the style of Jimi Hendrix, received acclaim from the 8o+ international media outlets that covered the event, including Rolling Stone, USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Conrad’s latest album, “Old School,” was recorded in non-dubbed single takes in order to capture the sound and feel ofConrad’s considerable live performing ability. The album consists of blues and rock classics which Conrad performs regularly at his shows in his own Jimi Hendrix meets Ray Charles style.

The album features Conrad on all vocals, keyboards and guitars. Conrad will be releasing this first all-original album in the Spring of 2011, and will be embarking on his second national tour later this Summer, a tour that will include a full feature appearance at the Amelia Island Blues Festival on September 16with a tribute to the greatness of Pinetop Perkins who recently passed away.


When One Door Closes, Another One Opens

Magnificent Blistur plays Taste of the Blues

When the sad news came in that Pinetop Perkins had passed away a couple of weeks ago, the Amelia Island Blues Fest committee knew, that it had gambled and lost on the 97 year old Mississippi Blues Giant to be a headliner in the September Festival. Obviously the thought of that possibly happening had occurred on more than one occasion, yet the motto was “hope will keep us alive”.

And then when nature took its inevitable course and took Pinetop away from us, it opened another door when on the same day we were contacted by Michael Oberg, offering for his 16 year old son Conrad, to play a tribute to Pinetop during the Festival. Now anyone who is not familiar with the name Conrad Oberg should go to youTube and type in his name. There are tons of amazing videos of this kid who plays sensational guitar and piano and….he had in recent years often sat in with Pinetop Perkins during his live shows. Fast footwork by committee president Jeff Malone made it possible for Conrad to show up at last week’s Taste of the Blues on Main Beach and give us a taste of his rapidly rising star.

We video taped some of his renditions, and I was particularly happy when he played my friend Joe Bonamassa‘s “Blues Deluxe” from his third album. The story behind this song selection came from a lunch discussion I had with Joe on the sunny island of St.Martin, when we went over the potential tracklist of that album and I mentioned that I would love to hear him play the old Rod Stewart/Jeff Beck song Blues Deluxe. Joe went further than that, he actually named the album after the track and I am the proud owner of some signed unedited studio copies. Joe of course is now of course recognized as a Blues superstar and frankly I see the same talents in this 16 year old Conrad Oberg.

The sky was sunny, the air still a little cool and the mood was upbeat. The Blues Festival Committee Members considered the Taste of the Blues a test of sorts for what the Big Festival on September 16 and 17 will have in store for the organization. An early equipment malfunction was quickly corrected as the crowds spread out their lounge chairs and towels in the grass at Wolf’s Park on Main Beach and they were not disappointed. “Evolution” started out with acoustic blues renditions, quickly followed by Wisconsin native master guitarist Dan Voll and the Beech Street Blues Band. At 4 pm local super talent Julia Nikki Savage took the event to a magnificent jazz blues level, leading in for Chris Kellam and Blistur’s blues guitar fireworks.

After Blistur, the stage was taken by Conrad Oberg, who has been receiving national accolades since his 2009 performance at the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock.
The evening closed up with always blues-soul and R&B steady Karl Davis and Friends, who introduced us this time to Josh Miller from Cocoa Beach, whose blues renditions not only impressed but were also hilariously entertaining. By the time 8:30 pm came around, the committee shut down the lights in honor of the annual Global Earth Hour and breakdown of the event set up was done in the dark

Even though a couple of rain drops in the late afternoon unfortunately cleaned out a large part of the audience and it quickly turned windy and unseasonally cool in the early evening hours, the organizers learned a lot, which can only be considered useful and helpful in preparation for the big event on September 16 and 17, 2011.

Tickets for the main event are now available on the Blues Festival Website. One Day Passes are $15 ($20 at the door); Two day Passes are $25 ($30 at the door) and VIP Passes, which include VIP seating and barservice, a T-shirt, and limited backstage access, are $100 (limited). You can also get another taste (and tickets) next week Thursday evening April 14 at the monthly Blues Jam upstairs at Café Karibo.

It’s a Big Blues Day This Saturday

Click on the Poster to Enlarge

Not only is it Earth Hour in 128 nations across the Planet, it is also the first weekend of Spring, the Opening of Main Beach AND  A FREE ” Taste of the Blues” Concert on Main Beach with no less than 6 performing acts, starting at 1pm.

Here is the program just in from the committee with a HUGE SURPRISE ACT:

TIME: 1:00pm to 9:00pm (Billy Bob’s will be set up and serving lunch at 12:00 noon)

LOCATION: Main Beach Outdoor Festival Area

FOOD AND BEVERAGES: Beer, Wine, Sodas, Water and Billy Bob’s BBQ


• 1:00pm to 1:45pm – Evolution
• 2:15pm to 4:00pm – Beech Street Blues Band
• 4:30pm to 5:00pm – Julia Savage Band
• 5:30pm to 6:30pm – Blistur
• 6:30pm to 7:15pm – Conrad Oberg Band
• 7:30pm to 9:00pm – Karl Davis and Friends

At 8:25pm  – we will be observing EARTH HOUR
For 5 minutes we will turn off the lights!
We will have Blue Luminaries for sale if you would like to purchase one for $1.00 and you can then become part of history…

On a side note, the big surprise is the last minute addition of 16 year old blind guitar/piano whiz kid Conrad Oberg, who in recent years played several times with Pinetop Perkins, who sadly passed away last Monday and was contracted to be a headliner for the upcoming Blues Festival. 16 Year old Oberg is rapidly making a name for himself around the country as the new blues guitar virtuoso. He contacted the committee with the offer to do a Pinetop Perkins tribute and quick footwork by committee president Jeff Malone, secured the act. Check him out on youTube, you’ll be a amazed what this kid can do on a guitar and piano.

Oh and don’t forget, bring your beach chair and come out and experience a “Delicious Taste”… of what is going to be one of the most spectacular Blues Musical Experiences Amelia Island has ever seen…

The fabulous Amelia Island Blues Festival will be arriving September 16th and 17th 2011.

Legendary BluesMan Pinetop Perkins Dead at 97

Amelia Island Blues Fest's T-Bone Blues Dog

Following is the official Press Release reaction of the Amelia Island Blues Festival Committee on the Loss of Legendary BluesMan Willy Joe “Pinetop” Perkins, who was scheduled to perform during the September organized Amelia Island Blues Festival.

March 22, 2011



The Amelia Island Blues Festival Committee was saddened to learn of the passing of a true blues legend.  Willie “Pinetop” Perkins died in his sleep at home in Austin, Texas yesterday from cardiac arrest.  The former piano player in the Muddy Waters Band was 97 years of age and had recently become the oldest Grammy Award winner ever, walking away with the Best Traditional Blues Album of the year for his collaboration with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on the album “Joined at the Hip.”

Perkins also won a 2007 Grammy for best traditional blues album for his collaboration on the “Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas.” He received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2005.

Local blues fans selected Perkins to perform on Amelia Island to honor the original blues musicians and they plan to continue to embrace that theme with a very special tribute to Perkins at the festival in September.  “It was always a calculated risk, but certainly one worth taking,” said Jeff Malone, President of the Board of Directors.  “The vote to bring Pinetop here was unanimous.”

Willie “Big Eyes” Smith was playing the drums for Muddy Waters back in 1969 when Perkins sat in with the band at piano.  The chain-smoking journeyman musician pounded on the keyboards in his aggressive style and caught the ear of the band leader.  “Muddy liked what he heard. The rest is history,” said Smith.  Smith is contracted to play on Friday, September 16th at the Amelia Island Blues Festival and looks forward to honoring his friend with a special musical tribute.

Smith described Perkins as an old school bluesman with a gravelly voice, who played with the likes of rock pioneer Ike Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson and slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk.  When Smith hooked up with Perkins, Pinetop was already in his 50’s and had never recorded an album of his own.  But, “he had more energy than us younger folks did,” Smith said.

“I didn’t get no schooling. I come up the hard way in the world,” Perkins told The Associated Press in a 2009 interview.
Fellow great bluesman B.B. King was saddened by the loss of his friend.  “He was one of the last great Mississippi Bluesmen. He had such a distinctive voice, and he sure could play the piano. He will be missed not only by me, but by lovers of music all over the world,” King said in an emailed statement.
Funeral arrangements for Perkins were pending in Austin, although a graveside service will be held near Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he wanted to be buried.

It’s Official; the Blues Festival is an Approved 501(c)3

Amelia Island Blues Festival is now 501(c)3

With a big smile on her face and a grin in her voice, founding Blues Festival Committee Member Susan Hurley announced that the Internal Revenue Service has approved the filed paperwork that makes The Amelia Island Blues Festival officially a tax deductible cause for corporations and individuals who have a warm heart and an open wallet for the cause.

So known patrons of the blues and business owners, be prepared to get a phone call or a knock on the door from one of the committee members soon, to become an honored and appreciated partner in the Amelia Island Blues Festival which is scheduled for September 16 and 17, 2011 on Main Beach with an impressive list of contracted top performers such as Pinetop Perkins, Willy “Big Eyes” Smith, Hurricane Wilson and Albert Castiglia.

The mission of the Blues Festival organization is to annually bring major Blues acts to Amelia Island and distribute surplus funds to the cause of furthering the abilities of the Nassau Baptist Hospital in their tasks of being our primary Health Care Provider.

Other ways to support the initiative of this annual event is a $10 Blues Society membership or the advance purchase of VIP Festival Passes at $100 p/p http://ameliaislandbluesfest.com/sales/vip-passes/ or by ordering a $20 or $25 (XXX-L) Blues Festival T-shirt and last but not least you can support the initiative by coming out in large numbers to the March 26 “Taste of the Blues” event on Main Beach. We serve wine, beer and bbq and the proceeds will support the festival.

Poster a Taste of the Blues

Free Concerts Lead up to Amelia Island Blues Festival

Introducing Blues Festival T-Bone the Blues Dog

Amelia Island, FL – Music lovers have pioneered the inaugural Amelia Island Blues Festival in Fernandina Beach, Florida to be held September 16 and 17, 2011. To raise awareness and support for the Festival, a series of free concerts will be held throughout the spring and summer preceding this oceanfront musical event.

Featured artists for the two-day extravaganza include national acts such as Albert Castiglia, Bill Sheffield, Hurricane Wilson and Pinetop Perkins. Other musical talent includes 6th Street Rhythm and Blues Review, Sean Carney Band, The Shuffle Junkies, Blistur, and Julia Nichole Savage, and that is just a partial list!

Free monthly concerts will be held from 7:30 to 10:00 PM at Café Karibo, 27 North 3rd Street in historic, Fernandina Beach to prepare our Victorian seaside village for the main event, with the largest pre-festival concert to be held on March 26, 2011 at Main Beach:

• March 17th 2011 (we will turn St Patrick’s Day – Blue!!!)
• April 14th 2011
• May 19th 2011
• June 16th 2011
• July 14th 2011
• August 18th 2011
• September 8th 2011

March 26th moves the entertainment to the ocean’s doorstep at Wolf Park in Main Beach, on Amelia Island for their first fund-raiser of the year. Just in time for Spring Break, this Noon to Nine Blues Concert is free and open to the public! A number of bands are playing including Beech Street Blues Band, The Julia Savage Band, Karl W. Davis Band, and the trio Blistur featuring Chris Kellam on lead guitar! There will be catered food and lots of beer and wine all day, so, bring some cash and get ready to jam! Food and beverages will be available beginning at noon. The live music will begin at 1:00 PM and won’t stop until 9:00 PM! Festival T-shirts will also be available.

Local businesses will have the opportunity to advertise at the Amelia Island Blues Festival for only $80.00 with their 8 by 3 foot banner displayed on a seven foot fence surrounding the festival grounds. For more information and continual updates on the entertainment line-up, visit AmeliaIslandBluesFest.com.

Another Blues Jam Tonight at Café Karibo

Left to Right Dan Voll, Jeff Malone and Mike Hawthorne

Café Karibo is the site for another Blues Jam with the Beech Street Blues Band, starting tonight, Thursday night, at 7:30. The weather is picking up and judging by the first Blues Jam a couple of weeks ago, this is going to be one fun evening. The Blues Jams are organized by the Amelia Island Blues Society in preparation for the September 16 and 17 Blues Festival on Main Beach, featuring lots of national and international top acts. One idea for the monthly Blues Jams is to find local and regional talent. The Beech Street Blues Band plays a full set and then opens the mikes and amps for guest performers, back if necessary by the band.

So if you are an aspiring or established BLUES or Blues-Rock performers, grab your ax or whatever you play and come out.

If you haven’t met the newly formed Beech Street Blues Band, here is an introduction to the trio.

Jeff Malone on Drums
Born in the Midwest his love of music started keeping rhythm on the dashboard of the family car and played percussion from elementary school to playing in church from a very young age. Jeff’s love of music and drumming, includes several genres including Jazz, Rock and Rhythm & Blues. Some of his musical influences are Max Roach, Art Blakey, Ray Charles, Taj Mahal, Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones.

He gravitated to the Blues over 20 years ago with Trick Bag, an Atlanta based band playing local gigs and producing his deput CD, “River of Blues”. His next project was with the power trio, Blues Highway and spent the next 10 years performing gigs all through Tennessee, Georgia and North Florida and producing his second CD “Steppin’ Out”. Jeff has sat in with many musicians over the years including the David Payne Trio, Sweet Georgia Sound and Barry Richmond along with instruction from legendary Jazz drummer Les DeMerle.

Jeff is current committee member of the Amelia Island Blues Society, instrumental in the birth of the first annual Amelia Island Blues Festival, September 16th & 17th, 2011. Along with The Beech Street Blues Band, he also has formed the Thursday Night Blues Jam at Café Karibo in Historic Fernandina Beach, FL where all players of all different skill levels are welcome.

Just celebrating 25 years with his high school sweetheart, Tammy while raising their beautiful daughter Lauren on Amelia Island, He feels very fortunate playing music with friends in a place they love to call home.

Dan Voll on lead guitar and vocals
Dan Voll, a professional musician for over 30 years, is considered one of the Midwest’s most versatile guitarists. Gigging throughout the Midwest, with numerous gigs in Chicago and several in Los Angeles, his genres include blues, jazz, Latin jazz, world music, and acoustic. Voll has had the privilege of performing with well-known musicians Chuchito Valdes, Herb Ellis, Guy Fricano, Lonnie Brooks, A.C. Reed, Eddie Shaw, and saxophonist Richie Cole. Cole, a jazz veteran, states, “Dan Voll is one of the best guitar players I have had the pleasure to work with.”
Voll has been awarded four local musical awards (RAMI) by his peers and fan base for acoustic rock and contemporary jazz performances and original compositions. Among his dazzling instrumental pieces, Voll intersperses soulful vocals and a variety of original songs. When not performing, Voll is a guitar instructor for the Peck Center on Amelia Island.

Michael Hawthorne on Bass and Vocals
Born in Darien, GA – Resident of Fernandina Beach aka heaven on Earth since 2003. Husband of 27 years to my wonderful  wife Jane and father to 3 awesome kids Stephen, Sarah and Michael.
My love of Music began as early as 4 years of age when I would pull out my Mom’s Pots and Pan’s then put on a solo using wooden spoons. I was hooked from that time I progressed to playing guitar at 12 then to bass guitar at 16 playing in high school bands jamming mostly southern rock.  Since those years I have progressed to playing in numerous bands like Triple Shot  to  Second Hand Soul and now play in two bands High Tide and now The Beech Street Blues Band! I put a lot of effort into performing  to deliver the best I can given my modest training .
My philosophy is If I can hear it and feel it I can usually play it!  Music is a true love that will always be with me!

See you tonight!

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