New History of the Blues Exhibit at Museum

T-Bone the Amelia Island Blues Fest Mascotte

T-Bone, the Amelia Island Blues Fest Mascot

The Amelia Island Museum of History is launching a new exhibit in partnership with the Amelia Island Blues Festival committee.  The “History of the Blues” exhibit will launch on August 3rd at 5:00pm, with a reception and lecture about the genre and an acoustic guitar performance by Blue Storm recording artist Roger “Hurricane” Wilson.

In addition, the official 2012 Amelia Island Blues Festival musical line-up will be announced. Following the Amelia Island Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting and reception, visitors can explore the exhibit, which will feature a blues history timeline, blues memorabilia, historic photos, and an informative video.

The two-month exhibit also features a tribute to the famed “Chitlin’ Circuit,” a collective name for venues throughout the southern and eastern United States that allowed African-American musicians and entertainers to perform during segregation.

The exhibit along with an electric guitar performance with blues artist Roger “Hurricane” Wilson and his band at Slider’s Grill on Amelia Island the following evening at 6:00 – 10:00pm will lead up to the 2012 Amelia Island Blues Festival scheduled for September 14-16 at Main Beach in Fernandina Beach, Florida.

Tickets to the festival are available by visiting the website.
For more information, visit or

Live Blues Protected by Smith and Wilson

Live Blues Protected by Smith and WilsonWillie “Big Eyes” Smith died on the very same day he was scheduled to perform at the inaugural Amelia Island Blues Festival, which will be held September 14th, 15th and 16th, 2012 right here in Fernandina Beach, Florida.

Roger “Hurricane” Wilson, who honored us last year with his presence at the Amelia Island Blues Festival took it upon himself not to forget Willie “Big Eyes” and his blues legacy and started a commemorative CD project. This project seems like a great way to invest in a truly legendary bluesman, with a special connection to Amelia Island. Please think about a contribution, large or small, to this very cool project.

Roger is already well on his way to producing this CD, to help preserve the legacy of this dynamic blues Grammy Winner. They only need about $5,000 to complete the project.

Roger “Hurricane” Wilson, who will not only perform at this year’s Blues Festival in September, but also will be the MC, is leading an effort through a great website called, trying to raise $6,000 in 45 days to pay for the production of this acoustic project by July 21, 2012. Anything you can donate, no matter how large or small is appreciated. There are six levels of thank you gifts that are a small token of great appreciation for donations.

This project’s title is “Live Blues Protected By Smith & Wilson“, featuring longtime Muddy Waters band member and 2010 Grammy winner, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. As we mentioned before, sadly, Willie passed away several months after winning his award on the day he was looking at playing for us on Amelia Island. Instead his son took on the mammoth emotional task to sit in and still treat us to his father’s legendary blues.

The CD was recorded on one of the four duo tours Willie and Hurricane did between 2008 and late 2010. This show took place in a sold out theater in Harrisburg, PA., and it captured the magic and intimacy that acoustic Blues music offers. Willie was performing harmonica and vocals, and Hurricane was just enjoying being there playing guitar and singing with him.

To get the full story and see the donor gift levels, please visit the fundraising site at:

The funding request here is to get this project produced and distributed in order to keep alive the memory of the late Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, a true Blues Legend. Your financial help in this endeavor will help in getting this done. Your donations will go toward mastering, manufacturing, artwork, advertising, and radio promotion.We would love to have your financial support, which will include the incentives listed herein, provided we reach our goal of $6000.00, If the goal is not met, your money will be returned. We hope you will join us to pay tribute to a great Bluesman, the late Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, and to keep his legacy and the Blues alive.

This is not just another CD, but an actual piece of Blues music history, tied closely to Amelia Island.

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Amelia Island Last Leg Rally Returns with Battle of the Blues

Amelia Island Last Leg Rally Returns with Battle of the BluesFernandina Beach, FL – The Amelia Island Last Leg Rally returns to Amelia Island on March 3rd and 4th 2012. The Rally was founded in 2009 to provide funding and awareness for the charity Anchors Aweigh Charters, Inc. and to draw visitors to Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island. New this year is the Battle of the Blues on Sunday, sponsored by the Amelia Island Blues Festival, whose inaugural event exceeded all expectations with performances by world class blues musicians.

Proceeds from the Rally’s events benefit Anchors Aweigh Charters, Inc., (AAC) a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides no cost boating or fishing excursions to those with permanent physical and/or developmental disabilities, as well as those diagnosed with a terminal illness. With the continued support of the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 54 of Fernandina Beach, AAC’s Veteran’s Benefit Program continues to fund excursions for qualifying disabled veterans with proceeds from the Veteran’s Poker Run.

It’s not the destination it’s the ride! The Amelia Island Last Leg Rally provides a plethora of activities to potential visitors heading towards Daytona Bike Week and locals alike. Even if you don’t ride a motorcycle, the Rally offers something for everyone. Bring your chairs and enjoy the entertainment!

The Last Leg Rally events begin with a Meet & Greet Kick-Off Party and Fish Fry on Friday, March 2, at the Kelly Pest Control Building at 1235 S. 10th Street in Fernandina Beach from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. Tickets are only $6.00 and admission includes dinner, and live music by the Suzie Kite Band.

March 3rd and 4th bring a weekend of free entertainment. Opening Ceremonies at 9:30 Saturday morning features a “Table of Honor Veteran’s Tribute”, with guests from various military branches, an Honor Guard Display by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 14-1, and a military fly-over by the Dreamland Squadron and the Avenger Air Shows. Then, it is kick stands up at 10:00 AM for the Veteran’s Benefit Motorcycle Poker Run. A variety of vendors and a Motorcycle Show take place on Saturday while live bands perform at Wolf Park (Main Beach). Staged entertainment includes the Mike Hendrix Band of Hilliard, FL; Chasi Lynn and Country Wild from Chattanooga, TN; and DeFunk from Brunswick, GA.

“Blues Sunday” of the Rally offers a Battle of the Blues featuring MoJo Chillen of Jacksonville, FL; Kim Reteguiz & Black Cat Bones of Atlantic Beach, FL; and the Beech Street Blues Band of Fernandina Beach, FL. The Amelia Cruizers Car Club will present a display of vintage vehicles all day for the Last Leg Rally Car Show. If you can’t make the festivities, direct donations may be mailed to Anchors Aweigh Charters at P.O. Box 16655, Fernandina Beach, FL 32035

For more information and full details, please visit

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Top Talent Line Up for 2012 Amelia Island Blues Fest

Shemekia-copeland-headlines Amelia Isand Blues Fest Saturday line up

Queen of the Blues Shemekia Copeland headlines Sept. Blues Festival

After successfully concluding the first Amelia Island Blues Fest in September, the committee added 2 new members, Tom Keenan and Jim Hurley and started working immediately on a A-list of Talent they would like to see on stage at the 2012 Event.

During the Bonita Springs Blues Festival today Blues Revue Magazine was given the exclusive to announce the magnificent line up A- Class line up for this year’s festival which will be held on September 14, 15 and 16 at Main Beach.

The organizers are more than pleased with announcing 9 new acts of National and International stature, while some of the exciting performers from the first festival were invited back.

The three day event will find monster guitarist Shane Dwight headline the Friday session, preceded by Duane Truck’s Flannel Church. Saturday is a top heavy day which brings back Roger “Hurricane” Wilson as performer, MC and Blues in Schools program coordinator, 16 year old guitar sensation Alex Ivanov, the Nouveau Honkees, J.P. Soars and the Red Hots, Sean Chambers, Albert Castiglia and the inimitable new Queen of the Blues Shemekia Copeland with her band.

On Sunday we’ll look forward to a nice afternoon mix of Beth McKee’s  Cajun blues, Bill Sheffield magnificent walking blues , Julia Savage’s jazzy blues, guitar fireworks from Blistur, and the smooth magificent BB King plays Stevie Ray Vaughn tones from Detroit based David Gerald.

2012 Amelia Island Blues Fest Talent Line UpWith the talent under wraps, the Blues Committee will know spend all its time working on improving the experience for audience and sponsors. One new addition is the organization of the Battle of the Blues competition which starts up on Sunday March 4, when the first three bands compete for the Opening slot in the September Blues Festival as a part of the Last Leg Rally event.

Advance Tickets for the event are 3 Day Pass $40, Friday Pass $10, Saturday Pass $25, Sunday Pass $15 and VIP $75. Tickets went on sale today on the Blues Festival website

Sean Costello was on his way to become a Blues Great

Blues Great Sean Costello Posthumous Album

Sean Costello was this amazing musical powerhouse

My friend Michael Rotschild dropped by several weeks ago with a compilation CD of an artist that once was one of his most promising prodigies; Sean Costello. Sadly he never made the real break through: Costello died of a drug overdose in April of 2008, just a day short of his 29th birthday.

That death, like so many others, cut short yet another brilliant musical career and a chance for many of us blues fans to see this wonderful talent alive on stage. I would have loved to see this guy headline our Blues Festival rather than listen to a wonderful but bittersweet rendition of “Can I Change my Mind” or the intergalactical guitar work on Johnny Guitar Watson’s “Motor Head Baby”. As it is, I bow my head for a talent of giant proportion, who’s life was cut short by a moment of desperation once beautifully phrased by Don McClean in his masterpiece Vincent (van Gogh’s Starry Night) that said: ‘But Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.’ Listening to Sean Costello I have the distinct feeling that these words were also meant for him.

Of course I had heard Michael talk about Sean Costello previously, but since I was only familiar with a guy named Elvis Costello, I never really had paid any attention to this young blues rocker. I knew he backed Susan Tedeschi on some of her work, but the moment I put on his posthumous Live CD that changed instantly, almost like the epiphany I had when I heard Hendrix play “Hey Joe” in 1968 or so. Nothing short of a lightning strike. In any case I have been listening and watching Sean Costello on probably every video I could find on youTube and have become a great admirer of his very distinctive style of playing his Gibson guitar and a voice that could gravel, growl and turn cotton field clear bluesy from one moment to the next.

Just sorry that I never heard of this magnificent talent until he already had departed this earth in a bi-polar momentary lapse of reason.

Sean Costello at Tipitinas in New Orleans

I asked Michael about that and as he shrugged he almost apologetically informed me that at the time of his death Sean was under contract with another recording company; as if wishing he could have prevented the unpreventable if Costello had stayed with Landslide. But Michael knows as well as I do (we’ve both been around the block a couple of times) that talents like Cobain, Winehouse, Hendrix, Janis, Lowell George, Costello and a couple of handful more burn so intense that only straight jackets and 24 hour attention can postpone the otherwise inevitable.
You can recognize it in Costello’s voice and guitar playing. When you remove the barriers, they simply don’t recognize nor care for abandonment or boundaries as they go for broke, they don’t care about structures and rhymes, they are just amazing instruments of the soul, ready to cut you up and deliver the blues message straight into your soul. And then it turns on them instead.

At His Best – Live, a special album of live performances features 16 tracks of all previously unreleased live material recorded in the US and Europe between 2000-2007. It is the long overdue first ever completely live album of Sean Costello performances, including 11 songs not on any prior Costello release. The album is produced by Fernandina Beach resident Michael Rothschild, owner of Landslide Records and was mastered by acclaimed producer/engineer Rodney Mills (Gregg Allman, Atlanta Rhythm Section).

On At His Best – Live, Costello demonstrates without a doubt why he was tagged as a blues artist of immense talent and potential at the age of 16, and how he continued to deliver on that promise up until his tragic death in April, 2008.

I thank Michael for At His Best – Live, because blues fans like me who never got to see Costello perform will hear what all the excitement was about; and for those fortunate enough to have experienced a Sean Costello show in-person, this CD will bring back vivid memories of the energy force that drew audiences from all over the world to this incredibly talented musician.

For more information go to: or to purchase click Here

Sean Costello: At His Best – Live – Track Listing
1.    Introduction
2.    San-Ho-Zay
3.    Blue Shadows
4.    T-Bone Boogie
5.    All Your Love
6.    I Get A Feeling
7.    Check It Out
8.    Can I Change My Mind
9.    You’re Killing My Love
10.    Reconsider Baby
11.    Doing My Own Thing
12.    The Hucklebuck
13.    Motor Head Baby
14.    Hold On This Time
15.    The Battle Is Over But The War Goes On
16.     Peace Of Mind
17.     Lucille

Blues Festival Committee Presents $5,000 Check to Baptist Medical Ctr. Nassau

Blues Committee hands Check to Baptist Hospital Officials

Not only was the first Amelia Island Blues Festival a success in terms of talent and organization – not one complaint was filed -, it also turned out to be a modest financial success after all the numbers were in. As a result The Festival Committee proudly presented a $5,000 check to the Baptist Medical Center Nassau on October 5, with enough left to serve as initial seed funding to announce a 3 day Festival for 2012.

Recipient of the check was outgoing Hospital President Jim Mayo (2nd from left), who after 17 years of serving in this position, is handing his duties and responsibilities coming December to incoming president Stephen Lee (3rd from left).

Featured in the picture from left to right are Police Chief Jim Hurley (Blues Society), Police Detective Marty Scott (Boardmember), Baptist Auxiliary President Stephanie Manwell, Rock Tenn Sponsor representative Tom Keenan, Blues Board Vice President Mike Zaffaroni (Fast Signs), Board President Jeff Malone (Hampton Inn at the Beach), Board Treasurer/Secretary Susan Hurley (Amelia Hotel at the Beach) and Publisher Boardmember/Webmaster Johan (Han) Ramakers.

Potential nominations for next year’s Festival beneficiaries are still in early stages but should also include Blues in School programs and instrument donations. The Blues Festival is a Florida 501 (c)3 not for profit corporation, and donates its profits to local and blues related charities. The board thanks all the sponsors, volunteers, performers and blues fans who came out and made the 1st Amelia Island Blues Festival a success. Anyone wanting to stay informed on the development for next year’s festival should subscribe to the Amelia Island Blues Festival website and for latest updates.

Picture by: Wilma Allen, Community Relations Specialist Baptist Nassau

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It’s Official: Amelia Island Bluesfest is a Keeper

Eddie Taylor Jr. Tribute to Willie "Big Eyes" Smith at Amelia Island Blues Fest

When Amelia Island Blues Festival headliner Albert Castiglia invited Veteran Blues musician Roger “Hurricane” Wilson from Atlanta and young guitar prodigy Conrad Oberg from Jacksonville on stage last Saturday night for an impromptu finale tribute jam to Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, who passed away last Friday, the first Amelia Island Blues Festival came to a thunder and lightning finish, that set the stage for next year’s event. As one comment on the youTube posted video claimed: “If you all didn’t hang out for the finale you missed the best part!!! Yes!!!! I would have spent the full price at 10:15pm just for that!!!!!! You must be a true fan to understand!!!!”

MC Blewzzman Pete of the inimitable blues and Indie music website, had earlier introduced the macabre joke alerting musicians to try and avoid being a headliner for the Amelia Island Blues Festival, but he admitted that this was just a way of grieving over the sad truth that Pinetop and Big Eyes have left us for good for that big blue(s) room in the sky, Joined at the Hip.

Friday night was headlined by Eddie Taylor Jr. fronting Willie Big Eyes Smith’s band and if it was any measure, they represented the Chicago Blues sound as if Willie and Pinetop were personally there in full ornate and the stage set up of  a keyboard and a stool with a microphone and harmonica were ready for them to step in.

The festival grounds were magnificently set up. Admittedly, the island had never seen a stage like the one used at the Blues Festival; the sound and lighting system was grand and all the performers were in agreement that this was the best organized festival this side of Atlanta. On several occasions even veteran Blewzzman Pete could hardly contain his excitement.

Friday Performances:

Our own Beech Street Blues Band opened up the Festival Friday afternoon and showed a quickly growing audience, that blues has found a solid following locally. Dan, Jay, Mike, Ronnie and driving force Jeff, who doubles as the festival president amazed the audience with their perfect renditions of famous blues tunes. Next up Julia Nikki Savage dedicated her set to dad Bill and she warmed the crowd to excitement with a perfect sultry hard driving execution of “Black Velvet” and “Misery”.

Atlanta’s Shuffle Junkies brought memories of two other Blues Greats, who have passed on, to the stage: Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix must have been pleased, sitting next to Pinetop and Willie in the VIP box. And when Conrad Oberg took the stage Friday night in his mixed piano/guitar set, the audience got a good earful of Pinetop’s particular way of playing the piano and realized once again that as the Blues Veterans are slowly leaving the stage, a new harvest of talented performers come in. It’s a natural progression and when Eddie Taylor Jr. did a moving tribute song to his friend and mentor Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, the first day of the event had brought a superb mix of traditional Chicago and Texas blues to Main Beach. The ever growing crowd was very appreciative and even though the fierce winds on occasion threatened to blow down a tent or umbrella and the clouds overhead raced from Northeast to Southwest at 30 mph, no drop of rain had fallen, while 20 miles to the south in Jacksonville, 10 inches had come down at the same time. The organizers were sure they had gotten some help up there.

Saturday Performances

Saturday started out much the same weather wise, which must have been a reason why, in spite of good advanced ticket sales, the Saturday crowd was slow coming. Somebody said, if the weather would have been like a couple of weeks ago, their would have been 10,000 people on the Festival grounds.

At 11 am sharp the Peck Ensemble delighted with a series of a capella gospel favorites that felt like Mississippi had just landed on Main Beach. What a way to start the day.

Next Prodigy Conrad Oberg and the Fernandina Beach High School Blues Selection turned up the energy with their renditions of Stevie Winwood’s “Gimme Some Loving and Ray Charles’ “Tell me what I’d Say”. Conrad, who has been blind from birth, quipped that this was really a Charles’ tribute, the blind to the blind.

And then the stage opened for Mississippi born Beth McKee and her fabulous band. McKee brought on guitar no less than legendary Phil Battaglia, producer of many hits and superstar discoveries (Shinedown, Mandy Moore etc.) She performed a wonderful selection of deep blues and bayou zydeco work on piano and the accordion, backed by an engine room of rare talent and tightness.

And then it was time for Blistur, usually a fulltime hard rock band, Blistur is an enormously gifted trio that can play about any style and genre. This afternoon however it was Blues and when Chris Kellam on lead tore up the stage in the early afternoon hours on Saturday, the entire crowd delivered appreciation with a standing ovation…and that is rarely seen on a festival.

Gainesville’ 6th Street Rhythm and Blues Review is a remarkable group of outstanding “second career” musicians, but when Dani “Boss Lady” Danielle deCosmo, takes the microphone, they become energized beyond the point of a spontaneous heart attack. I hadn’t heard Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High” in years; when it came it floored me like a tsunami. A perfect interpretation of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, with a voice that rose beautifully above it and delivered note for note.

Roger “Hurricane” Wilson brought the Shuffle Junkies back on stage to back him on some impressive blues guitar work. Like they say, the man can play. Exchanging leads with Roger Shepheard warmed up the late afternoon as a lead in to the evening’s magical finale.

But first one of the big surprises came in the transition break following the Hurricane’s set, when little 11 year old local diva Michaela Rowe, she prefers to be called “Layla Linn” (hey even 11 year olds have their preferences, some of which we adult s don’t get.) The girl has America’s Got Talent pipes and the range of a songbird. Just check out the video of one of her live performance during the festival.

Karl Davis and Friends, just back from a very successful trip to France, told me they were invited for next May’s Dublin Soul Festival in Ireland. Way to go  Karl Karl is just a marvelous blues and R&B entertainer with local Fernandina Beach roots. Every song on Karl’s repertoire is a blues story and he delivers like few others can. Witty, expressive and with an amazingly soulful voice.

Next one up was David Gerald, a growing blues force from Detroit, with roots in the Mississippi Delta. Gerald can sing Stevie Ray Vaughn blues better than Stevie Ray could and that is a surprise because Stevie Ray is white and David Gerald is black. In the Blues it’s called Cross Roads. David Gerald mesmerized the audience with originals and guitar heavy covers from some of the greatest blues musician’s of our times, without missing a lick. Better yet, he brings about the feeling that you just heard a title for the first time, yet you have ten different arrangements from different artists in your home library. Words is that after the show he tore up Sandy Bottom during the After Party.

Albert Castiglia came to Amelia Island a couple of years ago for a Nassau County Humane Society Fundraiser. Since then he has hit the big times with several awards and recognitions for his work. Great stage presence with lots of witty humor and a monster on lead and rhythm guitar. He has some speed rhythms in his right wrist that normal humans are completely incapable of and when he uses those moves to format leads, he challenges speedsters like Malmsteen, van Halen and even Bonamassa. So when he closed his set, which threatened to be rained out for a couple of minutes, by asking Hurricane Wilson and Conrad Oberg to join him for the final fireworks of this first Amelia Island Blues Festival, the organizers knew that history was in the making. Mark it on your calendars. Third weekend in September of 2012, the second edition of the Amelia Island Blues Festival. The Amelia Island Blues Festival is a Keeper!

Latest Blues News: Willie “Big Eyes” Ill, Replaced by Eddie Taylor Jr.

Eddie Taylor Jr. carrying the torch for the Chicago Blues

Eddie Taylor Jr. carryin the torch for the Chicago Blues at Amelia Isand Blues Fest

Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw and when the draw is seemingly against you, you sing the blues, pick up the pieces and make the best of it. In March we lost our Friday Night headliner for the Blues Festival when Pinetop Perkins, the 97 year Mississippi Delta Blues phenomenon who just a month earlier had accepted an Emmy Award passed away. In the time that followed we renegotiated with his life long side-kick Willie “Big Eyes” Smith’s management and agreed on the 75 year old Smith, a famous singer, harp player and original drummer for Muddy Waters to do a Pinetop tribute with the original band.

Not until late last night did we learn that Willie “Big Eyes” has been struggling with his health and unfortunately cannot make it to our Amelia IslandBlues festival and instead is sending his stand-in Eddie Taylor Jr. backed by most of the Muddy Waters Band. Of course at this late stage of the preparations, panic is not a good thing, so we decided to accept the core mission of the blues and to let the show go on and wish Willie “Big Eyes” Smith a quick recovery, and focus on Eddie Taylor Jr.

And that of course is where the internet and youTube become a wonderful source of current day information. Eddy Taylor Jr. is one of the musical offspring of postwar blues genius Eddy Taylor Sr., all of whose children are musicians of exceptional talent.

Eddie Taylor Sr., a Blues Hall of Famer (1987) was a founder of postwar Chicago blues and the genius behind the famous Jimmy Reed. His wife Vera Taylor, Eddie Taylor Jr’s mom was a legendary blues belter in the Chicago Blues Community.  When Eddie Sr. passed away in 1985, his red guitar, a Gibson 355 stereo, was left sitting in a corner of the house for quite a while.
Eddie Jr., the third son in the family, had grown up hearing blues, but his main interest at the time was the then prevalent hip-hop music. One day he started listening to his father’s records, picked up the guitar, hooked it up to the old Fender tube amp, and started teaching himself to play and sing.
Today, at 40 years old, Eddie Taylor Jr. is a leader in traditional Chicago blues.
“Most people who play the blues today don’t have the old original feel. I respect all the musicians, but there are certain musicians who give me that true feeling that I really want”, he says.

Eddie’s sophisticated playing allows him to bring back some old favorites and add his own new tunes. that are a bit too tricky for the average blues bar band to copy. Fans are sure to tap their toes when he belts out “Cut You Loose,” a Ricky Allen tune which was a favorite of his late mother Vera.

“I can sit in with a lot of different kinds of music,” says Eddie, “but when it’s my turn to stand up, I play what I play. I don’t know whether the person in front of me in the audience knows anything about Eddie Taylor Sr. or Jimmy Reed, or if they are a jazz fan or a classical fan looking to hear something different. But the music I play, I play like me. That’s the way I do it.”

A Taylor family band is one of Eddie’s dreams: “We’re proud of our heritage. We want to let the world know what we’re about. That’s all we’re trying to do-get a fair chance out of life, like everybody else.” Eddie Taylor Jr. fronts Willie’s Band as he has done on numerous occasions and Live you can really hear him stretch out on guitar. He has played with all the traditional blues greats and can often be found in Europe’s Blues Meccas playing to excited audiences.

Blues Festival Praises More than 50 Sponsors to help Make it Happen

Stages, Generators, fencing,sand bags; the festival grounds are coming together

Stages, Generators, fencing,sand bags; the festival grounds are coming together

Organizing a festival like the Blues or Jazz Festival, even though relatively small compared to the Annual Shrimpfestival with a 50 year history, is no small feat. It takes a core of committed people, a receptive community and lots of support, financially and in kind.
When we put down the first blue print for the Amelia Island Blues Festival, we knew we were going to have to take a couple of risks by contracting some headliners to build the festival around and attract other acts.
Headliners are booked a year in advance, sometimes longer. Agreeing on who, price and how to pay for it (or at least guarantee the deposit) is the first hurdle and that’s when you start the route of approaching potential sponsors.

The Amelia Island Blues Festival committee found sponsors with a vision who believed the island could use another festival to be build into an economic powerhouse over time. The Shrimp Festival already has a major multi million dollar impact on the local economy, as does the Concours d’Elegance. The Film and Book Festivals are turning the corner towards longevity and the Jazz Festival was taken from a regional to a national level a couple of years ago when Superstar David Sanborn was contracted. This year Buckwheat Zydeco, another topnotch worldfamous act does the honors of headlining the Jazz Festival.

When the 5 people Committee put the plans on various tables, the first donations and sponsorships came about quickly, and that makes this island such an amazing place to live and work. And believe me I lived on more than a handful of islands that depend on tourism, but getting sponsors for a long term promotion, is tough. The TDC, Tourism Development Council, stepped in to carry the initial financial needs and from there on the train left the station.
The initial team consisting of Susan Hurley, Marty Scott, Jeff Barksdale, Jeff Malone and Han Ramakers had a lot of the talent, experience, connections and disciplines of marketing and promotions inhouse, and when Mike Zaffaroni of Fast Signs joined in a bit later, together with organizational powerhouses Sandy Price and Brenda Savage, we were off to a promising start.

Sponsors believed in the team and the effort and that is what this blog is all about: sponsors who believe in and support the local community, because they know that in the end it’s all about our combined quality of life on this little island.
Early sponsors allowed us to put deposits down for artists and research price and quality options for stages, sound, lighting, fencing, power, advertising, marketing etc. etc.

This is about honoring all those sponsors, big and small, who made it possible for us, to carry the torch and put the first annual Amelia Island Blues Festival on the board.
Blues Festival Sponsors
The picture of the sponsor list is actually missing a few contributors such as bead weaver Teresa Caine, who will have a vendor booth on the grounds, or Island Buggies, or Vic Garvin from Amelia Island Transportation. Other business were smart to take a banner position on the festival fence in exchange for a small contribution. First time festivals are a blast in my experience, because they require maximum creativity, smart negotiating and a lot of elbow grease, to offset the initial lack of financial means. This one created a close knit core of Blues lovers, proud that the end of a long ride is in sight. The grounds are ready, the artists are confirmed and en route, the power is hooked up, the beer and barbecue is put cold, the weather…oh who cares about the weather as long as it’s warm – we got plenty of tent cover in case a shower comes close; …now it’s up to the people to make the Blues Fest an event to remember.

As we are finishing the grounds at Main Beach for the festival with booths, stages, fences, restrooms, foods and drinks, we thank our Sponsors profoundly for believing in us and our community. YOU’RE THE BOMB!

Amelia Island Blues Fest Grounds PrepAmelia Island Blues Fest Grounds PrepAmelia Island Blues Fest Grounds Prep

SearchAmelia Has Announced Winner of VIP Package

SearchAmelia Has Announced Winner of VIP Package

VIP Winner Larry Davis and Judie Mackie of SearchAmelia

SearchAmelia is proud to announce our winner for the Amelia Island Blues Festival VIP package… (drum roll, please) and the winner is Larry Davis!

Local resident, Larry Davis, was thrilled to hear the news! “I am so excited!” He exclaimed. Actually, he had to rearrange some weekend plans to take full advantage of the prize package.

Larry will receive 2 VIP tickets for the two day music festival that begins Friday afternoon on September 16, 2011. He will also receive 2 t-shirts, 2 personalized coffee mugs, an autographed poster, VIP seating with bar service and a meet and greet with some of the bands!

Congratulations Larry!

Make sure you enter our next giveaway on SearchAmelia… you just may be the winner!

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Amelia Island Blues Festival Grounds Map

The Blues Fest is about to Start

Are you ready for the last big Summer Bash of the Season? The attached map and information will make it easy for you to fully enjoy the Amelia Island Blues Festival that starts this Friday, September 16, coincidentally the Birthdate of one of the greatest blues musicians that came out of the Blues’s homestate of Mississippi, “Blues Boy” B.B. King, at 3:35pm when the Beech Street Blues Band will kick off two days of blues and bbq in the last Big Summer Beach Bash of the year.

Here is what you need to know:

The Weather Forecast looks promising for this weekend’s Amelia Island Blues Festival. Sunny and warm like a North Florida September day is supposed to be. We’re talking Blues here people; it is supposed to be slightly sweaty. The fact that the festival grounds are smack adjacent to the beach on Main Beach will keep the temperatures down a bit, while the organizers are providing a lot of tent cover space to take in the myriad of attractions.

Parking and Transportation

Parking in the area is free, so that means first come first serve. There is however a constant shuttle service between the Schoolboard Grassy Area Parking Grounds across from Central Park on Atlantic Ave. to the entrance of the Festival Grounds. Charge is $10 per vehicle r/t no matter how many people are in the vehicle. This service is provided by Amelia Island Transportation.

The Detailed Festival Floorplan

(click on plan to enlarge)

Amelia Island Blues Festival Grounds

Festival Etiquette

The Amelia Island Blues Festival committee encourages everyone to have a wonderful musical experience at our inaugural event. Here are a few tips about what to expect might make the event more memorable and help to get this new tradition off to a good start.
• Bring a comfortable beach chair and mark it with your name or other identifier.
• Load and unload your chairs and bags at the designated zone near the main entrance before parking your vehicle or
• Ride your bike to the event and lock it to a fence
• Use the provided transportation to get to the festival. Festival parking will be the grassy area at School Board Lot (across the street from Central Park) ($10.00 per vehicle)
• Adults should remember that this event provides many hours of national musical talent, so pace yourself and drink responsibly. Beer, Wine and Sodas will be for sale at the Palace Saloon Pavilion
• Take a cool break at the beach. Festival patrons will be permitted to leave the gated festival area and return as often as they like
• Use of nuisance items such as silly string, poppers, or water guns is prohibited
• The Fernandina Beach Police Department will be on-site and will enforce all applicable laws and ordinances
• Only certified service animals are permitted within the festival area
• No bikes will be allowed within the festival area
• Only authorized vendors and performers, including mascots and costumed characters, will be permitted within the festival area
• In accordance with City of Fernandina Beach Code of Ordinances, Section 58-9 and Land Development Code 7.01.05, overnight parking of RV vehicles is prohibited on City streets and public right of ways
• No personal music or loudspeakers will be allowed within the festival area
• No distribution of literature will be allowed, nor will billboards or sandwich signs be allowed within the festival area
• The Food Court will have ample garbage collection bins. Please make proper use of them.
• Please respect the VIP areas

What else to expect.

Tickets bought via the website will be available at WILLCALL booth at entrance to the festival. ID is of course required.
Festivals are typically long days with lots of activities. The official festival music line up on our giant stage will require 20 minute transitions for equipment set up and preparation between acts. Those breaks will give local area performers the opportunity to perform on the acoustic stage, managed by Jeff Barksdale of Big O Productions and Jerry Lee of Jerry Lee’s Music Emporium in St.Marys, Georgia.
There is a Kid’s Playground with Bouncers, local Petanque America has set up two courts for anyone who likes to play with Balls of Steel, KBay Radio will broadcast Live from the Festival and last but not Least, the Committee decided last night that considering the impressive local Sponsor participation in this first time event, the admission will not be raised at the gate. So day passes are $15 p/p and $25 for a two day pass.
There is an ATM machine available on the Festival grounds for your convenience. (Hard to hide your wad of cash in a Speedo!)
Oh and Sonny’s BBQ is bringing out the SMOKER, so prepare yourselves for two days of Blues, Beer and BBQ.

Ticket Outlets

Amelia Island

• 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
• Fast Signs on 14th St. near Sadler• 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 on Sadler


• Club 14 in the Winn Dixie Shopping Plaza, Yulee
• Murray’s Grille on A1A in Yulee

St.Marys, Georgia

• Jerry Lee’s Music Emporium and Recording Studio – 101 St. Patrick’s St, St. Marys, GA 31558 – Phone 912 576 4401

Don’t Miss Beth McKee at Noon on Saturday

Beth McKee Saturday at noon at the AI Blues Festival

Listening to a mix of Jackson Mississippi born Beth McKee’s songs is a lot like getting an exclusive guided tour through the music genres of the South over the last 100 years or so. Long before her career took off nationally, she played piano in church, like a proper southern girl. She solidified her southern belle status at Ole Miss and then…. 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, where in the early 1990’s McKee became a member of the all female band Evangeline, under contract with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Records.

After a couple of albums the band broke up however and she moved with her husband/drummer Juan to Orlando. Tired of the years of constant touring, the couple found a thriving music scene in Orlando, largely fueled by the employment of musicians from around the globe at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center. In this environment they were happy with the ever widening reputation as Central Florida’s only New Orleans style band.

It was not until 2008 when she took on the task to immortalize Bobby Charles, the reclusive southwest Louisiana writer of “See You Later Alligator” and “Walking to New Orleans” and recorded an album of great Cajun moods.

Listening to McKee invites you to daydreaming about Dr. John (I live on a lonely avenue) 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, then just imagine southern belle, deep southern roots music with elements of rock, blues, soul, gospel, zydeco and country, delivered on piano or accordion to accompany her supple and reaching voice. That about sums it up.
L.A. Weekly raved that Beth’s piano is “worthy of some Jerry Lee Lewis arson.”

Bobby Charles, reportedly not much of a people person, said Beth McKee is “one talented lady with a great band” and characterized her voice as “easy on my mind.”  He recruited McKee to sing on “You’ll Always Live Inside of Me” from “Timeless,” his final, posthumous album and she subsequently took part in a Charles tribute at the Cabildo during the 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2010.
McKee’s foray into the inimitable material of this bayou balladeer turns from an intimidating exercise to a license to be righteous as she has been gigging in support of the record.
In a letter from Mr. Charles shortly before his passing in January 2010, he thanks McKee for “making me feel so proud… doing my songs on your new CD.”

“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.”

What the Media Wrote

• Louisiana’s arts weekly Offbeat Magazine agreed by writing; “And it’s the absolute right approach for material from the Bard of the Bayous, Guru of the Gulf, Sage of the Swamps.”

• 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.” ( I do wonder if she has “Love me Like a Man” in her repertoire…?)

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.

McKee has nearly finished a new CD of compositions that evoke Bonnie Raitt and Marcia Ball; a CD with original songs of journeys, love, loss, hope and being on the verge… all wrapped in McKee’s sassy southern styles. In anticipation of a late-summer release, she, Perez, bassist Dan Walters and guitarist Brian Chodorcoff are touring in ever-expanding concentric circles throughout the Southeast.

And this Saturday afternoon at 12:15 Beth McKee and her band will take the Main Stage at the Amelia Island Blues Festival for a 75 minute performance you don’t want to miss.
Don’t make the mistake and think that early acts are ‘just’ warm-ups. If we would have known of her availability earlier in the year, she would have taken an evening spot. It only underscores however that every minute at the first Amelia Island Blues Festival will be one to cherish.

If you don’t believe me than watch this video of an 11 year old local girl who just two days ago asked if we would have a slot for her at the Festival. And yes we have a slot for her at the Rayonier Acoustic Stage, because she just may score huge at an upcoming America’s Got Talent.

You can still order Tickets via the website or purchase them at any of the following Ticket Outlets. VIP Tickets however are Sold Out.

Amelia Island

• 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

• Fast Signs on 14th St. near Sadler• 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 on Sadler


• Club 14 in the Winn Dixie Shopping Plaza, Yulee

• Murray’s Grille on A1A in Yulee

St.Marys, Georgia

• Jerry Lee’s Music Emporium and Recording Studio – 101 St. Patrick’s St, St. Marys, GA 31558 – Phone 912 576 4401

Beech Street Blues Band Opens Blues Festival at 3:45pm Friday

Beech Street Blues Band

Beech Street Blues Band opens Amelia Island Blues Fest

Locally they are known as Jeff Malone, Mike Hawthorne, Dan Voll, Ronnie Stoots and Jay McPherson. The Beech Street Blues Band started out as a concoction of seasoned “local” musicians, shortly after the initiative to organize an Amelia Island Blues Festival was launched last year. It was all purely by accident that Jeff Malone, with a part time professional history on the drums, had just returned to the island after career years in Knoxville and Atlanta. He got together with Dan Voll, a 30 year career musician and guitar teacher, who only months before had exchanged the cold of the midwest for the temperate breezes of a North Florida barrier island. Voll is the only full time musician in the band, and his career moves from Chicago to Los Angles and now to Florida. His virtuosity and diversity in mastering many styles makes him the natural gravitation for the band. Lastly Malone asked Mike Hawthorne to join on bass and the first trio (without a name) was formed during last year’s international Pétanque America Tournament in the middle of November.

But this chance encounter felt absolutely natural between the three and the Beech Street Blues Band was born. Dan and Mike possess great voices besides instrumental skills and a blues repertoire was quickly put together, soon followed by regular gigs in the area.
When Ronnie Stoots on keyboard was added earlier this year, the band had a complete new voice that featured country blues and than several months ago, Jay McPherson came to round out the band with a very distinct Allman Brothers feel, both on guitar and overall sound.

On the Labor Day edition of Sounds on Centre in historic Fernandina, the Beech Street Blues Band’s latest reincarnation impressed the audience of some 1,500 locals and tourists with their sound and songlist and when local celebrity Felix Jones climbed the stage for a harmonica rendition, the applause lasted for minutes.

The Beech Street Blues Band will kick off the Amelia Island Blues Festival on Friday, Sept. 16 at 3:45pm. Get your tickets NOW on the website or from any of the following ticket outlets:

Amelia Island

• 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
• Fast Signs on 14th St. near Sadler• 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 on Sadler


• Club 14 in the Winn Dixie Shopping Plaza, Yulee
• Murray’s Grille on A1A in Yulee

St.Marys, Georgia

• Jerry Lee’s Music Emporium and Recording Studio – 101 St. Patrick’s St, St. Marys, GA 31558 – Phone 912 576 4401

Blues in School – FBHS – with Conrad Oberg [VIDEO]

Conrad Oberg with Blues in Scholl at Fernandian Beach High School

Walking into the Blues in School final rehearsal of the Fernandina High School Band members backing prodigy Conrad Oberg, was kind of a test for me to find out what to expect from their Saturday morning Blues Festival act coming week.

Well I was blown away, literally. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but low expectations usually help me getting around disappointments. No need in this case however. What a well trimmed horn section can do to a Stevie Winwood oldie such as “Gimme Some Loving” is amazing. Inspired by Music teacher Rob, 15 students were there to build a big sound behind Conrad Oberg and it sounded great.

Conrad’s dad and manager Michael told me that his son had a huge smile on his face when the brass section opened up behind him. ” He loves that big sound”, he said. The choice of  Gimme Some Loving, Winwood did this at age 17 when he fronted the Spencer Davis Group in the UK, is clearly fed by Band Director Robinson’s love for brass instruments.

Now I’m not going to spill the beans on their set list, but I can tell you you’re going to love it. Band director Johnnie Robinson did an amazing job in the short time that the students started up school year. Of course 24 years of teaching and many awards later, Robinson, knows how to emphasize and motivate his flock especially when it involves his own specialty of the saxophone.

Blues in the Schools is an educational program that originated in 1999 in the Canadian city of Ottawa and was created to promote, preserve, and perpetuate the art, culture, and heritage of blues music and to examine the music’s influence on other genres. These days Cisco sponsored Ottawa Bluesfest brings artists/educators to town and pairs them with local musicians for a two-week residency in area schools. As we gain recognition over the years as the Amelia Island Blues Festival, we may want to expand on those ideas. The Annual Ottawa Blues Fest is a 12 day event, compared to our 2 day festival, so we have some room to grow.

Conrad Oberg and the FBHS Band will take the stage coming Saturday at the first Amelia Island Blues Festival at 11:30 in the morning.

Get your tickets now, while they’re still $15 for one day and $25 for two days. The price goes up at the gate.

Final Line Up Schedule

Gainesville’s 6th Street Rhythm and Blues Review at Festival

Gainesville's 6th Street R&B Review at Amelia Island Blues Fest

Gainesville's 6th Street R&B Review at Amelia Island Blues Fest

One of the acts I really was looking forward to seeing at the Amelia Island Blue Festival was Gainesville’s 6th Street Rhythm and Blues Review. This band has some guys that actually make me look young, and until recently were fronted by a young woman who carried the nickname “Boss Lady”.

Unfortunately, Boss Lady Danielle deCosmo left the Review in early June to pursue a career in Los Angeles and was replaced by Deby Starr Barth, while Tony Gray left to be replaced by Joe Loper on bass. Normally Festival organizers would get a bit nervous if an act looses its vocalist shortly before the show, but in the case of the 6th Street Rhythm and Blues Review, there were no worries as the band is built around the solid core of 5 lifelong musicians who formed the Review in 2006. But having to replace your main attraction in a revolving door is a bit how John Mayall felt in the sixties when his Blues Breakers where kind of a halfway house for later guitar giants like Clapton, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, John McVie, Jack Bruce and later Coco Montoya and Walter Trout

But the 5 musicians at the core of the Review set out to develop a musical identity reminiscent of the horn-driven Rhythm and Blues and “Jump Blues” bands of the late 1940’s and 1950’s. With Bill Barnard on guitar, Steve Hart and Steve Bingham on sax, Eric Bingham on drums and Brad Bangstad on the keys, the Review is by their own admission strongly influenced by Louis Jordan, Louie Prima, Professor Longhair, Ruth Brown, and “Roomful of Blues”. The band favors happy uptempo New Orleans and Chicago-flavored songs ala Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows, Toni Lynn Washington and the Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings. To add to the New Orleans flavor, you will enjoy butt-rockin’, dueling saxophones, so deeply anchored in “Big Easy” blues bands.

Completing this core is now Deby Starr Hart, who with her attention- getting combination of a sultry voice and striking stage presence…strongly reminds of a blond Marcia Ball. Her early musical influences were ArethaFranklin, Bonnie Raitt, The Motels, Led Zeppelin and The Pretenders, but as true artists do, she has developed her own musical style that will remind you of Julie London and Janis Joplin. In addition to being a dynamite blues singer, she is able to transition between, and has mastered, material in other musical genres, including jazz, soul, R&B, rock and country.  She is recognized by her musical peers as one of the most gifted female singers in Florida. Her resume’ includes performing with “Class X” where she followed Charlie Hargett ( who founded and went on tour with “Blackfoot”). Other North Florida bands where she honed her “chops” and left a remarkable trail, were RedEye, The Fabulous Comatones, and Crisis the Band.

Now there are people out there that may not have any inclination of how much Gainesville, Florida has contributed to the US Music scene over the years, beyond Tom Petty and half of the original Eagles that is, but in order to stand out in Gator Town’s music scene, you have to be special. And when local music sources call the additions of Deby Starr Barth and Joe Loper to the 6th Street Rhythm and Blues Review hitting the Mother Lode, than my ears pitch, my heart rate goes up a notch and I pay attention.

I suggest you do the same and Get your tickets now. The 6th Street Rhythm and Blues Review goes on stage from 3:30 – 4:30 on Saturday the 17th on Main Beach Amelia Island.

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