Amelia Island Blues Fest offered Great Talent

Curtis Salgado

Headliner Curtis Salgado. Photo by Helmut Albrecht

The 2014 Amelia Island Blues Fest last weekend had everything going for it. The weather stayed bluesy warm with beautiful sunsets, the beer and bbq was excellent, the crowds were ample and relaxed and the blues was magnificent.

On Friday evening Festival veteran Roger “Hurricane” Wilson from Atlanta started the show off with our local high school blues band, followed by  The Mojo Roots who had traveled all the way down from Ohio to introduce us to their mix of soulful Jonny Lang inspired blues. Quite an eye opener.

On Saturday the show opened around noon with no one less than Ben Prestage’s One Man Band. Absolutely amazing to see one man coordinate all his limbs to produce music and rhythm of superb quality, while his mind independently produces lyrics and vocals of an Americana lifestyle, many of us have lost and forgotten. Especially liked the closing of his set when he introduced his band. Very witty.

When the following act set up its equipment I got intrigued by the Amp combination of a Marshall, an Avatar AND a Fender amp for the lead guitar of young Matthew Curry. Tell you honestly, the kid blew me away once he got his bearings and the blues. Great guitar player and blues voice beyond his years. Since the inception of the first Blues Festival in 2011, we kind of followed the recipe of having a young and upcoming talent and at least one female blues performer in the line-up. This year once again proved that to be a great formula with Matthew Curry and Samantha Fish.

DSC_0581Another greatly appreciated decision was to bring the Festival back to Main Beach: Great ocean breezes, more relaxed setting, ample parking, nice collection of vendors and food suppliers.

Next in the line up was Bernard Allison, late Luther Allison’s son, who knows his way around “his daddy’s” guitar. Great show! Luther was followed by earlier mentioned Samantha Fish and her trio, also from the Ohio area. Comparisons with last year’s phenom performer Anna Popovic were inevitable. Samantha’s blues belting was a notch up, while her guitar playing was a notch down, but that could have been her pedal settings, which were a bit to harsh. Beautiful and original guitars however.

Moving on we were treated by the beautiful haunting sounds of Chicago blues veteran John Primer whose show was solid and introspective. And words cannot really describe the sounds and emotions coming from headliner act Curtis Salgado in the beautiful setting sun. Soulful, entertaining, professional, flawless, engaging; those are just words trying to give an impression. You had to be there to get the overwhelming experience of great blues on the ocean.

See you next year.


Amelia Island Blues Festival September 12-13

Amelia Island Blues Festival September 12-13
The fourth annual Amelia Island Blues Festival will return back to the ocean breezes of Main Beach. Friday night will feature the Fernandina Beach High School “Blues in School Band” under the direction of Johnny Robinson and Roger “Hurricane” Wilson, followed by The Mojo Roots.

On Saturday, the festival will continue with performances from a variety of artists, including headliners Curtis Salgado, John Primer, Samantha Fish, Bernard Allison, Ben Prestage and more.

For a full line-up of entertainment and to purchase tickets, visit or call 404-784-7687.

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2014 Amelia Island Blues Festival Returns to Main Beach

2014 Amelia Island Blues Festival Returns to Main BeachThe 2014 Amelia Island Blues Festival is returning to Main Beach this year, September 12th and 13th!

Want to get a discount on your ticket admission fee, or the opportunity to win a guitar? Simply bring a donation to Barnabas Food Pantry on Friday the 12th and you will receive $5.00 off of the gate price.

Bring a non-perishable food donation on Saturday and you will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win an artist signed guitar.

Here is the lineup:
Friday, September 12th, 2014
6:00 – 6:20 Blues In School Band with Roger”Hurricane” Wilson
6:30 – 8:00 The Mojo Roots

12:00 Gates open
12:15 – 1:15 Ben Prestage (Off stage, 40×40 tent one hour “History of the Blues” set and 15 min. between acts)
1:15 – 2:15 Matthew Curry Band, 18 yr. old guitar prodigy
2:35 – 3:30 Bernard Allison
3:50 – 5:00 Samantha Fish
5:20 – 6:30 John Primer
6:50 – 8:00 Curtis Salgado

Ticket Prices Friday
Presale $5.00
Gate $10.00 or $5.00 with food donation to Barnabas Food Bank

Ticket Prices Saturday
Presale $20.00
Gate $25.00

2 Day Pass
Presale $25.00
Gate $30.00

VIP (2 Day only)

Tickets can be purchased in advance by CLICKING HERE.

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2014 Amelia Island Blues Festival

2014 Amelia Island Blues FestivalThe sounds of the Blues will return to Amelia Island on Friday and Saturday, September 12th and 13th, 2014 with the 4th Annual Amelia Island Blues Festival.

Returning to Main Beach on Amelia Island, Florida, the 2014 Amelia Island Blues Festival will feature a melting pot of Chicago Blues, Mississippi Delta Blues and Blues/Rock artists.

This event is for all ages.

Visit for more information and photos from last years event and please like ’em on facebook.

Tickets go on sale May 1st, 2014.

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Third Amelia Island Blues Festival This Weekend

The 3rd Annual Amelia Island Blues Festival (AIBF) is only two days away and promises to deliver another powerful line-up of top tier talent for local fans of the blues.  Back by popular demand, our Master of Ceremonies will be Roger “Hurricane” Wilson from Kennesaw near Atlanta, will also be performing on Friday, September 13th with our very own Blues in Schools Band, under the direction of local band leader Johnny Robinson.

The event kicks off at 6:00 PM on Friday night at Centre Street near the Palace Saloon, and is highlighted by the return of noted bluesman Albert Castiglia in a “Sounds on Centre” free admission format.  Castiglia was riding the high of his No. 1 CD at this time last year and he appears to be gaining in popularity worldwide. Even though the Friday event is FREE, the organizers request that you bring some food items (canned or boxed) for the Barnabas Foodbank. Their truck will be parked next to the stage near the Palace Saloon. “It has been a pleasure to work with Barnabas as one of our benefactors this year and the committee  looks forward to a long term partnership with this worthy cause,” says Festival President, Jeff Malone. Music will be played from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. Roger “Hurricane” Wilson and the “Blues In School Band” will open the evening, followed by Albert Castigilia. Afterwards, Albert and his band will also host a After Festival Jam starting at 10:30 at the Palace Saloon, one of the festival’s major sponsors.

Saturday Blues

Stepping away from Main Beach, this year the organizers have chosen for the more intimate location on the downtown river front, where the boat trailer parking meets the Pétanque Courts; Very much in line with this year’s artist line up. The buzz surrounding the Saturday line-up has focused on some legendary names, as B.B. King’s youngest daughter Claudette opening the event.  The event closer is Mud Morganfield, the oldest son of blues icon Muddy Waters. If the wind kicks up folks might actually think they are in Chicago!

Blues Festival Line Up

Blues enthusiasts certainly don’t want to miss these two outstanding performers and will be grateful that both had the talent and decided to carry on the family business of traditional blues.  Also a part of the strong musical line-up, Zac Harmon and Ana Popovic are both proven crowd pleasers.
Possibly the biggest surprise of the year may well be the sensational John Németh, who has been exciting crowds around the world with his strong voice and intense harmonica work. John Németh is a rising blues star; a singer steeped in the tradition and reminiscent of the greats. His decade long career has found him opening for Robert Cray, Keb Mo’, and Earl Thomas. Performing major music festivals around the United States, Europe, Canada and Asia has brought him critical acclaim.  He is currently up for five major blues awards and he has been one of the most sought after blues performers at festivals all across the country.  He is cradled right in the middle of the line-up to climb the stage at 2:15 PM.  You definitely want to get set up in time to see this terrific performer.
“I remember telling friends up North in ’80 that they should go see Stevie Ray Vaughan, but they weren’t impressed because he wasn’t famous yet. It will give me great pleasure to say, ‘I told you so!’ about John Németh. You’ll see.”
Bob Margolin, Blues Revue Magazine
“Either John Németh is one of the greatest vocalists in the world or this was the best performance of his life, or both.”  Bob Horn, Washington Blues Society
“Hands down the toughest young harp player I’ve ever heard.”
R.J. Mischo
“Boy! John Németh can really belt it out!”
Charlie Musslewhite
“John Németh’s voice is a national treasure.”
Junior Watson

The Amelia Island Blues Festival has brought a tremendous amount of talent to the island during its short history, to include Shemekia Copeland, Albert Castiglia, Sean Chambers, Shane Dwight, J.P. Soars, the Nouveaux Honkies, Flannel Church, and Beth McKee.  The list just got longer and the festival just moved up a notch in musical credibility.

Tickets are on sale now by visiting the festival website at and clicking on TicketBud until Friday at midnight.  The Friday night performances are free, while the Saturday event at the waterfront is $20 in advance and $25 at the door.   VIP tickets are available for $50.

The gates open at 11am and the festival closes at 8pm, followed by a After Festival Blues Jam at Sheffield’s starting at 10:30pm , with Roger Hurricane Wilson and the Shuffle Junkies as hosts, while all the artists have been asked to join in.

The 2013 Amelia Island Blues Festival Line Up

2013 Amelia Island Blues Festival Logo

2013 Amelia Island Blues Festival Logo

After a good bit of soul searching and feedback from other festival locations after last year’s 3 day event on Main Beach, the Amelia Island Blues Festival Committee decided to move the event to downtown, bring it back to 2 days (actually one evening and one day) and tie it closer to the community, restaurateurs and establishments with live music in town. This has created the following tentative schedule and line-up, which admittedly features an epic melting pot of Chicago Blues, Mississippi Delta Blues and Blues Rock/Funk.

The event is planned for September 13 and 14 with a free show line up for Friday the 13th???, when the Fernandina Beach High School Blues Band with Roger “Hurricane” Wilson will open up for blues master Albert Castiglia at 6pm. The stage will be set up on Centre Street as on a regular Sounds on Centre Event.

Then on Saturday the 14th, the Festival will continue on the Riverfront Parking area, starting at 11am.
Here is the schedule and line up as confirmed by the committee:

10:30 – Gates open to VIP and Sponsors only

11:00  – Gates open to general public

11:15  –  12:00 Karl Davis Band

12:15  –  1:00   Josh Miller Band

1:15  –  2:00  Roger Hurricane Wilson w/ Shuffle Junkies

2:15  –  3:30  John Nemeth Band

Here is John with his band on a Blues Cruise with “Love Gone Crazy”.

3:45  –  5:00  Zac Harmon
Zac Harmon during the famous 2011 Blues Cruise

5:15  –  6:30  Ana Popovic
Emerging blues rocker born in Belgrade and currently living in Amsterdam Ana lets it loose in this funky blues “Can you stand the Heat” from her album with the same title out in April.

6:45 – 8:00 Mud Morganfield
Muddy Waters’ son keeping the Chicago blues alive.

Advance tickets for Saturday are $20 p/p and will be available on the festival website starting March 15 – as will be VIP tickets.

Thoughts by Blues Festival Emcee, Roger “Hurricane” Wilson

Thoughts by Blues Festival Emcee, Roger "Hurricane" WilsonWritten by: Roger “Hurricane” Wilson

This is going to be fun this week at the Amelia Island Blues Festival. Check out Roger “Hurricane” Wilson performing Minnie the Moocher with the Fernandina Beach High School Jazz Band. They take the stage at Noon on Saturday!

This is also a bittersweet anniversary commemorating the death of Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, 1 year ago this weekend, the same day he was supposed to have headlined this festival.

“We miss Willie dearly!”

The new CD, Live Blues Protected by Smith & Wilson, featuring the Late Grammy Winner, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith & Roger “Hurricane” Wilson, recorded live in Harrisburg, PA, is here!

There will be many copies of the new CD avalable at the festival, along with a copy of last years festival newspaper insert featuring Willie’s show he never gave, given away with each CD.

You can also order your copy now along with a color photo of that performance for $20.00 via Paypal to

Read the whole story on how this project evolved here:

Check out one of the tracks here:

This is not just another CD, but an actual piece of Blues music history. 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.

Please join the Blues Foundation at and vote for the next Blues Music Awards.

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Amelia Island Has the Blues

Amelia Island Has the BluesFernandina Beach, FL – On September 14, 15 and 16, Amelia Island gets the blues! Amelia Island Blues Festival, that is, celebrating its second year of smokin’ good music, held at Main Beach Park in Fernandina Beach, Florida. With the Atlantic Ocean as its backdrop, the festival is offering up an end-of-summer party that rivals last year’s event, expanding the blues from two to three days, and featuring a line-up of spectacular local and nationally acclaimed artists.

The festival kicks off on Friday night, September 14th at 5 p.m., with Mojo Chillen from Jacksonville, and Fernandina Beach’s own Beech Street Blues Band, followed by headliners Flannel Church with Duane Trucks, and headliner Shane Dwight.

On Saturday, concerts begin at Noon, featuring an array of spectacular musicians, with headliners Sean Chambers, Albert Castiglia, and “Queen of the Blues” Shemekia Copeland. Chambers’ brand of blues is a no-frills blend of Chicago, Texas, and Delta styles, played with an understated sense of ferocity. Castiglia, whose latest album, Living the Dream, was released this summer, is a favorite high-energy performer at blues festivals across the country. Copeland’s passion for singing, matched with her huge, blast-furnace voice, gives her music a timeless power and a heart-pounding urgency. Aptly named “Queen of the Blues,” Copeland began her career singing at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club when she was just eight years old.

Sunday’s concerts kick off with Kim Reteguiz and the Black Cat Bones, from Jacksonville, winner of the Battle of the Blues competition, held earlier in the year during the Last Leg Rally. Reteguiz is known regionally as a vocal powerhouse with a dynamic vocal range and stage performance. Detroit’s David Gerald returns to the Amelia Island Blues Festival this year as the Sunday headliner, after last year’s eye-popping performance. Gerald’s blues have been receiving widespread radio play, along with recognition in the blues community, and was listed as Number One on the ReverbNation blues charts for Michigan Blues artists.

Other talented artists that concert-goers can expect to enjoy during the three days of blues on the beach include young super star Alex Ivanov, Roger “Hurricane” Wilson, The Nouveaux Honkies, J.P Soars and the Red Hots, Bill Sheffield, Blistur, Beth McKee, and the local Blues in Schools Band.

In addition to the music, The Amelia Island Museum of History has launched a new exhibit, “History of the Blues,” that 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 will be on display until September 30, 2012.

The Amelia Island Blues Festival Committee and Board of Directors have worked all year promoting the festival and enlisting volunteers and sponsors. Jeff Malone, president of the festival and Amelia Island Blues Society, encourages concert-goers to take advantage of the many packages that the three day festival has to offer. “One thing we try to do is to keep the prices low, so everyone has an opportunity to come to the festival,” says Malone. “We offer a three day pass, daily passes, and a VIP special seating pass. Our fantastic vendors are offering food, drinks, and shopping, to make your Blues Festival experience the best. With a little sand and surf, and a collection of the some of the best blues around, it’s sure to be a great weekend!”

This year the festival is sponsored by RockTenn, our Number One supporter. So far, the festival has raised enough proceeds to purchase a six-passenger shuttle for Baptist Medical Center Nassau, used to assist and transport individuals on their fast-growing hospital campus in Fernandina Beach. The festival organizers will also be donating music instruments to local middle school children.

For more information about artists or to purchase tickets, visit our website at

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Roger “Hurricane” Wilson, Living the Blues

Hurricane Wilson and Les Paul

The Amelia Island Blues Festival is bringing noted blues guitarist Roger “Hurricane” Wilson back to Main Beach; and this time Roger will act as Master of Ceremonies for the entire festival weekend.  Roger’s long and storied musical career provides him with a unique perspective and practical insight into the blues.  The great bluesman Hubert Sumlin said of Roger, “this boy knows what he’s doing,” and worldfamous guitar innovator Les Paul remarked that Roger “plays some great blues.”

In addition, Roger will bring his much heralded “Blues in School” program to the 2012 AIBF.  Students from Fernandina Beach High School, led by music teacher John Robinson, will again open the Saturday morning blues festival at Main Beach and will be joined by Roger for at least three classic blues songs, all designed to help keep the blues alive by introducing the genre to the next generation of musicians.

Taking his famous moniker from Hurricane Donna, which devastated his New Jersey hometown in 1960, as well as from his raucous blues renditions, Roger “Hurricane” Wilson has played with many of the greats, including B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Little Milton, John Mayall, and Savoy Brown, to name just a few.

Roger’s latest CD release is the much anticipated live recording performed with the Shufflejunkies at the 2011 Amelia Island Blues Festival.  Also in the works, a compilation of recordings with the legendary Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, due for release this summer.

For those that wish to become more familiar with Roger’s music, check out his first two CD’s for Hottrax Records, “Hurricane Blues,” released in 1994 and “Live from the Eye of the Storm,” released in 1996.  Both received airplay on well over 100 stations across the U.S.  In 1997 Roger decided that it was time to step up to the next level, forming his own record company, Blue Storm Records. This venture gave rise to the third CD, “The Business of The Blues.” The fourth CD is called “Live at the Stanhope House,” recorded at that legendary blues club in New Jersey.

A fifth effort, all solo acoustic, “Pastime” has also received much critical acclaim and “The Ohio Connection” was released in late April, 2004.   For a complete list of music, visit Roger’s website at

In addition to playing between 250 and 300 nights a year, Roger also produced and hosted his own syndicated radio show on nearly 100 stations around the country.

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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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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.

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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