Cape Fear Blues Festival • Friday, July 27 – Sunday, July 29
Sometimes, to be on the leading edge of the blues, you gotta look back. Case in point: this year’s Cape Fear Blues Festival. The headliner for the annual event is EllerSoul recording artist Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes. This group mixes up elements of 50s R&B, soul, vintage rock & roll and jazz into a unique blend of American roots music.
It’s retro, baby, and it’s fun.
In fact, this whole Festival, which takes place July 27 – 29 at multiple venues is going to be a blast.
Friday, July 27. The fun starts Friday evening at 5:30 with Sweet Sue Savia entertaining on the riverboat dock (Water St. at Dock St.), as folks are waiting to board the Henrietta III for the 2012 Blues Cruise along the Cape Fear River.
Savia, like so many musicians, has a great story to tell. She says she woke up at age 51 and realized that she’d hate to come upon her death one day without at least trying to fulfill her life’s dream: performing on stage. So she took a leap of faith and jumped into a successful career of singing, songwriting and playing guitar (actually just about any acoustic instrument, but the guitar is her main axe).
How cool is that? And we haven’t even left the dock yet.
FYI, boarding begins at 6:30 p.m. and the boat leaves promptly at 7:30 p.m.
Onboard the Henrietta III, there will be three bands on three decks with three cash bars, along with heavy appetizers and a gorgeous sunset on the Cape Fear.
Here’s the Cruise lineup:
On the main deck will be Elliott & the Untouchables. This will be a super show, I promise you. Elliott New is a master of retro blues, whether he’s playing jump blues or slide – and he’ll do plenty of both. The whole band is topnotch, in fact. The horn section is classic old school. Like to dance? You’ll be in boogie heaven!
Up on the second deck, aka the party deck, we’ve got the Dynamic Therm-o-Tones. The ultra-popular Wilmington band is known for their blues-driven R&B. They’re the dance band of dance bands.
Randy McQuay will be playing the third deck, or atrium as it’s called. This versatile and exciting performer won the 2011 Cape Fear Blues Challenge in the solo category. If you’ve never seen him, this is a great introduction.
Festival organizer and head honcho for the Cape Fear Blues Society Lan Nichols told me, “Randy McQuay is an International Blues Challenge finalist and winner of the Lee Oskar Top Harmonica Player Award. By himself, he’s reason enough to ride the Cape Fear Blues Cruise.”
But, happily, the two-hour Cruise gives you plenty of time to get to all three acts, which is a good thing, because you’ll kick yourself if you miss any one of them. Advance tickets for the 2012 Blues Cruise are $49 each and can be purchased online now at http://www.capefearblues.org/cruise.html or call 910-350-8822 for more information.
Over at the Rusty Nail (1310 South 5th Street),one of my favorite Wilmington haunts, the post-cruise party starts about 9 p.m. with Lawyers, Guns & Money, a great R&B-infused blues band out of Greensboro, N.C. These guys were semi-finalists at IBC last year and winners of the Cape Fear Blues Challenge. It’ll be a fun night that lasts late into the night.
Saturday, July 28. The annual (and free) blues workshop features guitarist Elliott new. According to Nichols, “Untouchables band leader Elliott New will amaze everyone at the Blues Workshop at Finkelstein Music, 11 a.m. on Saturday (6 S. Front St.). Elliott sports a cigar box guitar, tons of talent, and a sense of humor. One hell of a Bluesman!” Consider yourself warned.
At 1 p.m., E-Train and the Rusted Rails roar into town with a stop under the tent at the Rusty Nail. This exciting band, with a great mix of rockabilly, swing and blues, was voted best band by the Triangle Blues Society in 2011 and the Cape Fear Blues Society in 2010, sending them to Memphis to compete at IBC both years. Don’t miss the train this time around.
For the headline show, we move over to the Soapbox Laundro-Lounge (255 N. Front Street) for Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes. Nichols was thrilled to sign them for the Festival. He says, “L’il Ronnie & The Grand Dukes have been a favorite of blues, beach and boogie crowds for years, and Ronnie has a new lineup that’s as sharp as a tack. Anyone who comes down to the Soapbox in Wilmington on July 28 is in for show-stopping performance. And the club is in the heart of downtown Wilmington – a great location.” Tickets are $10 in advance (www.etix.com) and $12 at the door. Show time is 8 p.m.
Back at the Rusty Nail again, music starts at 9 p.m. and goes until about 1 a.m. with local faves, the Chickenhead Blues Band. Frontman Rick Tobey says, “I was born in a south Louisiana chicken coop with a bottle neck on my little finger and a guitar in my hand. Been playin’ dem Chickenhead Blues ever since I could crawl, from the Mississippi Delta to the North Carolina Piedmont, from the Cape Fear River Basin to the Smokey Mountains.”
I know I’ve used that quote before, but it’s all you need to know about Chickenhead Blues. Love, love, love this band.
Sunday, July 29. The finale to the Cape Fear Blues Festival is an all-day blues jam under the tent at the Rusty Nail. Music starts at noon and it’s all free to the public. Be sure to bring a lawn chair or blanket, but no coolers please. Food and drink will be available for sale all day. Musicians, to reserve your performance time slot, call 910-383-1247.
Plan on staying until the end, because not only is it an afternoon of blues, blues and more blues, but the Finklestein Music Guitar Giveaway is at 6 p.m. Some lucky sumbitch is going home with a Gretsch guitar. Raffle tickets for the Giveaway are $1 each and available at Finklestein Music and the Rusty Nail. Proceeds go to support the various programs of the Cape Fear Blues Society.
In case you’re still in party mode, at 7 p.m. it moves indoors with saxophonist Benny Hill’s Sunday night jazz and blues jam at the Rusty Nail.
I love me some Cape Fear blues. Hope to see you there!
I’ve just heard that this show has been cancelled due to illness. No details yet. Bummer! DB – 8 p.m. July 9, 2012
A group of legendary Piedmont blues musicians are coming together for an evening of music, storytelling and camaraderie – the likes of which most of us never get to experience. On July 21 the Legends of the Piedmont Blues Show at the Mauldin Cultural Center will feature Pop Ferguson, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, Mac Arnold, Boo Hanks and Drink Small. Prepare to be amazed at the combination of talent, energy, and love on the stage.
It’s a sad fact of life that if we manage to bypass illness, disease, accident and worse, we’re going to grow old and die. But life also gives us the opportunity to leave a legacy behind, evidence of what we brought to the table. This lineup is proof that life is, indeed, what you make of it.
Pop Ferguson has traveled the country playing juke joints, fish fries, coal fields and street corners. At 84, he’s one of the last practitioners of true traditional blues of the N.C. foothills. On stage his energy is only surpassed by his unpredictability.
Boo Hanks is 83. He’s said to be a descendant of Abe Lincoln (on his mama’s side). Boo bought his first guitar by selling little packets of seed and grew up picking and singing songs he learned in the tobacco fields. You can still find him sitting out front of the country store with a bologna sandwich. Listen closely, you’ll hear Blind Boy Fuller in his finger-style guitar work.
Beverly “Guitar” Watkins is 72. She was still in high school when she was introduced to Piano Red (later known as Dr. Feelgood), who had his own radio show on WAOK in Atlanta, Ga. She joined his band and began building a name for herself in the blues community for her searing guitar riffs and James Brown moves. (Visit her website)
The Blues Doctor – 78-year-old Drink Small – plays a mean blues guitar with a voice to match. He has performed at some of the country’s top music festivals including Chicago Blues Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, King Biscuit Blues Festival, Smithsonian-Folklife Festival and Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. Drink has played Lincoln Center and Central Park in N.Y.C. His profiles have been published in Downbeat, Metronome, Blues Revue, Il Blues, Juke Blues, Soul Bag and Blues News. (Drink’s MySpace page)
Mac Arnold, at 69, is the youngster in this posse. When he was 24, Mac joined the Muddy Waters Band and helped shape the electric blues sound that would provide inspiration for a generation of rock guitarists. He played on the iconic John Lee Hooker album Live at the Café Au GoGo. (Mac’s website)
This is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime evening of musical performances, personal commentary and surprises. I mean, you never know what Drink is going to say.
Tickets are $20 general admission (or two for $35/five for $80) or $40 VIP, which includes an event T-shirt, pre-show meet and greet with one glass of wine. The VIP reception begins at 6:30 p.m. Doors open to the public at 7:30.The show runs from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Mauldin Cultural Center is located at 101 E. Butler Road, Mauldin, S.C. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.piedmontlegends.com. Tickets will also be available at the door. cutline:
The seventh annual Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival will be held on August 25 and 26 in the ballroom of the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, which is connected to the Embassy Suites, organizer Harriett Grady has announced.
The two-day event will feature six powerhouse acts, shag workshop and deejays: on Saturday, brush up on your shagging at a workshop with Jerry and Barbara Wade, 1 p.m.; Rickey Godfrey Band at 3 p.m.; the Castaways at 5:30 p.m.; and Carolina Soul Band at 8 p.m. Deejay Gerry Scott will spin tunes for shaggers in between performances.
On Sunday, deejay Betty Brown begins at 1 p.m. and returns between acts. The Fantastic Shakers start at 2 p.m.; the Johnny Rawls Blues Band – with Rickey Godfrey sitting on guitar – takes the stage at 4 p.m.; and the mighty Tams close out the entertainment at 5:30 p.m. Betty Brown returns to the deejay booth at 7 p.m.
The Festival is being presented by The Beach Music & Shag Preservation Society of South Carolina (BMSPSSC) along with Big Mamma Entertainment of Charleston, S.C.
In a telephone interview, Grady said she formed the BMSPSSC back in 2006 at the urging of Diane Pope, manager of the original Joe Pope Tams and wife of original member Charles Pope. “She [Diane Pope] talked to me for several years asking me to have a beach festival in Charleston,” explains Grady. “She said there was not a beach music festival here and she thought there should be. She said she had been thinking about it over and over and she thought I should be the one to do it. So about that same time an investor came along and said every one in Charleston pointed at me to help get a Beach Festival going.
“Well, with two strong people coming at me I decided to try it. I coined the name Charleston Beach Music and Shag Festival that first year and it stuck. That was in 2006 and I have continued every year on my own having the Charleston Beach Music and Shag Festival. The Joe Pope Tams have been in all but one of them.”
Festival sponsors include Strom Altman Suzuki of Charleston; Coast magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine (myrtlebeachalternatives.com) of Myrtle Beach; music blog DarielB-Flying Under the Radar (darielb.wordpress.com). According to Grady, she is still seeking and accepting sponsors for the event.
BMSPSSC is a private nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization formed to promote, preserve and perpetuate the S.C. state dance, the shag, and South Carolina’s most popular music, beach music. Festival tickets are $20 per day for BMSPSSC members and $25 for nonmembers. Two-day tickets are $35/members and $45/nonmembers. Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.bmspssc.com or http://www.pivotsbeachclub.com. Special Festival rates are available at the adjoining Embassy Suites. For more information, call 843-814-0101.