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Keeping the “Blues Alive” this weekend

By Staff | Nov 23, 2010

The members of the Matlacha Mariners have vowed to “Keep the Blues Alive” and will demonstrate their effort this weekend.

On Saturday, Nov. 20, the Mariners will host the 11th Annual Southwest Florida Blues Festival at the German-American Club in Cape Coral. The day-long event will feature food and craft vendors and music provided by national and local acts.

The gates will open to the public at 11:30 a.m. with a continuous line-up of music until 9 p.m.

“We have made every effort to bring to our local audience some of the top performers in the blues today during this year’s event. Our line-up is perhaps the best we have presented so far and I am sure no one attending will leave disappointed,” Jerry Tolliver, a Mariner, said. “Those who attend help to support music education, youth groups, scholarship grants, senior citizen support networks and other local charities, so we are asking everyone to do their part and support this event while having a great time.”

Opening the festival will be the Pine Island Elementary School Choir, who will take the stage for the opening ceremonies from noon-12:25 p.m. At 12:30 p.m., Danny Shepard and the Blue Mercury will kick things up a notch.

Over the years, Shepard has shared the stage with such notables as the Thunderbirds, Tower of Power, Loverboy, Little Feat and Jason Bonham. As a member of Emire and Frozen Camels, Shepard performed during a three-day MTV festival in Austria and was a featured performer at the Friendship Festival in Gorazde, Bosnia, as well as the Belgrade Beerfest in Serbia.

Next to perform at 12:30 p.m. will be Honey Island Swamp Band. Meeting by chance after Hurricane Katrina, Aaron Wilkinson and Chris Mule met when they had evacuated New Orleans to San Francisco. At that time, the two met Sam Price and Garland Paul and formed the band and arranged to perform a few gigs together.

The first performance took place at the Boom Boom Room and the Honey Island Swamp Band was born. They quickly gained notoriety in San Francisco, introducing audiences to their unique New Orleans style. Within two months, the band was approached to make their first recording at the Record Plant studio in Sausalito, then in 2009 the band’s first full-length album “Wishing Well” was released.

Band members include Wilkinson on acoustic guitar, mandolin and vocals, Mule on electric guitar and vocals, Price on bass and vocals, and Paul on drums and vocals.

Following Honey Island Swamp Band at 3:15 p.m. will be local favorites Deb and the Dynamics. One of the most popular bands in the area, they will be sure to hold their own among the headline acts. Known for her soulful blues performances, Deb Salyer leads the band with skillful bass playing and many describe her as a “little lady with the great big voice.”

Salyer is joined by longtime band members Rick Russell on keyboards, harp and vocals, and Newt Cole on tenor and alto saxophones. Rounding out the band are Don Hulgas on baritone and tenor saxophone, Dan Keady on guitar and Steve Gomes on drums.

Next to take the stage at 4:45 p.m. is Nick Moss and the Fliptops. Hailed as the “Renaissance Man,” Moss has opened many doors for other musicians during his long career. With eight albums under his belt, he continues to challenge himself by growing, exploring and expanding his style.

During this time he has played bass with the likes of Jimmy Dawkins, as well as the Legendary Blues Band featuring Muddy Waters and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. He also teamed up with Jimmy Rogers for a time in the mid-90s where he learned traditional Chicago blues. In the late ’90s he formed his own band, the Fliptops.

At 6:15 p.m., Moss relinquishes the stage to Beth McKee. Her performances are said to be a blend of southern roots music with elements of rock, blues, soul, gospel and country. A singer and songwriter, pianist and accordion player, McKee has been backed by such legendary performers as Hall and Oats, the Bellamy Brothers, George Porter, Lester Chambers and more.

McKee began her musical journey as a piano player at her church in Mississippi and later played blues gigs at juke joints and hog farms to gain respect as a performer on the New Orleans, Austin and Nashville scene. McKee now calls central Florida home, however, she has performed across the county at venues including the Hollywood Bowl, Antone’s, Tipitina’s and at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Wrapping up the festival will be Guitar Shorty, who will perform at 7:45 p.m. Born David William Kearney, he was born in Huston, Texas, but was raised in Kissimmee by his grandmother. He began playing the guitar as a child and was influenced by B.B. King, Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker and John Lee Hooker.

Shorty first found fame when he was hired to play in Ray Charles’ road band, which led to his personal introduction to one of his idols, Guitar Slim, who he later signed on to tour with as well. In the 1960s, Shorty moved to Seattle where he met Jimi Hendrix then later moved to Southern California where he opened for acts including Little Milton, B.B. King, Lowell Fulson, Johnny Copeland and T-Bone Walker.

Shorty was catapulted to fame when signing a recording contract with the New Orleans-based Black Top label, producing three albums during the ’90s.

The Southwest Florida Blues Festival is a non-profit event, so attendees are reminded that no coolers, carry in beverages or pets will be allowed. However, food and beverages will be available for purchase.

The Mariners encourage guests to bring sunscreen, bug spray, blankets and folding chairs, as seating will not be provided.

For more information about this year’s Southwest Florida Blues Festival, visit the website: matlachamariners.org.