KVBA Announces Headliners For The 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Festival

In a special announcement on Sunday, March 9 at the final show in the popular series of concerts to benefit the Kalamazoo Blues Festival, KVBA Festival Coordinator Dennis Massingill and Board President Ralph Yingling revealed the names of many of the acts scheduled to appear at the upcoming 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Fest.  In making the presentation, Massingill and Yingling noted that the complete list of performers, including several local acts, will be announced in the near future.

In the meantime, here’s some information about some of the great music you can expect to hear in July:

Thursday Lineup

The Jimmys, an 8-piece band with US and European touring experience.  Influenced by Chicago blues and New Orleans funk, the band and many of its members have been the recipients of numerous music awards, including:

“2012 Best Swing/Big Band Ensemble” (Wisconsin Area Music Industry)
2013 Madison Area Music Awards:
2013 Artist of the Year: The Jimmys
2013 Blues Performer of the Year: The Jimmys
2013 Keyboardist of the Year: Jimmy Voegeli
2013 Brass Instrumentalist: Darren Sterud
2013 Woodwind Instrumentalist: Peterson Ross

“Killer horns, greasy guitars, funky keys, and a rhythm section with the heart and soul the size of Brazil. This is a GREAT band that plays blues and everything else between. I would take them into the studio and record with them anytime. They’re a ‘good-un’. Get ready for The Jimmys!” – The Braille Blues Daddy – Bryan Lee

Brandon Santini, the North Carolina-born/Memphis, Tennessee-based harp player, whose specialty is Piedmont-infused Mississippi hill country blues, has received Blues Music Award nominations  for 2014 in two categories: Instrumentalist-Harmonica, and Contemporary Blues Album.  He also received a 2014 Blues Blast Music Award in the category of Sean Costello Rising Star, as well as a Seydel harmonica endorsement

Santini, who hits the road on March 20th to begin his spring tour (in Florida), is truly one of the rising stars.  Remember Victor Wainwright, who was a big hit at the 2013 Festival? They are former room-mates, band-mates, and still remain great friends…artistry inspires more artistry.

Friday Lineup

Dana Fuchs, hailing from New Jersey/Florida/New York City, is known as a queen of Pop/Rock Blues, while the Dana Fuchs Band has built up a reputation as one of the best live acts on the city’s blues circuit

Probably best recognized as the character “Sadie” from the Beatles-music-themed movie “Across the Universe”, Fuchs also landed the lead role in the Janis Joplin musical “Love Janis’”, toured with Ray Davies and Dickey Betts, and wrote and performed on the soundtrack of the movie “Sherrybaby”.

Lionel Young.  New York born, Colorado based, the blues & boogie-woogie violin master won the 2008 International Blues Challenge (IBC )in the solo-duo performer category, and then went on to win the 2011 IBC band competition, making him the first double champion in the history of the IBC!

Marcia Ball .  A lot of folks are looking forward to the return of Marcia Ball, who last rocked the Kalamazoo Blues Fest in 1998.
Aptly described as “a sensational, saucy singer and superb pianist”, her style is known as “where Texas stomp-rock and Louisiana blues-swamp meet”.  Her many awards and recognitions include:

1998: Grammy Award nomination
1998: Blues Music Award for “Best Contemporary Blues Album”
1998: Blues Music Award for “Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year” and “Best Blues Instrumentalist-Keyboards”
2002: BMA Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for her album “Presumed Innocent”
2004: BMA Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for her album “So Many Rivers”
2004: BMA Contemporary Blues Artist of the Year-Female
2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009: BMA “Best Blues Instrumentalist-Keyboards”
Grammy nominations in 2003 for “So Many Rivers,” 2005 for “Live! Down The Road”, and 2008 for “Peace, Love & BBQ”

Saturday Lineup

Tweed Funk. Formed in late 2010, Tweed Funk has garnered national and international acclaim for its horn-driven,
sweat-soaked, soul-blues. This Milwaukee, Wisconsin band is fronted by Joseph “Smokey” Holman, who
recorded under Curtis Mayfield in the early 70′s. Tweed Funk boasts three Wisconsin Area Music Industry
(WAMI) wins in the last two years for the band and its members. Tweed Funk’s two CD releases and performances at blues festivals and top bluesrooms have earned the band praise from press and media around the world.

Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine’s 2013 Coolest Blues Song of the Year for Dancemaker
2013 WAMI Winner, Male Vocalist of the Year: Joseph “Smokey” Holman
2013 WAMI Winner, Bass Player of the Year: Eric Madunic
2012 WAMI Winner, R&B/Soul Artist of the Year

2012 Competitor at the  International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN

Albert Castiglia.  New York born ,Miami raised, Castiglia features modern electric blues and contemporary blues. He has toured with Junior Wells and Sandra Hall, and shared stages and jammed with Aron Burton, Pinetop Perkins, Melvin Taylor, Sugar Blue, Phil Guy, Ronnie Earl, Billy Boy Arnold, Ronnie Baker Brooks, John Primer, Lurrie Bell, Jerry Portnoy, Larry McCray, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater and Otis Clay.

Tinsley Ellis, from Georgia, plays modern electric blues and blues-rock, best described as a “unique blend of Memphis r & b, southwest blues, and urban funk”. An outstanding performer, also known for writing “A Quitter Never Wins” that was famously covered by Jonny Lang.

He has shared stages with Warren Haynes, Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Thackery, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. He often plays smaller venues that allow the band a more personal contact with the audience.

Coco Montoya, from California, with a style described as modern electric blues and soul, won the 1996 Handy Award for Best New Blues Artist, as well as being
nominated in the same year for Contemporary Blues Male Artist Of The Year, Best Instrumentalist/Guitar, and Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year for “Gotta Mind To Travel.”

Keep your eyes on this space for more information about the 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Festival!


The Boogie-Woogie Bob Peters Memorial Scholarship Fund

Honoring The Man And Carrying On His Legacy

Well-known local keyboardist, guitar player, and music historian Boogie-Woogie Bob Peters may have left us four years ago, but his memory remains alive in the hearts and minds of all who knew him.   Bob, who had been a fixture on the local music landscape for many years, passed away suddenly on March 13, 2010.   He left behind a legacy of music and relationships which was taken to a new level in March of 2013 with the establishment of the KVBA Boogie Woogie Bob Peters Music Scholarship.  The scholarship, which is administered by the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association, provides a cash award to an area high school senior to help further that student’s musical education and training.

The new scholarship, which was created by Bob Peter’s wife Martie, brother Mike, and sister TJ, was initially funded by money raised at the third annual Boogie-Woogie Bob Memorial Jam on March 14, 2013, at the 411 Club, and by a very generous donation from GlobalNet Services, Inc (GNSI), a multi-award winning information technology firm based in Rockville, Maryland.  Megan Grimm of Schoolcraft, Michigan, the first recipient of the scholarship , was presented with her award at the 20th Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival on July 13, 2013.

This year’s scholarship is open to high school seniors in Kalamazoo County and counties bordering Kalamazoo.  Applicants must have been accepted to college in a program with focus on music education and training.  Application letters (see below) will be sent to all schools in the qualifying counties, and the deadline for application is May 17. 

“We’re so grateful to Bob Peters’ wife and family for making the scholarship possible,” says Dennis Massingill, KVBA Education Committee Chairperson. “Helping an area student pursue a career in music is a wonderful way to keep his memory and his legacy alive.”


The Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association will once again offer our annual  music scholarship.  This scholarship is sponsored by the Bob Peters Family and this year’s recipient will be awarded $1,000.  This general scholarship is for a graduating Senior who has been active in music programs during their High School career. Interested students must have:

Been active in the music program (vocal or instrumental) during their high school career (and in the community).

Have been accepted to a College or University.  Proof of program acceptance in the form of an official signature will be required.

Write a 2-page, double-spaced essay on the topic “What Contributions has Blues Music made to our American Culture?” 

In addition to the essay, emphasis will be placed on the number of years students have been in music classes, extra endeavors (musicals, special ensembles, music outside of school) and whether they will continue to pursue music in college.

The KVBA and the Boogie Woogie Bob Peters Music Scholarship joined forces in 2013 to create a fund dedicated to the memory & musical legacy of “Boogie Woogie Bob” Peters,  a well-known local keyboardist, guitar player and music historian.  Peters, a multi-talented artist who was a fixture on the local music landscape for decades, passed away suddenly on March 13, 2010.  He left behind a legacy of music, art and relationships that his family, friends and loyal fans strive to keep alive.  A vision of keeping that legacy and passion alive and passing it along for future generations became the mission of the scholarship fund.

Interested students should fill out the enclosed application and submit it along with their essay by email or by post to:  DENNIS MASSINGILL, 1679 SYCAMORE ST., OTSEGO, MI  49078 or dmass55@aol.com.  The deadline for applications remains May 17, 2014. The scholarship recipient will be notified by May 24th, 2014.  A public announcement with the recipient will be at the annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival on Saturday, July 12th, 2014.

Questions should be addressed to:  dmass55@aol.com


Dennis Massingill,

Chairman KVBA Education Committee



WKRK Blues Series at the State Theater Continues

Final Show April 11th – Ladies Night featuring  Sharrie Williams  and Sena Ehrhardt

Were you at the State Theater in Kalamazoo on March 14 to hear a pair of Chicago’s blues greats, L’il Ed and the Blues Imperials and Eddy “Chief” Clearwater, tear it up in the third show in the WRKR/Bud Blues Series?  It was a show not to be missed!

L’il Ed has been a long-time favorite in Kalamazoo, from his appearance at the first annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival in 1994 (and his follow-up performance at last year’s Twentieth Annual!) to his many performances on local stages at clubs like Wonderful’s Funky Basement and the 411 Club. Lil’ Ed boasts a direct bloodline to blues history—his uncle and musical mentor was the great Chicago slide guitarist, songwriter and recording artist J.B. Hutto. According to The Chicago Tribune, “Williams represents one of the few remaining authentic links to the raucous, pure Chicago blues.” The Associated Press agrees, stating, “Williams fills Chicago’s biggest shoes with more life and heat than anyone on stage today.”

On the Chicago blues scene since the early 1950s, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater was one of the architects of the so-called West Side sound, along with Magic Sam and Otis Rush. With his fierce guitar playing, soulful and emotive vocals and wild stage shows, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater easily belongs on this list. A Chicago legend, Clearwater is an intense, flamboyant blues-rocking showman. He’s equally comfortable playing the deepest, most heartfelt blues or rocking, good-time party music. DownBeat said, “Left-hander Eddy Clearwater is a forceful six-stringer…He lays down some gritty West Side shuffles and belly-grinding slow blues that highlight his raw chops, soulful vocals, and earthy, humorous lyrics.”

After the show, the lucky folks who headed over to the 411 Club for the afterparty with JR Clark got a double treat.  A long-time friend of L’il Ed’s, JR has performed with his mentor on numerous occasions, and has made a name for himself with his fiery guitar stylings and original music.  JR started the music at the 411 at 9:00 pm, and things were going strong when L’il Ed and his bandmates walked into the club around midnight.  After warmly greeting his happy fans, L’il Ed joined JR on stage, presently followed by the rest of the band, and together they made magic.  It was truly a night to remember!

Be sure not to miss the final show in the WRKR/Bud Blues Series on April 11, when Sharrie Williams and Sena Ehrhardt will give true meaning to the term “Ladies Night”.

Sharrie Williams, known as “The Princess of Rockin’ Gospel Blues”, made a name for herself in Europe before taking this country by storm. As one reviewer wrote, “Her vibrant, gospel – drenched voice and clear and passionate delivery are absolutely compelling. The urgency, honesty, integrity and rich texture with which Williams belts out her deeply felt blues will surely earn her the respect she deserves among fans and critics alike.”

Sena Ehrhardt, called “one of the freshest and most dynamic emerging young voices on the blues scene today”, has been gathering awards right and left since 2012.  Her Blind Pig debut recording, “Leave The Light On” was voted 2012′s Blues Blast Magazine’s “Best New Artist Debut Release” award winner. Additionally, Sena was a nominee for the Blues Foundation’s 2012 “Best New Artist Debut” Blues Music Award, Blues 411′s award for “Best New Artist Debut Recording” and the 2012 “Sean Costello Rising Star Award” by Blues Blast Magazine.

See you at the State Theater on April 11!  The music starts at 8:00 pm, and tickets are $18 General Admission, or $16 with a State Theatre VIP Card, KVBA Card or WRKR Card, $20 Day of Show

WRKR and State Theatre VIP Discounts available before Day of Show at the State Theatre Box Office Only.  

Limit 2 discount tickets per card.  Discounts not available Day of Show.


KVBA Partners With KVCC To Create “Look And Feel” Of Blues Festival

One aspect of putting on the blues festival every year is creating a design for our posters, t-shirts and other promotional materials. With very few exceptions, the KVBA has partnered with art students at local universities to get those designs.

This presents an opportunity for the KVBA to have a very focused impact on a small number of students, in some cases giving them their first introduction to blues music and culture. After hearing what the KVBA requires for our materials, the students research blues music, culture and artists in an effort to create an easily-recognizable “bluesy” poster for the festival.

The KVBA is pleased to be working with students at KVCC again this year. Members of the education committee have visited a class at the downtown campus a couple of times to talk with students and then to offer feedback on initial designs. This week, the students handed over their final designs so that the KVBA board can decide which design to use for this year’s festival.

While this arrangement obviously benefits the KVBA, the students in this class are gaining practical experience. They’re working with a client, incorporating feedback into their designs. They’re learning to shape their own designs to suit the needs of a client. And most of all, they’re adding these potential designs to their own portfolios.

The education committee looks forward to presenting these designs to the board at the next meeting. At that time, a design will be chosen and the marketing for the 2014 festival will truly begin. The quality of the work is outstanding and we expect that the board will have a difficult time picking just one design.

Until then, we want to thank KVCC and the students we’ve been working with. Our relationship with KVCC is very important to us. It’s indicative of our commitment to working with and in the Kalamazoo community to preserve and promote the blues.

Club Mangia Jazz and Blues Concert Series To Open April 11

Fans of live music are in luck, as a new performance venue is set to open next month at Mangia Mangia Italian Restaurant, located on the mall in downtown Kalamazoo.  Formerly held at the Stagecoach Barn in Richland, which closed its doors in January 2014 (see “Local Music Venues Close”, 1/12/14), the popular monthly performances by local blues and jazz groups will kick off on Friday, April 11, with Bob Schultz and Doug Decker.  Schultz and Decker, who have years of performing experience between them, appeared frequently at the Stagecoach, and will be welcomed by their fans on opening night at Club Mangia.

Bob Schultz, who played with the Bob Seger System in the 1960′s (that’s him on the organ on “Ramblin Gamblin Man”) is known for his group “Bigfoot Bob and the Toetappers”, and sings as well as playing saxophone and keyboards.  Doug Decker is a native of Gull Lake who has performed on cruise ships around the world and in countless bands, with a reputation as an outstanding keyboard player who’s “amazing on the B3″.  He’s also known for his performances at the Green Door in Lansing with the Blue Avenue Delegates.

“It’s really nice to be able to continue with the tradition of  ’up close and personal’ concerts,” says Patti Fleming, the originator of the series at the Stagecoach.  ”It was my whole goal when I first started.  I liked the idea of bringing live music to my lifelong community of Richland/Augusta.”  Although saddened by the need to leave her original venue, Fleming is excited about the opening of Club Mangia in Kalamazoo, and feels “the possibilities are endless”.

“We had a large group of loyal fans and supporters at the Stagecoach,” Fleming notes, adding that those folks have been notified of the upcoming change in an email blast.  ”We hope to see many of them at our opening show!”

“Mangia Mangia’s owners were very receptive to the idea” of live music, says Fleming.  ”The private events space in the back of the restaurant, which seats about 60, will be perfect, and people coming to the shows will be able to enjoy great food and drinks.”

After the opening show on April 11, the concert series will move to Saturday nights, and May and June dates will be announced soon.  The shows will run from 7:00–10:00 pm, with a door charge of $10.00.  Shows are not planned for July and August, to avoid conflicting with the busy festival and event calendar in the area, and will resume in September.

Contact Patti Fleming at pattiflem@aol.com for more information or for reservations, which are recommended for large groups.

I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues!

An Opinion, by Mike Irelan

I just watched a DVD titled “Blues Story”, the story of the blues told through the eyes of the artists who lived it. I was moved to do some serious thinking. Some of what was said really hit home with me and I would like to share it.

The old blues–what we call now “DELTA BLUES”–was really something special. Pine Top Perkins said,  “as a boy of 7 or 8 I can remember people in front of the plantation store on Saturday night dancing, and I said as soon as I am old enough I am going to do me some dancing too, and I did.” These people lived the blues; for them, the music was a release for the human spirit to rise up. B.B. King talks about working from sunup to sundown, what was known as “cain’t to cain’t”, when you “cain’t see in the morning till you cain’t see at night”. This was a point Hubert Sumlin made:  “Anyone can play the blues but if you haven’t lived it, it’s not real blues, it has no soul.”

They talked on the DVD about sharecropping and the rigged system, in which “ you almost broke even this year almost”, which kept you where you were unable to pay off your debt. This was the life that blues players lived, and it created a fire inside them that spewed out in music.  Koko Taylor spoke of her father getting a barrel of flour, a tin of lard, a pail of molasses and some other foodstuffs for a years’ pay. Today we have no concept of that life, of the burden it put on one’s soul. This is what is meant to live it, not just play it.

Buddy Guy spoke of coming to Chicago.  His mother was very sick and told him to leave Louisiana go to Chicago and make a better living. He was just following a movement that had already began. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy, and Little Walter, to name a few, did the same thing. Koko Taylor spoke of arriving in Chicago on a bus with 34 cents and a box of Ritz crackers. And she went on to say that she “thought she had arrived in the promised land”.

Chicago was where Muddy Waters “ invented electricity”.  The times were a-changing, and electric instruments were now affordable, so the music of the Delta got plugged in. The plantation store/juke joint became the bars of the south side, and blues was still the release. Even in the north where better jobs and housing could be found, it was pretty much still “you do your business on that side, we do ours on this side”. The blues was still lived and played.

Flash to today, when you go to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, or even to a local blues show. It is not the people who lived it who are there to dance, or rarely even to play it. The blues has become a formula, a business for the most part. There are still people who live it and play it, but they are the minority [no pun intended].

Don’t get me wrong–I am not getting down on the blues, or those who play the music I love. Just being thought-provoking, is all.

I would like to close with the words of Ruth Brown:  “Now they are teaching blues in the schools. Don’t teach kids the blues, teach them about the blues, they don’t need the blues. I thought that debt had been paid!”

Thank you!

A huge thanks to The 411 Club for hosting the fundraisers for the Kalamazoo Blues Festival and a huge thanks to the folks who helped pull it all together for so many weeks. And of course thanks to all of you who came out to support this series of fundraisers. We announced them yesterday…here they are for your consideration:

In no particular order…the national/regional touring acts that will be featured at this years Kalamazoo Blues Festival:

The Jimmy’s
Brandon Santini
Dana Fuchs
Albert Castiglia
Marcia Ball
Tweed Funk
Lionel Young
Tinsley Ellis
Coco Montoya

More information on ticket availability, artist profiles, and videos will be forthcoming.

Blues Fest Fundraiser

This Sunday, March 9 brings the final show in the series of fundraisers we’ve held for the the 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival. Doors open at 3pm and music starts at 4pm with the Steve Hilger Band followed at 6pm with Seventh Son. Admission is $6.

The extra treat for this spring forward show will be our announcement of who will be performing in headliner slots for this years festival…

The 411 Club
411 N. Westnedge Ave (corner of Willard and Westnedge)
Kalamazoo MI


Just a Friendly Reminder

The blues festival fundraiser previously scheduled for March 2 has been moved to March 9th…

We moved our fundraiser to accommodate the very popular Gumbo Cook-off. Hope to see you blues lovin, gumbo lovin’ folks jammin to the blues at this years Gumbo Cookoff. KVBA Member Bands Big Boss Blues, Marci Linn Blues Band, 33rd Street Band, and Out of Favor Boys (along with assorted blues friends along the way) will be playing between noon and 7pm (Kalamazoo favorite Small Town Son will also share one of the stages) – all to benefit Ministry with Community at the Entertainment District.

Seventh Son will be hosting the blues jam at The Old Dog on Sunday too. Plenty of hot blues this Sunday to beat that polar vortex!

A Gallery of Images from the 2014 IBC, by Dennis Tuttle

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